Todd Dewett | August 30, 2019
[This is part five of a five-part series addressing aspects of authenticity.]
What’s beyond being authentic? Is it being completely unfiltered? No censoring, just honesty – about how you feel, what you think, and how you behave. Could this be the ultimate goal?
I’m not sure.
By definition, to be unfiltered is to take authenticity to the extreme. Authenticity has a positive connotation. It’s both about feeling honest and improving relationships. It’s a thoughtful way to be more aligned with your true self. However, at the extreme would it be a positive experience?
Some might conflate being unfiltered with self-actualizing. I don’t think that fits well. Self-actualization is a journey focused on growth and reaching one’s potential. Being unfiltered is a voluntarily chosen means of expression, which may or may not help you along the journey.
To be unfiltered, in theory, you must simply react – whatever that reaction might be, whether blatant commentary or thoughtful reflection. You successfully choose to not care about what others think. You just react. Is sounds like a strong form of personal liberty.
Is that the ultimate goal? Kinda, sometimes, maybe, not really. No.
I believe myself to be a bit closer to unfiltered than most people I know. Yet the idea of not censoring full-time seems impossible, dangerous, and disrespectful. It is inevitable that you would offend, agitate, and anger most of the people around you. Like it or not, relationships require a negotiated way of communicating, that, hopefully, significantly satisfies both people. There is compromise involved. That is the cost of any decent relationship.
So, I don’t think being unfiltered is the goal. However, the concept is not without merit. I recommend you consider two possibilities. Both are attempts to tap into an unfiltered state in a small way. If you can take just a taste, I suspect it will be a useful hedge against slipping back towards more censoring and impression management. A tiny bit here and there will serve as a reminder to strive for authenticity in social situations.
First, I think we need to find an occasional safe space to indulge being unfiltered. This really supports basic mental health. Every few months, you need a place where you don’t have to deny who you are and how you feel. Find a sub-tribe of like mind: a boys night out, a ladies trip, a political social group, a recovery group, an online forum. Here, your hidden scars become shareable stories.
Next, consider an occasional spike off of your behavioral average. At work or in other social contexts, you have your baseline – your normal combination of managing impressions on the one hand and trying to be authentic on the other. Once in a while, let go of the filter, and allow others to hear your real thoughts. If you’re a valued group member and if you go unfiltered rarely instead of regularly, your expression is likely to be met with sincere consideration.
In both cases, you’re staying in touch with the unfiltered you, which reminds you about the importance of authenticity. You’re also indulging carefully, ultimately keeping the monster caged enough to ensure you stay within the good graces of others and not afoul of too many social norms.
In the end, unfiltered is interesting, but authenticity is the goal.
I know some of you don’t like risk in any form, but I think a small indulgence will be useful. We think and dream unfiltered, no censoring or worrying. Yet outwardly we never get close to that amount of inner honesty. Maybe we’re not supposed to. Maybe that inner voice is best served when it’s not fully indulged. This isn’t about censoring a dream, not at all. It’s about communicating with the world in a manner that allows you to keep moving towards your dreams.