Why We All Struggle with ‘Authenticity Deficit Disorder’—And What to Do About It

Maria Shriver sat down with best-selling author Elizabeth Lesser on Monday, October 3, for an intimate conversation about her new book, Marrow: A Love Story. Their discussion was part of Shriver’s conversation series, Architects of Change Live, in which she talks to inspiring individuals who challenge what is, imagine what can be and move humanity forward.

Lesser inspired millions with her first work, Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow. The New York Times bestseller explored how we can positively transform ourselves during times of transition, stress or adversity. Now in Marrow: A Love Story, Lesser shares the story of how she and her sister uncovered the depth of their love through the life-and-death experience of a bone marrow transplant.

In her conversation with Shriver, Lesser discussed how the experience with her sister encouraged them both to really examine what it means to love authentically. It also encouraged her to explore how to live authentically in other aspects of her life as well. Lesser said that she feels that we all suffer from what she calls “Authenticity Deficit Disorder” and that we must recognize that we are good enough if we are to work toward living our true lives.

“We come into this life this shining, amazing soul,” she said. “I used to deliver babies—that was my first job—and oh my God, any of you who have had one or been in birth, babies come in just sparkling. It’s kind of amazing. And then we spend our childhood covering that soul because we’re not who our parents wanted, or we’re not from the right class or race or gender. Then we go to school and we’re not smart enough. Whatever it is, we’re not enough, even though we came in enough. So we cover, cover, cover, then we spend our adult life trying to uncover.”

4 Things That Make Any Difference in Relationships

Shriver recounted four things Lesser and her sister used in healing their relationships: “Forgive me.” “I forgive you.” “I’m sorry.” “Do you love me?”

The statements were inspired by oncologist Dr. Ira Byock, who found that these things matter most to his patients who are at the end of their lives. But Lesser urges that we starting talking about them before we’re faced with death.

She said these conversations are not difficult, but warns that they are not for everyone.

“I have often tried with the same person over and over… And then I finally learned, some people don’t want to play this game. They just don’t. And they’re not safe. But I propose most people do,” Lesser explained. “That invitation to go a little deeper is usually met with ‘Ooh, yeah, okay. Let’s do it.’ It takes a very brave act.”

Finding Your True Self Through Silence and “Truth-aches”

“We seem to be in an era where there is no silence… You really advocate for silence,” Shriver said to Lesser.

The author explains that people dislike silence because it’s usually met with discomfort including anxiety, confusion or unhappiness. Still, she insists that it’s essential.

“When you say Architect of Change, most change comes from discomfort. Acknowledging this doesn’t feel right,” Lesser said. “So if you don’t ever let yourself feel it – I call them ‘truth-aches.’ If you don’t let yourself feel the truth-ache, you’re not going to change.”

Intimacy Will Save The World

“People we try to talk to in this series are people, as I say, who challenge what is, imagine what can be and move humanity forward,” Shriver said. “Your book on authenticity is to move us forward.”

Lesser insists that moving forward must come from our relationships with others.

“Yeah, I actually think intimacy will save the world,” Lesser replied. “This isn’t just about one-on-one. It starts one-on-one and if that’s all you ever do, that’s enough.”

Authenticity Means Doing Internal Work with Others

In the process of healing their relationship, Elizabeth’s sister apologized for always trying to be the “good girl.”

Shriver said that it’s so hard if to be authentic if you’re trying to be good at the same time. “I think all of us struggle with that,” she noted.

“Good means to know down to your marrow that you came into this world good. That you are good. And to take it from there. To have faith that what you want is good, that who you are is inherently good,” Lesser explained. “But that person sitting next to you is also good.”

The author says that the secret to being good and authentic is to do internal work with other people and allow yourself and others to be honest with each other.

Lessons From the Last Year of Life

Part of the reason Lesser wanted to get her story out is to tell people they don’t have to wait until they’re faced with death to live their lives to the fullest.

“You have this great story about your sister saying to you that the last year of her life with cancer was the best year of her life,” Shriver said. “And that you often hear people say that, that they would love to have the life.”

Lesser said that her sister had a misconception that living “big” would diminish others and make them feel small and that she learned in the last year that there is enough space and light for everyone to live “big.”

“That was what made her life that year the best year of her life. She stepped into her bigness and was surprised to find that the people who mattered to her were so excited that she did,” Lesser explained.

Watch the full Architects of Change Live Conversation Between Maria Shriver and Elizabeth Lesser:

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Shriver Media is a 21st Century socially conscious media company that produces films, documentaries, original digital reporting and live events to inform, inspire, enlighten and entertain. Our team collaborates with like-minded partners and offers diverse media brands that we believe can impact individuals and society in a positive way. We ignite hearts and minds.

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