come as you are book review

come as you are book review

The Importance of Authenticity in “Come As You Are” Book Review

1. Introduction

A prime example of this theme is outlined throughout Kurt W. Luchs’ “Come As You Are”. Kurt takes us through journey after journey and adds insightful yet humorous commentary at the end of each short story. Although the stories and the characters are fictitious, Kurt is, in fact, recounting moments of his past and revealing different selves that he has become. It is evident as the book goes on that Kurt is attempting to find peace with his current self and the bittersweet realization that the end of one road is merely the beginning of another. He struggles with the idea that he is unsure of the self he should project and the self he actually is. In his humorous yet arduous journey through self-discovery, he has stumbled upon an important insight – authenticity is an imperative measure in possibly the greatest endeavor faced by an existential being: the attempt to obtain meaning and a sense of satisfaction in life.

If there is one thing that the modern world and its inhabitants are accustomed to, it is inauthenticity. As fast as the world changes, so does the way people live their lives and relate to one another. Something that is constantly changing, whether for the better or for the worse, is the level of authenticity employers now look for in their employees. According to South Dakota University, employers are desiring employees who are more authentic with themselves and others. The study showed authentic people to be more ideal employees – because they are able to project a heightened sense of individuality, effectively communicate with co-workers and superiors, and take more personal initiative. So, as a country becomes more educated at an accelerating pace from generation to generation, more authentic individuals will fill the jobs seeking a transpiring trend. Hence, in today’s day and age, it is more important than ever to figure out who we are, where we are going, and the implications of these decisions.

2. Unveiling the Power of Self-Acceptance

Using information taken from Kurt Cobain’s youth while growing up in a dysfunctional household, Spitz illustrates perfectly the negative effects of not practicing self-acceptance. The terror of his parents’ pending divorce is given to readers through the story of a traumatic experience where he was forced to choose which parent to live with. This event is remembered by Kurt as “When I went over it with them, I told them I was gonna spend a week with each of them. That was a mistake.” Further emphasizing the heartbreaking and dismal effects of the divorce, Kurt recalls to author Czerwinski, “My whole world turned upside down. It was just a really, really bad time.” The likely reason for Kurt’s future drug addiction and eventual suicidal tendencies are linked to the disappointment and negative feelings he experienced in his youth because of his inability to genuinely be happy. Cobain is a chilling example of what can happen when one does not embrace themselves and would later credit his personality, lifestyle, and music as being both genuine and tragic. He once said, “I really haven’t had that exciting of a life. There are a lot of things I wish I would have done, instead of just sitting around and complaining about having a boring life.” The vast amount of wasted opportunity has a direct correlation with his unhappiness which was manifest due to society’s unaccepting nature of non-conformists. It is clear that Kurt’s experiences have been deeply reflected in his actions and I think it’s safe to say that they have been a large factor behind his tragic overdose in 1994. The positive effects of embracing oneself are illustrated wonderfully through Missy Elliot who is a terrific model of a woman who was unaccepted for being her true self. Born with the birth defect of having one leg shorter than the other, Missy was the brunt of constant teasing while in her youth. People would constantly comment on her odd walk and it was this ridicule that caused her to be extremely shy and to never show her legs in public. Elliot admits to spending a large fortune on shoes that would make her legs overcompensate in height and it is even rumored that she would wear Timberland boots when no one could see in an effort to equal out her leg lengths. The chance to embrace herself would come from her discovery of her musical talent as she would wear baggy clothes and write songs for big-name artists before eventually becoming a rapper herself. Coined as the “queen of hip hop,” Missy has become a highly successful artist who is unafraid to express her uniqueness or push the boundaries of hip hop music and style. Her acceptance culminated in her learning to love who she was and to stop caring about what others would think. This transition is summed up in her response to a question of what advice she would give to young women, “I used to say, don’t let what others say bring you down. I think I did things, it’s not that women that are doing the same thing now, but I think I was there to open up a door for them, to be different, not have to be a supermodel to sell records. To be able to just be yourself and still get somewhere.” Today Missy Elliot has certainly walked her talk and is loved worldwide for her music and her personality, all of which are an extension of her true self.

3. Embracing Vulnerability: A Path to Personal Growth

The very first step – what Brown calls ‘the path of awareness’ – involves recognizing the ways that we try to protect ourselves from being vulnerable. By recognizing the armor we use, we can then start to understand why it’s become such a habit – what are we protecting ourselves from, and is it really serving us? For Brown, this is usually some form of shame (in both men and women), where we feel unworthy of acceptance as we are. By avoiding being vulnerable, we are trying to protect ourselves from this feeling, yet at the same time, it is the fear of experiencing shame that causes us to feel unworthy in the first place. Breaking this vicious cycle involves risking vulnerability, to allow connection with others and ultimately, to feel worthy of love and acceptance. One of the most powerful ways to do this involves practicing empathy towards ourselves and others. Brown describes empathy as the “antidote to shame”, because it allows us to connect with others through our shared experience of being human. However, in order to be truly empathic, we must be willing to feel the emotions of others and to connect with our common humanity – something that is impossible to do without being vulnerable. It is in embracing vulnerability that we can start to learn how to be kinder to ourselves and to others, by letting go of our judgment and finding the courage to express our needs. This is a challenging process, but it is also one that is ultimately freeing and empowering, because it allows us to live authentically.

4. Navigating Society’s Expectations: Breaking Free from the Mold

The second major theme that the author confronts is the process of navigating society’s expectations of individuals and the conflicts that arise when those expectations and an individual’s self-concept conflict. This problem is chronicled by the experiences of Mishell, a mother and a woman living with bipolar disorder, in the job market and the attempt to gain medical insurance. In Mishell’s first blog, we are presented with the conflict she feels about being forced to seek a 9-5 job that she feels is completely against her own best interest because of her mental health, but that she must do in order to qualify for Medicare and receive the medication that allows her to function best. This situation leads her to a series of job attempts and attempts to start her own business selling skincare products. Each attempt ends in defeat, either being turned down for the job as overqualified or being unable to fully invest herself in the business. This situation culminates in the final blog where Mishell finally gives up the fight and is forced to admit that the current cannot work and financial stability in the near future just isn’t meant to be. Throughout her experiences, Mishell attributed the sense of failure in the job market to “my conscious and unconscious resistance” to applying for “cubicle jobs which [she] knows [she] won’t keep and usually feel it is very entry level.” It is clear that Mishell had a vision of what sort of job would be acceptable for her given her disorder and tried to surpass expectations by aiming higher until reaching the bitter realization that excluding an unlikely future economic comfort, she would never be accepted for a more stable job that would help her today.

5. Conclusion: Embrace Your True Self and Flourish

In this book, the power of being authentic translates into its poems, enticing the readers to discover exactly who they are and to embrace that person, both in the bad and the good times, because true happiness can only be achieved when one can be completely true to himself. This message holds a staggering amount of truth and power in the society we live in today. There is an uncountable level of pressure to do things that are considered “cool” and to fit in with the crowd. What inevitably happens is people end up losing track of who they are and adopting a lifestyle that can leave them feeling empty and unfulfilled. Come As You Are implies that if you want to live a life filled with joy and contentedness, the only way to do so is to be your authentic self. Step one to embracing your true self is knowing who he/she is. According to Beavan, he and his wife were always feeling that they could be better people, although they did not know exactly who they wanted to become. In attempts to discover their true selves, they lived in a Zen community and acquired spiritual mentors. This venture cost a great deal of money and time but ultimately was not entirely successful. It was not until they met a counseling psychiatrist that they found their answers. This psychiatrist asked them a profound question, “On a daily basis, do you do things that are more for the benefit of others or more for your own benefit?” He explained that 80% of people cannot honestly say that they do things for their own benefit. So the real challenge to self-discovery is figuring out exactly what makes you happy, not what can make you successful, and certainly not what will impress other people. The next step to self-embrace is living as that person that you have discovered. Beavan admits that even at the age of forty, he is embarrassed to read his middle school diary, in which he was a heavy metal fan who was devastated that he was not allowed to get a mullet. What he found from this anecdote is not that he should have been a heavy metal fan or that mullets are stylish haircuts, but rather he should have been proud of who he was and what he liked, despite what other people thought. The point is that people cannot embrace their true selves if they are constantly pretending to be someone else. This concludes with being true not only in thought but in action as well. No matter where they were, Beavan’s grandmother consistently stood up in a dining room and started to eat her own meal, despite others who would begin serving her, assuming she was not hungry. She would politely tell them to sit and explain that she would eat when she felt like it. Beavan says this is one of the many reasons he respected her. She was not rude to anyone, but she did things how she wanted, without being a follower or a people pleaser. The final component to embracing your true self is being proud of who that person is. This means not getting defensive when someone questions your lifestyle and certainly not feeling shame from peer pressures. The persons who can achieve this level of authenticity are those who can truly be happy with themselves.

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