Sunday, September 15, 2013

Authentic and Proud of It

Cover of "Keepin It Real"
Cover of Keepin It Real
by Deborah-Ann Pearman

We are all born with that most wonderful of gifts - authenticity.

Sadly, as we progress through life, this most precious of gifts is painstakingly stripped away at every opportunity.

From an early age, we are encouraged and expected to conform, behave and 'do as our peers do'.

The school system, quite rightly, teaches us as children that we should follow a set learning curve, rewarding those that exceed expectations and offering extra help for those that fall behind.

But what about the child that does, literally, 'think outside the box'.

As a parent of three very different boys, I had first hand experience of fighting an education system that struggles to allow authenticity in children, preferring to label it as 'special needs'.

My middle son was diagnosed with ADHD when he was barely 5 years old. His early days at school were a catalogue of parent meetings and daily reports of behavioural issues which, in my mind, merely surmounted to the behaviour of a pretty hyper active, inquisitive boy of 5.

One such incidence that left a lasting impression on me was the day that he was accused of kicking the teacher's assistants in the classroom.

For all his often extravagant forms of expression, he never resorted to any form of aggressive behaviour and so this report immediately gave me cause for concern.

On meeting with the teaching staff involved, it transpired that during the course of the day, each child was allocated a 'time-slot' for computer use. My son had been busy working on a creative colouring exercise, something that he enjoyed tremendously.

When he was asked to put this unfinished work away in favour of his computer time, he refused to put the work away and, following the third request, the teacher's assistants moved in, removing his colouring work from him and forceably removing him from his chair to escort him to the computer station.

He was noticeably upset and responded in the only way open to him - resisting. This resulted in the kicking incident and, ultimately, he never got his time on the computer, instead spending the time sitting on his own in the corner as punishment.

When I questioned the logic of their actions, suggesting that, "as he was quietly carrying out constructive work which he obviously wanted to finish, why did they not just leave him to do this".

Their argument was that he needed to understand that he must "do as he was told, when he was told - no compromise" - result - one giant knock-back for authenticity.

Now I'm not knocking the education system generally.

All three of my children, now grown up, came through the system reasonably unscathed on the surface, but years of chipping away at their authenticity, in favour of 'towing the line' and conforming to the 'norm' have left them struggling sometimes to express their individuality for fear of failure and rejection.

This state of affairs is not helped by the high tech lifestyle that we are all now living. There is little room for expressing our individuality or authenticity on the internet. Dropping in the odd emoticon in a text or e-mail gives little away about our true thoughts or feelings.

Despite the fact that mobile or cell phones have become an accessory that most of us can't seem to do without, texting is strongly favoured as a means of communication rather than actually picking up the phone and 'talking to someone'. Is this because we are simply too lazy to engage in conversation?

Or are we unable to cope with questions or responses that will require us to come up with some spontaneous and, dare I say, authentic, conversation matter?

The measure of someone's authenticity is severely compromised today by the vast array of gadgets, gizmos, widgets, apps, whatever you want to call them, that we rely so heavily on to carry out some of the most basic tasks in our lives.

Everything from, buying, selling, banking, working, dating, hiring, firing, giving advice, getting advice, the list is endless ... is it any wonder that authenticity is a character trait that has fallen by the wayside for many of us as it has become something of a redundant quality.

Rather than being recognised as a powerful and unique attribute that commands reward and respect, it is often mis-labelled as being 'slightly odd'.

Quite recently, Richard Branson made a remark on twitter that he hated the expression "thinking outside the box".

Whilst I am sure he was not discouraging anyone from doing such a thing, but merely stating that this term had been floating around forever and today seems rather tired and dated.

Thinking "beyond the app" would seem a far more appropriate term to sum up what we should be striving for today in a conscious endeavour to establish and maintain our own sense of originality and authenticity.

We all deserve to be noticed for who we truly are and feel comfortable just from being as authentic and unique as we were the day we were born.

My name is Deborah-Ann Pearman. At 52, I have travelled extensively and combined raising three children as a single parent with a varied career centered around human resources and my passion for horses.

Having experienced the joys of successful business ownership and suffered the defeat of business failure I am a firm believer that we all possess the power and ability to create the life that we desire.

I now enjoy sharing my life experiences through articles on line and submissions to various topical magazines.

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