what is real

What does it mean to be real?  This question, a classic one indeed, and one at the heart of the children’s classic (just beloved by adults), came to my attention again on the anniversary of publication of The Velveteen Rabbit.  NPR has a thoughtful, inspiring article, which I recommend: As ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ turns 100, its message continues to resonate.  

What does it mean to be real, what does it mean and what does it matter? Here are some lessons from the story (modified and edited slightly below):  

Looks don’t matter.  (What a hard one this is to really get. More on loving ourselves no matter what a bit later)

Hardships are a part of life. (I don’t think this needs further explanation, but it doesn’t take away from the essence.

Strive for authenticity. ( … we don’t need others’ approval to be real, or to be journeying toward authenticity. In fact, it may be the opposite.)

Love hurts, but it’s worth it.  It’s Skin Horse, (sort of the Velveteen Rabbit’s mentor), who says love sometimes hurts… and he was known for being truthful.  But, he adds, “when you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.

the skin horse is real

And furthermore, “...by the time you are real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”  

What does it mean to be real? It seems that the heart of the answer is about love, loving and being loved.

being real is about love

This focus on love and being loved brings to mind another classic, a song that my beloved, musical and masterful dad loved and used to play for me and my brother as we were going off to bed: Nature Boy, by Nat King Cole. is a haunting melody with the conclusion, fitting right in with the Velveteen Rabbit’s message 🙂 “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”  

Finally, apropos being real, loving and being loved, I would like to share a deep teaching by one of my mentors, Tara Brach. This talk is entitled, Responding with Heart to Painful Times.” Even the first 15 minutes are well worth your time.

The quest, what does it mean to be real, is also at the heart of many of the essays in my book, BECOMING: Journeying Toward Authenticity. Is being real the same as being authentic?  I don’t think there is a black or white, true or false answer to the question.  It is indeed a quest, maybe for a lifetime.  

being real is being authentic

Jill Schroder is the author of BECOMING: Journeying Toward Authenticity.  BECOMING is an invitation for self-reflection, and to mine our memorable moments for insights, meaning, and growth.  Check the website for a sample chapter, or see the reviews to get a flavor for the volume.  Follow me on Twitter, let’s be friends on Facebook

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