“Just be yourself”, “Keep it real”, “Be Genuine” and so on. All phrases that we hear on a regular basis, but what do they really mean? What does it mean to be yourself? Being yourself, in simple terms, is being authentic and everything that comes with it, from acting through your core to not trying to impress others through your communication.
With this post I want to explore the topic of Authenticity and explain how understanding and implementing this simple concept can have such a profound effect in all areas of your life.
What is Authenticity
Put simply, being authentic is being the real you. It’s not that we ever lose who we really are, it’s just that through social conditioning and following cultural norms, we feel pressure to conform to the standards of others. Authenticity is when you are honest, genuine, and speak from your true self. It is not about compromising your values to be accepted by others and it is not about acting through a frame of fitting in with or impressing those around you.
Inauthentic: When I was in school I remember talking to a friend about a band we liked, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Yet that day, on the way home, a cooler person mentioned how the band sucked and we both responded along the lines of: “Yeah, you’re right, they do suck”.
Inauthentic: I have another friend who is constantly trying to impress people through their possessions. They even took at a large loan at 18 to buy a flash car and proceeded to talk about it at all opportunities.
Whenever you are trying to impress someone or make them like you then that is all you are doing, trying. As soon as you are honest and literally being yourself, you will see amazing things start to happen in all environments and interactions. It doesn’t matter if what you believe in is right or wrong, it’s simply about not being afraid to have those beliefs and (respectfully) share them with the world.
Authentic = being genuine, yourself, acting through your intentions, standing up for what you believe in
Inauthentic = trying to impress, acting through an ego, telling people what you think they want to hear
Why live Authentically?
As you read this now, you can probably think of times in your life where you haven’t been genuine or been honest with others. Despite the fact that we all have tendencies to conform to the standards of others, our lives haven’t really been worse because of that, right?
If I’m going to ‘preach’ about the art (how to) of authenticity then it’s only fair if I share the benefits:
People respect you for it: It may not always be clear at the time, but having your core beliefs and values is really respected by the people around you. Whether consciously or unconsciously, having the guts to speak your mind and accept the judgments is a powerful characteristic and it radiates from your being.
You don’t constantly have to try: If I’m honest, things like cultural norms and judgments annoy me, partly because I had to spend a large part of my life (as do 99% of the planet) doing things to be seen as normal. It is a huge weight off of your shoulders when you can fully start to express your true self and not think about whether the next thing you do / say will be taken well by others.
You give others permission to do the same: When a dancefloor is empty at a party, most people simply won’t be the first people to start dancing, even if they want to. It often takes somebody who is confident and who is acting through their intentions (doing what they want to do) to dance before others. This is then a trigger to others that allows them to start dancing as it seems normal.
The same goes for acting authentically. If you are able to fully express yourself and stand for what you believe in, others around you are going to start seeing that they can do exactly the same thing and the world as they know it isn’t going to collapse around them. They are going to see that they can truly be themselves and that it is genuine, not an act they might otherwise put on.
When someone asks me how to be authentic, it’s kind of like telling them not to do anything they don’t want to do. Do the things they really want to do and be honest in their communication. However, sometimes a message like that isn’t enough to get the point across.
We’ve covered with being authentic actually is and the benefits that are involved so now let’s take a look at how you can actually live an authentic life.
1. Accept who and where you are
If we often try to impress others and boost our ego through their reactions, doesn’t that say something for our judgments on ourselves? At the core, trying to impress people is looking for validation of who we think we are through the responses they give us.
As soon as we accept who we are and what stage we are in life for what we truly know or feel it to be, then all that stops. If I know and accept that I’m not a millionaire, I’m not going to talk or act like I’m some wealthy big-shot. I have nothing to prove because I’m fully comfortable and in acceptance of my situation.
If you are constantly looking to better yourself through things that society makes us believe will improve our status, then we will constantly be looking to the approval of others and ‘faking it’. As soon as you are happy with yourself, you have no reason to act and no approvals to seek.
2. Fully express yourself
I have a wrist-band that is made from the top part of a sock which has been cut-off. It’s not that I’m poor or weird, it’s just that I like how it looks and it’s something unique. If I didn’t like it I wouldn’t wear it, but I also wouldn’t wear it if I fully conformed to what is normal in society because it is out of the ordinary.
Funnily, because I’m comfortable in my decision to wear it and even when people know what it is, I never get any negative reactions. This is simply because I’m confident and it is merely an expression of who I am and how I feel. That comes across to people, if I was clearly embarrassed by it and not comfortable, I’m sure it would be the center of ridicule from my friends.
What you wear is just one aspect of expression, fully expressing yourself includes:
- The clothes that you wear
- The music you listen to
- The friends you choose
- The actions you do or don’t want to take
- Everything you like
If you like something, then express that. If you want to do something, then do it not to impress others or fit-in, make it an expression of who you are. In my earlier example I was inauthentic because I said a band that I actually liked sucked, just so other people wouldn’t judge my likes. In retrospect, that is a pretty stupid thing to do.
Of course if I was fully authentic I would have told the person that I actually like the band because I’m happy to express the things I like.
3. Be human
At the end of the day, being authentic is simply about being yourself, and being yourself is being human. It is in our nature to be honest, expressive and caring. It is in our nature to have likes and dislikes and not be afraid to share what they are.
It is also in our nature to stand up for ourselves and what we believe in, because ultimately, our beliefs are completely unique to that of anybody else in the universe.
If you want success in any areas of your life, you have to be human. People have to be able to connect with you on a personal and emotional level. Would anybody read the blog of a personal development blogger who claims to be perfect and teaches readers exactly how to be like him? Probably not, unless they had all the things that society claims to be good and other people want that.
As soon as we come back to who we are, our core, it’s only natural for us to have all the qualities of somebody who is authentic. I would rather spend my life living happily with my friends and family than claiming to be who I’m not to be liked by a bigger group of people. On the other hand, I’d also like to work hard on something I’m passionate about, even if it never makes me rich or famous, rather than going the corporate or educational routes that everybody else seems to take.
Why? Because it is true to me. I am who I am; I accept that and the judgments and criticisms that come with it. If you are afraid to be human, express yourself and accept your current situation then you are not living a life that is true, and you aren’t coming from a place of authenticity. Remove your self-limiting beliefs and start to take control of your life for I truly believe that living authentically is the path to happiness, peace, better relationships and even goal achievement.
What have you got to lose?