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  • Cynthia Mudge | Mudge Media | Writer

Be Authentic

“Be authentic,” is the common advice surfacing, whether from self-help books to tips for building a successful business. We are encouraged -- sometimes commanded -- to be our “authentic self.” The advice requires making sure our thoughts, words, and actions reflect our beliefs. An authentic person doesn’t care what others think about them as long as what they are doing or saying reflects their inner truths. But the real inner truth is that, deep down inside, we all do care. Some of us can just muscle through the criticism better than others.


Being authentic isn’t just about bravely declaring the sky is blue while others say it is pink. To be truly authentic means having the ability to reflect honestly about yourself – the good, the bad, and the ugly. It means being able to lay bare some of your most humiliating moments and share what you’ve learned. Humility is good medicine for the soul.


Fortunately, I have decades of embarrassing moments to share and recently wrote a Vocal piece about one of them. It is written in tribute to Maxine Cushing Grey, who was a vital force in the Northwest arts scene, a true believer in her passion for the arts, and was in never-ending pursuit of perfection. In short, she was a difficult woman. She made me break out in a panicked sweat when I heard her name on the phone. When I received letters from her, I had to gather myself in a quiet place so that I could view the humiliating red-editor’s marks on my press releases in privacy.


What I didn’t know at the time is that she was suffering from liver cancer. Yet, she worked with vigor right up until her last days.


She was in her late 70’s when our professional paths crossed. I miss her. I wish we had more time together as there was so much more for me to learn. But I am grateful for every painful conversation, redlined release, and finger-shaking scolding she meted out, because I learned from those moments. I also discovered she had a wicked sense of humor – including about herself. Maxine Cushing Grey was certainly an authentic woman.


To be your most authentic self requires courage to be openly judged without being defensive. To accept criticism and learn from it. To look in the mirror and ask ourselves, “Is this truly the best I can be?” and shake off excuses for poor behavior, sloppy work, or bad decisions. It means not just saying “I’m sorry,” but following up with how you will make amends, solve the problem, or improve to ensure future similar errors are a thing of the past.


Is there someone in your life that was difficult and challenged you to be better? A teacher? Co-worker, boss, parent, or frenemy? ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Post Note: Old-school publishing used the term “redlining” to refer to editorial corrections. These corrections were done in red (often pencil) using special proofreading / editorial marks so that the writer or publisher knew what to change – whether it be to remove an extra space, correct a spelling error, or clarify a sentence.

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Image Credit

Photo of Maxine Cushing Grey provided with permission by MOHAI, Seattle Post-Intelligencer Collection, 2000.107.078.07.01, Photo by Howard Staples

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