I’m about to throw around a couple of annoying buzzwords, but they really are significant! To be authentic is to be mindful and to speak and act with integrity. It’s when you don’t have to preface your statements with “to be honest…” or drastically change your face when you start/stop talking to someone. Authenticity is about (cringe) being yourself.
Something moderately magical about humans (most) is that we’re adaptable. Our behaviors and presentation morph to different environments. Your work tone is probably different from the tone you use with your partner. Different friends might even get different aspects of your personality more prominently. To express yourself in different ways among different people in different situations is perfectly natural. We are also ever-changing. Every experience we have, even if it’s more or less the same, is constant learning. When people talk about “finding themselves” the process is essentially two pieces: seeing what happens in a purposeful change and finding what you’re not. This is why “finding yourself” often comes from backpackers or meditators. I kind of hate the term, but I can’t hate the process. As you make changes in your life, you notice nuggets of your personality and behaviors are accentuated or emerge that might not have otherwise. It feels like you get a clearer picture or deeper sense of who you are. Fantastic! But is it necessary to cling so tightly to the concept of self? To discover a “you” that is only going to continue changing? Addressing the second piece, for some, knowing who you are is about knowing what you’re not. I’m not a blue-eyed, red-haired boy who steals apples. That’s a start. When you go out into the world, Aristotle theorized you distinguish yourself by way of your relations. When you see “other” you become an individual. Other philosophies suggest stripping “self” or seeing “no self.” And then what remains?
There are so many dimensions to the concept and discussion of “self”, identity, ego, etc. I love it, but I digress! So to be authentic is to be aware of you. You can do this by taking inventory.
- What about you is the same and different from one year ago, seven years ago, and when you were a kid?
- What are your values? Have they changed?
- Who are the people in your life right now? Are they different from those who were there a year ago, seven years ago, and when you were a kid?
- Name some of the things in life that make you happy, your likes and dislikes.
- Think about the choices you’ve made in your life.
- How do others describe you? How do you describe you?
- Do you identify with a place—where you grew up, where you live? Is your identity aligned with your physical appearance? How are you a representative of your culture, town, family, and groups to which you belong?
- Are you thinking about making changes? Why are they important?
- What do you want your legacy to be?
Once you conjure up some answers, notice how it applies to your life now and onward. Do you act and speak from this “you”? Is your way of life in aligned with who you are and who you want to be?
When speaking and communicating, there’s a certain amount of responsibility involved. Integrity to me is saying what I mean, with respect and compassion, of course. I’m careful because sometimes saying what’s “true” might compromise another personal value. It’s feeling good about what and how I’m saying something. This feeling good doesn’t come from masking insecurity and the false confidence of fabrication. It comes from knowing that I’ve spoken from a genuine place. The genuine place may feel a little uncomfortable, but the right kind of uncomfortable. When I have trouble accessing this place, I’ll meditate or take a few breaths with one hand on my heart and the other hand on my solar plexus (the space below the chest and above the bellybutton, a place of self-esteem). When I pause to feel and acknowledge a place of truth, my truth, then I am able to recognize it in my interactions and personal expression.
So be aware of you, whatever definitions that might include, and live your truth. This is authenticity.
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