The Risks (and Rewards) of Authenticity


I recently ended a five-month relationship. I wasn’t actively looking, but had started to explore, to spread the word of my availability – and was found.

We had the slightly awkward, cautiously optimistic, “what do you think” first date via phone. There was a vibe – not a zing, but enough zip to warrant a more in depth call.

Our second chat dug into our respective circumstances – what we’ve done, where we’ve been, what turns us on, what we seek in these kinds of relationships. We shared, we laughed, and we scheduled our next encounter – this time in person.

It had been a while since I had dated, had progressed beyond flirtatious banter or online dialogue. I vowed to be myself, to not play a role just to be liked, to be proudly authentic.

The relationship spark caught fire, and our face-to-face led to another…and another…and another, with calls and emails in between. I began to imagine our future together, how we were good for and would bring out the best in each other. We were different, but had aligned interests, complementary goals, and enough life experience to inform thoughtful decisions.

Our last meeting was a joy – I was on fire, beamed my inner light, exuded confidence, felt totally “in flow,” and was the fullest expression of myself I had ever let myself be on a date. This was going somewhere.

When my “thank you for a wonderful time” emails went unanswered, I assumed the best, ignoring the raised eyebrows and concerned queries of friends who wondered if we were as compatible as my rose-colored glasses made us appear. Instead, I continued to extrapolate our “what next.”

The call took me by surprise. It began, as our calls so often did, with playful repartee and well-timed humor. And then – this was not going to work. Our energies weren’t a fit. I had misread the connection, overestimated the vibe. And wondered if my whole full self was just too much.

Thus ended my five month relationship…with a successful, privately-held services industry leader in Los Angeles. As I cycled through disappointment to reflection and back to rational discernment, I answered the piercingly insightful question from my coach – what had I learned from the experience?

Being your authentic self is a choice.

Although if you’ve been doing “the work,” revealing inner layers through self-assessment and self-care, you’ll see it as the only, best, and most logical choice. Once you choose, you burn the bridges behind you. The genie can’t be rebottled, the toothpaste retubed. You cannot and will not contort yourself to fit into a box. You will not sustain the subterfuge of playing a role, as your true self will poke through like a bird hatching from its shell.

Your authentic self will produce extreme reactions.

Some will see you as you’ve never been seen, be dazzled and entranced and enchaneted by your light. Others will be blinded by it, closing their eyes and turning (even running) away. Your authentic self magnetizes you, attracting what you are meant to find and repelling what doesn’t serve you.

There’s vulnerability in authenticity.

Loving yourself fully and being brave enough to share the whole, true you may result in disappointment and hurt. You might be rejected for who you are rather than for who you are trying to be – for the mask you are wearing. But with courage comes a new-found agility and a realization that the zing of true connection, the euphoria of being “seen,” the giddiness of leveraging your experiences and reveling in your strengths, is worth the risk.

“It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection.” – Bhavagad Gita, 5th-2nd century BCE

So said Lord Krishna in this 700-verse Hindu epic, one of the most influential spiritual treatises in eastern philosophy. Put yourself out there. Go on dates. Let others see the real, true, whole, imperfect you.

Take the risks and reap the rewards of authenticity.

Want a partner on this path? Let’s plan a date. I’m available…

Tina is CEO of WorkJoy, creating happier places to work from the inside-out through innovative coaching solutions, from one-on-ones to group coaching to harnessing collective wisdom through coaching circles. When not running WorkJoy, coaching, or teaching, Tina relishes the beaches of Los Angeles and tries to tame her two pet parrots.