Delicate Balance: Authenticity vs Connection

“A thinker sees his own actions as experiments and questions–as attempts to find out something. Success and failure are for him answers above all.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

There is a {sometimes} unbearable tension between what we tell ourselves that we want, and how we actually behave. There are endless possible collisions between our values and what we want.

I want to talk for a moment about a really common values collision for people who are estranged.  Connection versus authenticity. For instance, if I say what I want is connection, yet what I do is adhere to my commitment to be authentic – I may find myself in for a bit of a bumpy ride.

Bite your tongue

Connection often requires us to bite our tongue, to swallow our thoughts or feelings and to prioritize relationship. We learn to ask ourselves questions like “Is what I am about to say necessary?” “Is what I am about to say respectful and kind?” “Is what I am about to say truthful?” “Is what I am about to say likely to deepen connection and caring, or is it more likely to sow seeds of discord?” 

Speak your mind

Authenticity often requires us to have difficult conversations; conversations that may bring us closer to our own truth and allow us to be more congruent. We learn to ask ourselves questions like, “Is what I am about to say an accurate representation of my thoughts and feelings?” “Am I being honest with what I truly think and feel?” “Is the choice to remain silent or quiet, in alignment with my integrity and values?” “Am I honouring my truth?” The path of authenticity is often a path of uncomfortable conversations, hard choices and relational tension or conflict. People may not like or agree with our “truth”.

Get it together

Is it possible to be both authentic and desiring of connection? Of course it is. However, we will fare much better with the tension of these often competing interests, when we are honest with the demands and possible outcomes of  maintaining either position. Ideally we are able to gently weave connection and authenticity together in a bit of an ongoing,  conscious and conscientious dance that is respectful of ourselves and others.

In difficult relationships we tend to find ourselves polarized and assuming all or nothing positions. Very often the person we are in relationship with is also polarized. We are either consistently authentic {and damn the torpedoes!} or we are consistently prioritizing relationship {peace at any price!}, often at the expense of our own integrity. It’s easy to feel that we’re either living in authenticity and sacrificing connection, or we’re living in connection, and sacrificing our authenticity.

What do you suppose happens when a relationship is formed around one person valuing connection at any price and another valuing authenticity at any price? What does it feel like to be polarized in either position?