Updated: Jun 6, 2022
It seems to me, the idea of being authentic has become quite trendy. However, it also seems to me that the concept of being truly authentic has somehow become muddled and confused. When you think about it; our subconscious mind has been programmed since birth to conform to those around us lest we be ousted by our tribe. Combine these years of programming with the constant blast of social media telling us why we aren't enough and that everyone around us is doing life "right" and we are just not living up to our potential.
All this to say, I think somewhere in the hustle and bustle of life and the mind clutter that comes from rapidly growing technologies, we've confused authentic with anti-conformist. So, people recognise that we don't HAVE to be just like everyone else to be living a great life. However, I think that rather than attempting to look inward and uncover our authenticity, people are instead, simply being contrary to what's popular. Being contrary is not synonymous with authentic.
I can't count how many times I've met someone who proudly boasts how unique and different they are to what's popular and they even sometimes go as far as to be blatantly offensive just to prove they don't care what people think of them. Meanwhile, it's so clear from their body language and the energy of their words that they are terrified that people won't like them so they feel they must go out of their way to make SURE people don't like them. At least this way it's on their terms.
My friends, if you feel that you must be overtly contrary and borderline offensive because you just don't care what people think of you, I think you might want to take some time to get to know yourself. Truly.
Another bit of confusion I've witnessed is people who get wrapped up in this idea of who they want to be. They create this avatar of a person in their mind who is ultra-successful by society's definition and who is this totally cool and cavalier person that people want to emulate. First, success should be determined by you, and you alone. Don't get me wrong, aspiring to be a millionaire is great if that's truly what you want. A lot of people think they are supposed to want exorbitant monetary wealth when truly, they just want to be able to function in daily life without stressing about how they will pay for the things they need while still enjoying themselves.
Second, the idea of a super-chilled person who never experiences any emotional conflict is just an absolute load of bollocks. I know we see people posting on social media all their awesome experiences and their positive disposition. However, the emotional spectrum is vast, complex, and most importantly it's part of the package when it comes to our human experience. Being sad is not something to be fixed, feeling upset or angry doesn't mean you're not a good person, it just means something inside you feels threatened.
All that to say, if you feel that to live authentically you must become the ultra-cool and super-successful person you've created in your mind, you most likely haven't yet taken the time to get to know the amazing person you already are.
To live as an authentic human being, one must be intimately acquainted with one's values and strengths. To show up authentically in daily life, it takes a lot of self-discoveries and a fuck ton of self-acceptance. Self-acceptance? YES. And I don't mean just saying aloud that you don't care what people think. I don't mean constantly telling yourself "I'm a work in progress" while deep down you are feeling like a failure. I mean looking at who you are in this moment and fully embracing yourself as you are without judgment and with unconditional love. It's easier said than done for sure, but in my experience, when it happens, it feels amazing.
So, does accepting myself and being authentic, mean I don't need to grow as a person? Fuck no. Personal growth is never ending and when it comes from an authentic place, it's less focused on "getting better" and more focused on gaining a greater understanding of oneself and the world around them. What I mean is, the aim is no longer self "improvement" instead it's self-discovery and intimate connection with self. When we push ourselves to "improve" we must ask ourselves what standard are we using to measure improvement? If we are trying to meet the expectations of others, then we have lost connection with our authentic self.
Here's a fun exercise you can do to start chipping away at the various layers of who you have been told you are and getting to know who you really are. Sit in a quiet space where you won't be disturbed for about 10-15 minutes with a pen and paper or journal. Ask yourself the question, "who am I?" You might even try looking in a mirror and ask, "who are you?" Write down whatever comes up. Then ask yourself the question again and this time make a cognisant effort to give a new answer. Keep asking yourself over and over and write down what comes up.
You'll find, after the first couple of times, your answer might be a bit generic like "I'm a student, a daughter, a woman, etc..." Then you might start to get a little deeper like "I'm honest, I love kids, I am an avid learner, etc..." Keep digging and eventually you'll start getting to some of your more authentic self. You might answer something like "I am deeply empathetic" or "I am love".
Take some time to review your answers and see if you can determine which of the answers are yours and which ones were given to you by friends, family, society, etc... From this greater self-awareness you can begin to choose how you can live in alignment with your authentic self.
This has been my definition and my perspective on authenticity, however, it's not the only or necessarily the "right" one. What does authenticity mean to you? How do you know when you're being authentic? How can you live your life as your most authentic self?