The Open Window: The Authentic You

Insights on Creativity by Quinn McDonald

An authentic life is the life we all want. Within the last two years authentic has become a buzzword to mean everything from “I blurt out the first thing I think,” to “the real me you will never know.” ‘Authentic’ makes us feel something is missing from a fulfilling life. But what does ‘authentic’ really mean, and how do we get there?

To move to Arizona, I had to sell my house in Washington, D.C. To give it the best chance of selling, my realtor sent me a house stager. She showed up, efficient and with a keen eye for getting rid of clutter. Pointing to various items, she banished them, “No fan in the bedroom, it says, ‘my air conditioning doesn’t work.’”

I smiled at the younger woman. “The house air conditioning is fine, my personal thermostat has been on ‘high’ since I started menopause, and that is my ‘sleep through the night’ fan.” I smiled bravely. She looked at me as if I were weak-brained. “It has to go.”

A good homeowner has no makeup in the bathroom, only three towels in the linen closet, and doesn’t use toilet paper, because no place is secret enough for extra rolls. A good homeowner certainly never has bras or other hand-washables visible, uses no sponges or dishwashing soap in the kitchen, and doesn’t have a dish rack next to the sink. When the phone rang to announce a potential buyer, I sprinted through the house, hiding cat beds, putting the menopause fan in the garage, checking the kitty litter to make sure it hadn’t been used. It’s hard to be someone else.

And in this push to be perfect, I had a realization. I’ve known it to be true all my life, but I hadn’t applied it here. The realization?

It’s not about me.

It’s about the authentic buyer of the house. I live a big, noisy, messy life. A person who comes to look at my house can’t see THEIR authentic self in this house if mine is overshadowing it. So for a bit, my authentic self has to be dialed back. Does this mean I’m not being authentic? Much as I’d like to use that as an excuse to bring back the menopause fan, the answer is “no.” It simply means that I choose to let someone else’s authenticity rule in my house so that I can sell it.

In the struggle to live an authentic life, there are many decisions and many choices. What is your goal at this staff meeting? In this discussion with your boss? With your partner? Will a decision to choose something less than full-blown authenticity attack your integrity? Create an ethical problem? Or just be inconvenient, cause you a little more work or effort? And in giving someone else the credit, the praise, the decision, maybe you can discover the authenticity of compassion and humility.


What now?

The next time you come head to head with a problem, ask if there is room for compassion. Ask if a decision to cede your point will diminish your authenticity, or give you an opportunity to try out a supporting role instead of the main character. It gives interesting perspective.


Quinn McDonald is an artist and certified creativity coach who helps artists through transitions in their lives and work. You can e-mail your business-of-art questions to Quinn is the author of Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art (North Light Books).



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