“Authentic” seems to be the word of the decade. Everyone is looking for authenticity, acting authentically. To me, “authentic” means that I am who I am, with no apologies. I have spent more than a few decades trying to please every one around me, wanting to be liked, being the “go-to” person for favors. Some of this was pleasurable for me; most was not. I was acting out of obligation, out of “shoulds,” and not out of what was best for me, or even sometimes what was best for the other person involved. Helping others too much, as we already know, can cause those around us to become helpless, not able to act or make decisions on their own, which is, ultimately, not helpful at all.
I work every day on trying to make decisions and act in a way that promotes my growth and others’ growth as well. While I would like (love!!) to micromanage those around me, and make decisions for them, I hold back, knowing that I can only control my own choices, and not anyone else’s. Everyone has their own journey in life. As a lawyer, this is particularly difficult. We often feel that we have the expertise to make decisions for our clients. However, our job should be only to provide our clients with the best information so that they can make an informed decision on their own. We present scenarios as to what may happen with each decision that they make. We must be psychologists, as well as lawyers, listening to what the issues are, and understanding that these issues are often multi-layered and multi-dimensional. We take on cases that are often challenging and difficult, with clients who are often hurting. But ultimately, we act in a caring, concerned manner, and provide the client with information in a compassionate way. To me, when I can achieve this goal, I am acting authentically, living my life by serving others, and helping them to live their own lives as well.
In my personal life, I have been working on this of late. I know that my eighteen-year-old daughter and even my husband have to make their own decisions and choices. I can offer input, but I try not to make the decision for them.
It is hard to watch those around us struggle; as compassionate people, we want to save people from hurting themselves or making what we think are poor decisions. But every person has the right to make their own mistakes; it’s how we learn and grow. Stopping to help at every opportunity doesn’t allow this evolution to happen, and continues this interdependence. Since this is a fairly-new attitude and way of behaving for me, I am also allowing for the fact, too, that not everyone is going to like this change in my approach, and I am learning every day to be less concerned about what others think of me. This is my path to authenticity.
Call to action: the next time you are asked to help someone with a decision, take the time to listen and offer feedback, but not make the decision for that person. Remember: it is their journey and their decision to make.