Authenticity is the development and expression of your essential self, uncensored, undiluted, unimpeded by external forces. The real you, not a circumstantial, conditional, contingent version of you. Step one is inner authenticity: Being true to yourself, having what you think and feel follow from your beliefs, values, and purposes. Step two is outer authenticity: being true to others, having what you say and do follow from what you think and feel.
Most people don’t live authentically. It doesn’t happen by default; it requires awareness and effort to create an integrated, harmonious self. And even having achieved this, powerful forces conspire to restrict the expression of that self. Wanting to impress. Fearing social disapproval. Falling into roles that stifle your identity. Succumbing to financial incentives to sell your soul one piece at a time. Living a compromised, conflicted, counterfeit life.
Living authentically is hard, but the benefits make it worth while. For peace of mind: it’s deeply rewarding to live sincerely, candidly, masklessly. For meaning: authenticity helps you focus on your purposes and goals and ignore what doesn’t matter. For impact: as others see the real you, they can be inspired by your passions and enlisted into your causes. For regret avoidance: seniors often report overall life satisfaction based on how true they were to themselves. And most importantly, for identity: if you’re not living authentically, then it’s not really you who’s doing the living.
To live authentically:
- Bring compassionate awareness to conflicts between your fundamentals, and to anything inauthentic you say or do.
- Be proud of who you are and who you’re becoming. Realise that you’re worth sharing with the world.
- Let the outer self be defined by the inner self.
- Show up fully, with integrity, in each moment. Don’t censor yourself, and don’t let perfectionism constrict your self-expression.
- Don’t trade authenticity for social approval. Be, don’t seem. If you act in-authentically in order to be loved, then it’s not you that’s being loved.
- Be courageous. Embody your fundamentals audaciously, even if it occasionally leads to uncomfortable situations. Favour external conflict over internal conflict. If you agree to a demand or request that’s against the way you want to live, you lose a little of yourself. Those who love you shouldn’t want you to be someone you’re not, or should trust you to become who you want to be. And those who don’t love you don’t deserve a vote in how you live your life.
* thoughts of Tom Murcko