By Mark E. Smith
Isn’t it amazing how incongruent we can be within ourselves and in our lives? When I say incongruent, what I mean is that the three levels of our behavior don’t align – that is, what we think and feel is different than what we do, and that’s different than how we portray ourselves to the world. It’s like splitting ourselves in three directions where our lives – let’s be blunt – can become hidden and fragmented at best or torturous lies at worst.
Here’s a great example we can all relate to…. We all have that close friend or family member who confides in us that he or she resents his or her spouse with a passion, wanting out of the relationship. However, while he or she may have a combative or distant relationship with the spouse, true feelings are never expressed and the person stays with the spouse. Then, you log on to Facebook and see him or her posting the most happy couple photos ever! It drives you crazy because you know the person is living an incongruent life – read that, a facade – doesn’t it? Again, if we are to live a congruent life, our feelings, actions and portrayals must all align.
As if our incongruent friends and family don’t drive us crazy enough, when we live with incongruence in our own lives, it’s torturous. So much of our incongruence comes from fear of being judged or rejected, and that’s a valid fear that we all struggle with at points in our lives. However, in that process, we risk our own emotional health and happiness by being incongruent. I go back to my couples example. If I tell my spouse I’m unhappy for reasons X, Y and Z, and I’m not going to keep living in limbo by acting like this relationship is somehow working, and I’m not going to present an unrealistic image to the world, what’s the result? I’m honest with my feelings, so that’s a release. I’m honest in my relationship, so it’s either going to improve or we go our separate ways. And, I’m honest with everyone around me, so they can truly know and support me.
Now, of course discretion should be used when transitioning from incongruent to congruent behavior. We want to minimize hurting others in the process of living congruent lives – although, sometimes it can’t be helped. I mean, Grandma might be mortified to know you’re gay, but she’ll get over it – you owe it to yourself to be congruent in who you are. In fact, regardless of your particular circumstance, most will embrace you more for living a congruent life because it’s rooted in authenticity and honesty.
In my own life, I’ve lived both ways, and incongruent behavior never worked. I may have thought I was presenting myself in the best light by not expressing who I truly was in one way or another, but it always failed me in the end – it harmed relationships and proved me as lacking authenticity. In later years, I just put it all out there, and if others accept me for me, great; and, if they don’t, I’m fine with that – at least I’m me. Two years ago when I first got together with my fiancée, I took it slow in healthy form, but I disclosed every aspect of my life, from the realities of my disability to my views on intimacy to the fact that my dog liked to poop in the hallway when no one was watching. I may not have been the prize she was looking for, but at least she knew I was authentic – and no trait holds more weight in a relationship than demonstrating trustworthiness through congruent behavior.
All of us have little areas in our lives that are fine to keep to ourselves (your mom doesn’t need to know specifics on your intimate life!). However, in the larger spectrum of our lives and identities, congruent behavior is vital to living a healthy, happy life. After all, the only way to be yourself is to truly be yourself.