"What do you think is better: the store brand or Breyer's?" And so began a conversation at my local Whole Foods this week. Breyer's ice cream and the Whole Foods brand ice cream were the same price. Recognizing that clearly I am an ice cream connoisseur and that I know my stuff when it comes to the delicious frozen treat, a fellow customer was asking me for my opinion. Even for me, this questions was a toss up. I went for the Breyer's - it had a nicer picture and I could see the black flecks of the vanilla bean in the photo. (For the record, I've never tried the Whole Foods brand, and it well may be much better. I'll try it when I'm next in the store!)
This got me thinking about what names stand for, and how important authenticity is. A lot of people believe we need to strive for authenticity. Brian, my therapist, adamantly disagrees. This week I was telling him about some big steps I have taken in my life recently and how easy they were to do when I just got out of my own way. "That's because the authentic self wants to come through and the only thing stopping her is you," he said to me. I can't argue with that - being authentic is so much easier than trying to be someone else, whether you're a human being or ice cream. Authenticity is easy; being comfortable with personal authenticity is the tough piece because is demands that we stand up, make our case for who we are when every piece of veneer falls away, and then asks us to support that authentic self, lovely or not.
My friend Anthony opened my eyes this week to the concept of "jumping the shark". When a TV series has run too long, and loses its way, those in the biz call that "jumping the shark". (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jumping_the_shark). Jumping the shark occurs at that point where a hit show gets away from what made it a hit in the first place and takes a turn for the worst. This idea made me consider how tough it is to stay authentic and be successful because we have this idea of what success looks and smells like. It's too easy to let others define us, and before we know it we have to live up to some high ideal we didn't create and don't even want. Instead of just being Breyer's, we now have to be Breyer's and compete with Whole Foods. Instead of following my dreams and speaking my mind, I need to conform to an accepted ideal in every area of my life. Or do I?
This is the tough part - knowing when to walk away. When do we get off the circus train? When do we decide that being ourselves is much more important, and also more gratifying, than trying to be anything or anyone else? The truth is that we can get there so long as we discover what it means to be who we are when everything else falls away. Who are we in the empty moments?