Posts Tagged ‘authenticity’

Boomerang Anger

September 18, 2015

Throwing boomerang with a blue sky in a background

It has recently occurred to me that much of the unkindness that rears its head in the world is the result of how people feel about themselves. I have come to believe that sometimes when we adamantly dislike someone, the person with whom we really have an issue is living in our own bodies! At the core of hatred are feelings of fear and insecurity.

Think about it. If you feel secure and confident about your own choices, beliefs and behavior, why would you really have any reason to angrily judge anyone else’s? With the exception of causing physical harm, another person’s ideas should not intimidate you. Also, there is no need for jealousy or animosity toward another if you have a healthy self-image. When we blatantly harbor prejudice or dislike for someone, that hatred could stem from a fear that somehow we are being threatened.

I have learned that when I find myself being critical of someone, I need to step back and wonder why. Usually, I find that I am judging someone for behavior that I, myself, exhibit or characteristics that I possess. And sometimes, I have to admit that another person’s success reminds me of a lack of fulfillment in myself. Almost always, it has to do with some kind of fear. My anger directed at someone else, usually comes right back to me! I call it Boomerang Anger.

We are human and therefore, flawed. We are full of self-doubt and insecurities which often color how we see other people. Our own fears and disappointments are the lens through which we see and therefore, judge. The way we treat others can be a reflection of how we feel about who we really are. I could write much more about this, but someone else has written a poem which describes what our personal fears can do. She writes about it so insightfully; when I first read her words, it took my breath away. The poet is my sixteen-year-old granddaughter and I am very proud of her depth and wisdom. She is one of my “sheroes!”

There is a girl I always see

Standing right in front of me

She has long hair and hazel eyes;

A color I have grown to despise

For a long time I didn’t know

That her huge smile was just a show

Behind the happy expression

Was a girl with frequent depression.

This girl always wore a mask

And I made it my personal task

To expose the little liar

In emotion hot as fire,

I quickly drew nearer

And ran into a mirror.

——Amanda Isabelle Phillips

Linda Henley-Smith is an author, speaker, coach and proud grandmother. Visit her website at



What I Learned While I Was Invisible

September 9, 2015

In the Broadway show Chicago, there is a song about feeling unimportant and invisible. A man sings that Mr. Cellophane should have been his name because people walk right by him, see right through him and never even know he’s there.

Although it sounds pitiful, I think that many of us have experienced that feeling at some point in life. You may have wondered if anyone really cared about what you thought or if anyone really even saw you. It can be a pretty lonely feeling, but it’s important to understand that feeling invisible comes from within you and not from other people.

Sometimes it happens when you have long defined yourself by your relationship with another person or perhaps by a job, and that role ends or becomes less prominent. Many people retire from longtime careers and suddenly feel as if they no longer have a purpose. I have known some who worried as they aged, that people would no longer look AT them, but would look THROUGH them. And sometimes people lack self-esteem and believe that whatever they have to say or offer is not worth anything. They convince themselves that nobody would care about their opinion. They feel invisible because rather than defining their own essence, they leave it up to other people! When you feel invisible to yourself, it’s no wonder that you feel invisible to others!

I know these things because I have felt invisible. It happened at a time when everything in my life fell apart and I was catapulted into a world of confusion. I felt lost, betrayed and rather non-existent. Fortunately, I finally realized that I was creating my own cloaking device and eventually worked through it. Here is what I learned during my self-imposed invisibility.

  • I realized that my feelings of invisibility were a result of me abandoning myself!
  • I had to believe that even though my life had drastically changed and I was no longer in the same position as before, I was still a person of worth. Things were different, but I still had a lot to offer.
  • I came to understand that there are those who will only acknowledge people when they need something from them. I chose not to be affected by those people because their opinions had nothing to do with who I really was.
  • I learned that I needed to love and be visible to myself rather than to worry about being adored and praised by anyone else. My feelings of self-worth needed to come from within me rather than to depend on outside validation.
  • I no longer defined myself by what I owned, who I knew, what position I held or how I looked.
  • I took time to reassess my life and my goals. I realized that my faith had to be greater than my fear.
  • I began to understand that other people’s feelings and opinions were not more valuable than mine and I learned that acknowledging my feelings is very important. If I ignore and discount them, others will not deem them important either. Feelings are a kind of inner guidance and they shouldn’t be ignored.
  • I stopped giving situations, circumstances and other people the power to define me. I started to create my own experiences by engaging with others and participating in life! I realized I didn’t have to wait for someone else to make the first move; I was capable of introducing myself and starting conversations!
  • I started to appreciate who I was and where I was at that time. I allowed myself to heal with the knowledge that my wounded self was carrying a sense of rejection which really didn’t really exist.

Now I know that people are only invisible if they allow themselves to be. Mr. Cellophane felt invisible because he apologized for his existence. No one should ever do that! Our lives are fluid and they will change…often many times. Sometimes we’ll be on the top and sometimes we won’t. There will be times when we may not measure up to someone else’s standard of beauty or intelligence or wit, but that doesn’t matter. We are all worthy, loveable and very visible beings. Just remember that visibility begins with the love you show yourself!

Linda Henley-Smith is no longer invisible. Visit her website at

You May as Well Face it, You’re Addicted to Approval!

May 28, 2015

Do you remember the Robert Palmer song “Addicted to Love” which was popular in the 80s? If you don’t, then you are probably younger than most of my shoes. But I think of those words when I see people trying so desperately to please everyone in their lives. At home, they cultivate a hectic and unsustainable routine of cleaning up after others, volunteering for every extracurricular event, being the caregiver to anyone who needs help; hosting family events and making sure everyone is happy.  Every night, they fall into bed still wearing their Super Hero capes! At work, they are constantly seeking approval and sometimes they don’t offer their opinions because they don’t value their own ideas.

In order to avoid conflict, a person might continually acquiesce to the desires of other people, for fear of rocking the boat.  This person probably doesn’t understand that if you don’t rock the boat when it’s necessary, your boat may hit an iceberg and sink! If someone will only be in your life if you do what they tell you, that is not a relationship worth continuing!

The “People Pleaser” always wants to make sure that he or she never gives anyone a reason to be angry or to dislike him or her. People Pleasers will usually say that it is all done in the name of love, but that kind of love isn’t always healthy. If you have no boundaries, people will push you until you lose yourself.

When we are addicted to finding approval from other people, we’re on the wrong track! We try to please everyone else, even when it’s not in our own best interest. And that kind of validation is never enough! No one else can prove your self-worth; the only long-lasting and worthwhile approval is when you value yourself! If you base all of your decisions and feelings on how others are going to view you, you are just setting yourself up for disappointment. Everyone is not going to like you and that’s okay! Invest in yourself because YOUR opinion of you is important!

Remember these wise words: You may as well like yourself, because wherever you go…there you are!

Who Is Behind That Mask?

October 31, 2014

When the last firework popped on the Fourth of July, most stores had their Halloween displays up and running. For months, children have been planning what they are going to wear and who they are going to be. When they put on those costumes; in their minds, they actually become someone else. When I was teaching kindergarten, I had one little guy who dressed as a dog, barked his conversations and wouldn’t sit at his desk because as he said, “Dogs aren’t allowed on the furniture.” He took his costume seriously and I was just glad that he agreed to use the restroom instead of a tree!

Every now and then, it is fun to wear costumes and masks and become someone else. People do it all the time in theatrical productions and I have always found it to be rather freeing to leave myself behind and become someone more exciting, exotic, beautiful, fun, etc.

The trick is to remember when you are playing a part and when you are you. I once played a southern belle in a production and I loved her. For weeks after the play closed, I wanted to sew hoops in all of my skirts and sip mint juleps on the veranda. It didn’t work for me because it seems that in Phoenix, Arizona we don’t have verandas and people don’t appreciate hearing “Oh Fiddle Dee Dee, aren’t I just a silly goose?” as an excuse for cutting in front of them in a grocery checkout line.

We all wear masks occasionally; not the kind that we wear in plays or at Halloween, but the faces behind which we hide when we feel uneasy, unsure or frightened. We read a lot about the concept of authenticity, and being yourself. To me, that just means sticking to your core values and knowing which things in your life are non-negotiable. It means not spending too much time hiding behind masks which do not reflect who you really are. It means trying to be someone you’re not in order to please someone else. It means refusing to compromise your beliefs and values in order to fit in.

I am planning on wearing a mask on Halloween….or possibly I will just go without makeup because that is certainly a frightening sight! But I wish for all of us, the confidence to go through life being true to ourselves and saving the masks for special occasions.

Are You a Who or a What?

July 23, 2012

I just had a thought.  Since that doesn’t happen very often, I would like to keep it in my head and run with it! So here it is: I think it is possible to spend too much time being concerned about WHAT you are, and not enough time nurturing WHO you are. Whoa…..…that is deep……..for me.

Think about it; we all tend to play different roles in life, depending upon situations and the company we are keeping. If we are honest with ourselves, most of us can remember times during which we “morphed” or changed personalities in order to impress, compete or possibly fit in. Consider how we behave in new relationships; we seemingly know exactly who we are when we first meet someone, but we may find that soon we are altering that authentic self a bit; to be what the other person seems to want us to be. If our behavior is at odds with our deepest values, we become a WHAT rather than a WHO.  Why does this happen and is it a natural part of relating to others, or do we not fully comprehend the benefits of maintaining the integrity of our authenticity? I think it is perfectly natural and healthy to be flexible and willing to compromise on some things. And certainly, when we are in relationships with other people, we want to please them, …and we should. It is also good to expand our horizons and possibly adopt new attitudes. But if we become like quick-change artists and hop from one set of values to another, we run the risk of losing who we really are. It’s like an actor trying to play all of the parts in a play; sooner or later, he’’s going to get confused and forget which costume he should be wearing or which accent he should be using when he speaks!  It might be entertaining to see a six foot tall man with a beard wearing a frilly dress and talking like a southern belle, but he woul’d lose his credibility. This is assuming the play wasn’’t supposed to be a comedy!

What does it mean to be authentic, anyway? The word is defined as “being worthy of acceptance based on who one is; being true to one’’s own personality, spirit and character.” In other words, it is the “you” that can be found at your deepest core, when everything else is stripped away, is your authentic self. It is not defined by your job and the roles you play to live up to other people’s expectations.  It is honoring the gifts you were given and the person you were designed to be. My daughter calls it “your default character.” By that, she means that your authentic self is the one to which you revert when the other personalities you have tried don’t work …because they aren’’t truly you. The interesting thing is that if you will pay attention, you will hear your authentic self; your WHO, if you will….whispering to you.  If you are becoming a WHAT, and spending all of your energy trying to fit into someone else’’s value system; one that is not allowing you to be true to yourself, that whisper may get louder. When the whisper becomes a yell, it is a good indication that you are not honoring your authenticity.

We just need to make sure that we understand the difference between authenticity and justification for unwise decisions or inappropriate behavior.  (Imagine the little cartoon angel and devil perched on your shoulders. If you’’re being poked by a pitchfork, …you may be on the wrong track.)  Being true to yourself doesn’’t diminish the opinions of others and it doesn’t mean that you should just accept your flaws and not try to improve yourself or ignore another person’’s needs. But think of how much more you can offer if you allow yourself to be aligned with your life’’s purpose.

So there you have my opinion about Who and What. Possibly, I will address the When, Where and Whys of life next time. Ha!