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November 1, 2011 / mike54martin

It’s Not Easy Being Real

There is a lot of talk today about people wanting to be authentic but the truth is that not many people actually walk the walk because it really isn’t easy being real. It’s much more comfortable to pretend, put up false fronts to please ourselves or others, or to ignore the injustices that happen right in front of us, even in our own families or workplaces. That’s why it is always powerful to meet a person or teacher who is trying to follow the path to authenticity and is willing to help point the way.

One of those teachers who is on his own road to authenticity is David Irvine. He is a successful family therapist, consultant, professional speaker, facilitator and executive coach with over 20 years experience in studying leadership. His search for leadership models has led him to work with management gurus and successful business leaders as well as spiritual guides and writers like Gary Zukov, the author of “The Seat of the Soul”, and renaissance philosopher Marsilo Ficino.

In addition to his own experience David Irvine was also heavily influenced by two very interesting books that described successful journeys to authenticity. They were “Becoming Human” by Jean Vanier and the children’s classic, “The Velveteen Rabbit” by Margery Williams. Jean Vanier, founded L’Arche in 1964, a community for people with intellectual disabilities and through this process underwent a journey to human maturity, a journey of bringing “our heads and our hearts together”.  The Velveteen Rabbit is also the story of a journey, the journey of a toy stuffed rabbit who wants to become real. He is guided by a mentor, another stuffed animal called a Skin Horse who tells him that being real may hurt sometimes but it’s always worth it. And that we can only become real if we really believe in ourselves.

In his book “Becoming Real: Journey To Authenticity” he lays out an easy to follow plan for anyone who wants to become authentic and a great leader of their own. He believes that authentic leadership is a personal journey and that we are all born authentic with a destiny to fulfill to be our authentic self but we model and twist ourselves into something else to meet society’s demands. He defines the four components of authentic alignment as: Vision, Passion, Gifts and Contribution.


Irvine describes vision simply and succinctly as the reason that you get out of the bed in the morning. He encourages you to find what really turns you on and makes you eager to face the day. Perhaps most importantly why do you feel called to do in this work and in this life and how does your pay check link to your higher purpose?


He describes passion as anything that brings you what “deep satisfaction”. Something that when you are doing it; you lose all track of time. He offers this great quote by Gary Zukov as a guide: “When the deepest part of you becomes engaged in what you are doing … when what you do serves both yourself and others, when you do not tire on the inside … but seek the sweet satisfaction of your life and your work. What then? Then you know you are doing what you are meant to be doing.”


We all have special, unique talents that we were given that no one else has. Things that we do very well but cannot even remember learning them. Some of our gifts may seem “so ordinary” that we can’t imagine why anybody would want to pay that much attention to them.  But maybe this ordinariness is the source of our calling, maybe the most important gifts that we bring to the world that might just lead us to our true path and another level of authenticity.


In Irvine’s view there are two kinds of people in the world: those who help, and those who hinder; those who give and those who take; those who lift, and those who lean; those who contribute, and those who consume. The question for us is which kind of person will we decide to be? Whenever we offer encouragement, support, or awaken hope in others we receive many more gifts in return, including increased self-respect, worth, and even better health.

According to David Irvine once we rediscover our vision, passion, and gifts then we are ready to make our contribution. We will also be on the path to authenticity and true leadership. Our own personal journey that will reveal the nature of our unique genius, help us stop trying to conform to other people’s models and expectations, and allow our natural channels to open.

Mike Martin is a freelance writer and consultant specializing in workplace wellness and conflict resolution. He is the author of “Change the Things You Can” (Dealing with Difficult People). For more information about Mike please visit:



Leave a Comment
  1. on the ball parent coach / Nov 1 2011 2:01 pm

    I am so appreciative of the resources you included in this post. I’m going to add them to my reading list because authenticity is probably the most important characteristic I can practice. It keeps my every thought and action honest. I’d like to think I’m already authentic but every day when I ask myself what my “true intention” is, I find new ways to be authentic. Curiously, intentionality is a key competency for emotional intelligence skills.
    Thanks for the great content in this post!

    • mike54martin / Nov 1 2011 8:39 pm

      Thanks for the comment and I would love for you to share one from “book list” of books that inspire you.
      Thanks again.

  2. Jennifer Woodard / Nov 1 2011 2:22 pm


    Another great post and being ones true self is not an easy task. I don’t think that most people realize that they are wearing a mask. We put the mask on so early in life that we tend to forget that it is a mask, just have a feeling that something is missing. I read and often re-read a book that I found to be great “The dark side of the light chasers,” by Debbie Ford. This book is about being whole and how life brings people into your life to show you wear you are wearing a mask. It’s about accepting yourself as you are and it makes it easier to accept others as they are. It helps you see where you are hiding by showing you how life brings the same type of people into your life so that you can see yourself. We tend to dislike people with certain traits that we ourselves have but do not acknowledge. So if you don’t believe that you tell lies an every time someone tells lies it pisses you off, yet others see you as a lair. The universe will keep bringing liars into your life because it is trying to show you your mask. Once you accept that you do indeed tell lies and accept it as part of your wholeness, the universe will stop bringing lairs into your life. It is really a great book and every so often when I get off track I pull it off and read it. I used to have a problem with bossy people and seemed to be unable to stop attracting them, until I read this book and realized I was bossy, which I didn’t think I was because I am very giving. I didn’t that I could be bossy and giving. Once I realized that I am indeed bossy, I don’t have a problem with bossy people. They are still around I am sure (my sister), but I don’t get irritated by them, I was able to unplug from them. Our mask are like open plugs and people who display those qualities that we are trying to hide, just plug right into us. She has a quote that I love by Robert Bly, “We spend the first 20 years putting parts of ourselves into this bag we carry on our backs and the rest of our lives trying to get those parts out.” May bot be quoted perfectly, but close. What he means we spend our childhood being told how we should be, putting away parts that we think are unacceptable, like, greedy, selfish, mean, talkative, daring, etc, because we are told that is not a way to behave. We get to adulthood and feel incomplete and spend the rest of our lives trying to become whole gain. We arrive here as babies whole, lose our wholeness and then go on a search to find it. Some are lucky to find it before they die, some don’t even know they should look. It is not an expensive book, if you are interested in accepting yourself for who you are, then check it out. For some it make take you far out of your comfort zone, but give it a try, I think you will be glad that you did.

    Happy blogging,

    • mike54martin / Nov 1 2011 8:38 pm

      Wow!! I love your commentary. BTW this is a blog post unto itself but thank you for sharing. I have read Debbie Ford’s boks and even got to see her live one year at the Omega conference in New York. Yeah she does help you see and understand your dark side but unless you understand those aspects of your self you cannot get better, improve, heal or grow. Thank you again for sharing.

      • Jennifer Woodard / Nov 1 2011 10:09 pm


        I am sorry, you are right it was a post unto itself. You hit upon a subject that seems to spark something in me. I am glad that you have heard of Debbie Ford and envy that you had the opportunity to see her speak. I agree that you have to be at least willing to see your dark side and most people are not, I admit it’s not an easy thing.

        Thanks for your great posts, they really make me think.

        Happy blogging,

  3. Doreen Pendgracs / Nov 1 2011 6:54 pm

    What a terrific post, Mike!

    I really work hard at giving, sharing, leading by example. It is an important part of my being.

    Right now, I’m going thru a tough time because I’m getting impatient for the universe taking too long to make my dream/vision a reality. I know that developing my patience is a key goal for this lifetime, so I’m trying to be patient. But it is hard.

    Thanks for continuing to inspire us.

  4. Lanre / Nov 2 2011 5:21 am

    This was really insightful. I think many of us have it in mind to be authentic but end up being fake due to influence from society and the likes. The disastrous thing is that we end up thinking that this fake self is who we really are and therefore, we make no effort to change. The steps you mentioned about becoming authentic would be really helpful. We really need to search ourselves before any form of change can occur. Thanks for this post.

  5. kittykilian / Nov 2 2011 8:15 am

    I love this post too! But for different reasons. I love the easy definitions of passion and mission. I never could relate to these high flung notions but yes, I do know why I get up in the morning! Also know where my talents lie – and which ones I lack. Vision, passion, gifts, contribution – all clear and very practical. I know where I stand.

    Authenticity is a much misused concept. Leaning towards mysticism and romanticism – and it hardly ever gets defined well.

    I can honestly say I am a pretty authentic person. I do make many mistakes, but I don’t wear masks. I find it very hard to pretend. I wish I could do it better! Because I think as with any theory reality is more complicated – a theory is meant to simplify reality so we can grasp it – and I believe that in reality it is very necessary to pretend and strategize.

    Anyhow, I finally get it.

  6. by Quipa | Maris (@greatID) / Nov 2 2011 9:35 am

    Thank you for this post! I refer to it with your link on my website

  7. Catarina / Nov 7 2011 1:26 pm

    Mike, don’t forget that one reason for people having to pretend is that they have been so successful it scares people. Another is that if you post negative comments about the 1% of people who are ripping off the remaining 99% it could prove to be fatal. Especially online.

    Being authentic is easy, you just have to be prepared to pay a price. And it could ruin your life unfortunately. 🙂

  8. Susan Oakes / Nov 8 2011 5:55 am

    Excellent post Mike. I think it is too hard not to be yourself and it would be very tiring. Above all enjoy the journey as that is when exciting things can happen.

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