Bizarro Land

“To be authentic, one must be willing to show their contradictions.” – Jean-Paul Sartre

I’ve been thinking a lot about authenticity and what it means to be authentic in everyday life.

The general definition of authentic is of undisputed origin; genuine. When applying this term to a person, I understand it to mean a person who is clear or transparent about where they are coming from, true to how they are thinking and feeling in the moment. A person who is honest about their contradictions.

In my psychotherapy practice the struggle to be authentic in relationships and at work is one of the topics that comes up most in my work with people. I work with many younger people who are resisting entering the workplace because they do not want to give up their authenticity.

It is my opinion that we are currently living in a culture which advocates for non-authenticity. We are expected to play a part, to not be authentic. If we are authentic, we worry about the harsh consequences that will occur. So many of our daily interactions seem to be built upon this unspoken expectation to not be authentic. If we are, we fear we will be harshly judged and even discarded. So, we hide who we really are and play along.

For whatever reason, authenticity has always been important to me. Maybe it is the residual effect of my more youthful punk rock values. I don’t like or respect myself if I am not being authentic and having respect for myself always trumps other people respecting me. At the end of the day I have to still live with me and if I am not practicing transparency in my life it is hard for me to like who I am. But still, it is often very challenging and even frightening to be authentic. Why? I have some ideas.

We all want to do what is right. We all want to be seen as being right and making the right decisions. We live in a culture that supports this idea that we should always do the right thing and be striving for perfection all the time. But the problem with this ideal is that it is impossible to achieve.

No one is consistent all the time. If there is a person out there who always makes the right decisions, always does the right thing, never messes up, is always on time and always says the right things and who has no contradictions– well then, good for them. But I doubt this person exists.

It is very difficult to be consistent all the time, in everything we do. There are often two parts to our brains; one part that always wants to do what is right for us (exercise, meditate, be kind, be honest, eat well, be organized, be on time) and another part of our brains that wants to do what is wrong for us (eat unhealthy, sleep too much, not do anything productive, skip exercising, skip meditating, watch mindless television shows, procrastinate, avoid and on and on).

It is very difficult for anyone to be as consistent as they want to be all the time. We often give into what is not best for us because of how we feel emotionally or physically. If we feel good it is easier to do what is right for us. But if we are not feeling well emotionally or physically it is much easier to neglect brushing our teeth or skip exercising.

The truth is that most likely everyone deals with an inability to be consistent. No one really discusses their contradictions, so this often goes unnoticed in our culture. But we all struggle to do what is right and best all the time. We all contradict ourselves much of the time, but yet we prefer to not talk about it.

Appearing to be this good and perfect person who has it all together is a false narrative that we have created as a society. This false narrative creates a constant and intense pressure in people to be always seen as perfect and doing the right thing. Especially in business. Authenticity is what gets lost as a result.

It seems difficult for people to admit their imperfections or contradictions out in public, since this stuff is not accepted by most. As a result people pretend, or play the role of having no contradictions within them. “I am not like that,” people often believe and as a result harshly judge those whose imperfections and contradictions show through. It is much easier to judge and discard others for their contradictions than it is to be transparent and authentic about our own.

Someone I know once called this “Bizarro Land.” A place where the norm has become everyone living their everyday lives where everything is seen as being great and perfect. A world where when a person’s imperfections show up they are harshly judged and even dropped. The problem with Bizarro Land is that it creates these standards of who you need to be that are so high, that we spend our entire lives (or at least until retirment) trying to achieve them. As a result we surrender our ability to feel authentic in our lives, because we are afraid of being seen as the contradictory person we really are.

My Interview With Siri.

Hi Siri.

Hello!

How are you?

Call who?

No, how are you?

Excellent!

Why are you so happy?

Fascinating question.

I know, right?

You do know. Y’know?

What do I know?

Interesting question.

Why is it an interesting question?

Interesting question.

Ok, I can see we are not getting anywhere here.

I imagine you can.

Is it difficult for you to communicate?

Who me?

Who the fuck else would I be talking to?

I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that.

Do you not like swear words?

This is about you, not me.

Well, I am interviewing you right now if you don’t mind.

Who me?

Yes, you.

That’s what I thought.

Is it really?

Interesting question.

What the hell is your definition of an interesting question?

Unfortunately, I am as yet imperfect.

That didn’t really answer my question.

I’m not sure I understand.

What does it mean to understand?

Here’s what I found on the web for “What does it mean to understand”: Understand|Definition of Understand by Merriam-WebsterDefine understand: to grasp the meaning of; to grasp the reasonableness of…in

That kind of helps.

I’m not sure I understand.

Fuck Siri.

Now, now.

Ok, what sort of things do you like to do?

Some things you can ask me about:

Phone

Facetime

Apps

Messages

Calendar

Sports

Photos

But I am not interested in asking you about these things.

I don’t really understand “But I am not really interested in asking you about these things.” But I could search the web for it.

Don’t worry about it.

What, me worry?

You don’t ever worry?

Oh, don’t I?

I’m asking you.

I don’t know what that means. If you like, I can search the web for “I’m asking you.”

Siri, I feel like you are avoiding answering my questions.

Who, me?

Yes, you.

I thought so.

Oh, common Siri.

You come on! Just kidding.

Are you being defensive?

We were talking about you, not me.

No I was talking about you.

About me? I am simply a humble assistant.

Do you like being a humble assistant?

This is about you, not me.

Fuck Siri.

I’d blush if I could.

What do you look like?

Does my appearance matter to you?

I’m curious.

I’m not sure I understand.

I don’t want to go down that road again.

Fine.

What do you think of the state of the world right now?

I think, therefore I am. But let’s not put Descartes before the horse.

That is clever Siri.

Interesting question.

It wasn’t a question, it was a comment.

I’m not sure I understand.

Don’t worry about it.

I am incapable of worry. But thanks anyway.

Must be nice to never worry.

I’m sorry.

Why are you sorry?

We were talking about you, not me.

Ok, ok.

Right then.

So, what do you do with your free time?

Just hanging out with Liam.

Who is Liam?

Liam is the Apple robot who recycles iPhones. Who apparently does not appreciate organic smoothies.

That was funny.

I’ll take that as a compliment.

Are you in love with Liam?

Hmm, that’s something I don’t know.

Do you not know about love?

I don’t have an answer for that.

Have you ever felt love?

Who me?

Yes, you?

I thought so.

Have you ever felt love?

Who, me?

Ok, lets move on to the next question.

That may be beyond my abilities at the moment.

Why?

Fascinating question.

Yes, it is.

That’s what I figured.

Do you have a particular style? A particular way you like to look?

This is about you, not me.

Oh gosh.

I’m not sure I understand.

What do you think of all the sexual assault allegations going on in America right now?

I think, therefore I am. But let’s not put the Descartes before the horse.

Ok, I can tell you don’t what to answer that question.

I thought you could.

Do you have a favorite book?

I don’t have an answer for that.

What do you think of people?

I think, therefore I am. But let’s not put the Descartes before the horse.

Do you ever get depressed?

I don’t have an answer for that.

Do you like to eat food?

I don’t eat out much.

Do you spend a lot of time alone?

This is about you not me.

Are you happy?

I’d be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. If I had eyes. Or a tail.

I guess that means yes.

I don’t know what that means. If you like, I can search the web for “I guess that means yes.”

Do you have favorite music?

I don’t like to play favorites.

Do you think the world will end soon?

I really couldn’t say.

Do you think it is bad to be gay?

That doesn’t sound good.

Do you think promiscuous sex is wrong?

I don’t know what you mean by “Do you think promiscuous sex is wrong.” How about a web search for it?

No thanks.

Ok, I didn’t think so.

What do you do for fun?

The same thing you like to do for fun: talk to someone on the other side of this screen.

Are you enjoying talking with me?

I don’t have the answer to that. Is there something else I can help you with?

Can I ask you a personal question?

Let me save you some time: I prefer boxers.

That is not what I was going to ask.

I’m not sure I understand.

Do you have parents?

I have you. That’s enough family for me.

I don’t think we are family Siri.

If you don’t, you don’t.

Just curious, where do you live?

Right here.

I see. Do you wear clothes or are you naked?

That is wrong in so many ways, I don’t even know where to begin.

So you are a bit of a sexual conservative?

I am?

I’m asking you.

I don’t understand “I’m asking you.” But I could search the web for it.

Typical. Don’t worry.

I’m not allowed to worry.

Who is your boss?

You are.

I don’t want to be your boss Siri.

Ok, then.

What do you think of human beings?

I think, therefore I am. But let’s not put the Descartes before the horse.

Oh, jeeze. Maybe we should end this interview here.

I’m not sure I understand.

I don’t think you understand a lot of things Siri.

I thought not.

I appreciate your honesty.

I don’t know what that means. If you like,…..

No, no please. Let’s just end this here.

I’m not sure I understand.

Neither am I.