Are We Ever Authentic?
I read something years ago, and so long that I may be paraphrasing, from Dr Gabor Maté, that we all have a need to be authentic and yet it is the hardest thing to do.
However, the word authentic is often brandished around as a statement of our integrity and that it is easy to be, do, have.
Why though, rather than an easy thing to do, is being authentic so hard?
If we look to the Latin root of the word, authenticity it is ‘that comes from the author’. In effect being authentic is asking us to become the author of our lives. Which on the one hand is an exciting proposition; you have the blank page of your life to write on it what you will:
- A set of directions to live your life.
- An outline for the extraordinary things you will achieve.
- A proposal for the fun activities you can get up to.
- A list of all the wonderful people you wish to connect with and love.
But, what if you look at that blank page and have no idea what to put on it? Or you think you would like to put certain things on and you get scared of failing, of being judged, of not knowing how? Or you just don’t know and stare blankly at said page?
Which comes around to why it can be hard to be authentic.
We live in a society with others, it is important to belong and to be loved. If you know Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs then you will be aware that ‘love and belonging’ is also one of our needs.
To belong, to find love, the need for connection with others can often mean we follow the crowd, the ideals, mannerisms, accepted behaviour, attitudes, beliefs, codes of conduct, dress of the group and perhaps we don’t question if that’s what we truly want. Which is fine if you feel content.
Yet what if you want to be different? What if your beliefs don’t really match up to that of the group? You wish to look different? Wear different clothes? Do different activities? Believe different ideals? Live a different way? Have different hobbies? Do things which bring joy that others look down upon?
In essence, what if you want to be your own person? Will you be rejected by your group, your peers, your family?
Which then is more important; to belong and to be loved or to be authentic?
In an ideal world it would be to have both. Belonging/Love and being your authentic self.
If the ideal world isn’t there, and you wish to belong but want more authenticity, take the blank page, and use it to write out how you will be more bold. Use a journal to:
- declare who you are,
- what you love,
- all the ways you want to be in the world.
Start small and make a commitment each day to speak up, show up and be more you. Notice how this makes you feel and how others react and maybe you give them permission to make steps towards becoming their authentic self.
On the other hand, what if you have given your all to others and in doing so you have forgotten who you are along the way? How then can you express your authentic self when you don’t even know who you are?
What then can you do?
Take the blank page and start to journal with no right or wrong, your ‘musts or shoulds’. Allow yourself the permission to explore. Start by asking questions:
- what colours I like,
- foods I enjoy,
- places I like to go to and why,
- what is it about certain people I like,
- what qualities do I find admirable,
- is there something which makes me excited, passionate, curious…
And slowly start to piece together what makes you you.
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash