I am reminded regularly that when I try to “pretend perfection” I become anxious, unhappy, and stressed. In times like these, if I search inwardly, I can feel the strain that inauthenticity causes.  However, I wonder, is being authentic just laying it all out there?

Author and researcher Brene Brown draws a distinction between being authentic and “oversharing.” She talks about how we sometimes attempt to “hot wire” a connection by over-exposing our vulnerabilities and points out that this is not real vulnerability. When I “hot wire,” it is usually an attempt to cover-up the tenderness that I feel with true vulnerability.

Why do we try to fake it?


I think we try to fake it because false (and fast) connection feels somewhat related to the real thing. But the quick option is not the prize we actually seek. In the case of over sharing, a surge of cortisol (stress hormone) is substituted for the dopamine (happiness hormone) that can accompany a true connection. For most of us who experience stress, cortisol is easy to achieve; dopamine is harder to earn, but oh so worth it. This bait and switch reminds me of trying to satisfy a craving for good dark chocolate with Hershey’s; they might have some overlaps, but they are not the same.


I have certainly found myself in the painful throws of exposing too much too soon, in an attempt to “be authentic,” only to find myself in the land of self-deprecation that borders self-mockery.

It has taken me a long time even to be able to see these habits, and then begin to slowly change them. (Usually) I am not long in the stage of unconscious incompetence anymore, wherein, I hot wired and over shared, and I didn’t even know. My only evidence was the shame hangover the next day.

Mindfulness brings conscious incompetence, a painful yet essential stage. With consciousness all the moments where you say too much or exaggerate your faults to share the laugh, are now seen with the clear light of awareness. But with consciousness, the pain caused by making yourself the butt of the joke is also seen, which can support change.

Slowly developed conscious competence is a welcome guest. It takes effort and self-reminding, but with mindful awareness, authentic connections are made, and true sharing occurs that respects who you are and where you’ve been.

At last to unconscious competence, where because of previous efforts (mindfulness practice & somatic integration) you don’t have to track each part of an interaction or event and yet things go smoothly; you enjoy a good day, a good conversation, or a moment of grace.

In these moments I remember “pretending perfection” does not lead to this kind of ease, perfectionism always raises the bar just a little higher and out of reach. Living an authentic life that is full of growth and foibles reminds me, I can relax and enjoy the ride… and be sure that the next cycle of incompetence-to-competence will come along soon enough.