Being authentic or wanting authenticity, what does that really mean?
Adjectives to describe someone can easily be thrown around like a tennis ball without diving into what the word actually means.
The word authentic means a lot to me, and is even more important to me these days as I’m creating an online personal development program called Authentic Growth that will take place in the beginning of 2022.
A couple of years ago I would've defined being authentic as being real, simple as that, and I would’ve stopped there. But what if I told you there was more to the adjective, that would paint a more wholesome picture of what it actually means.
First, let's find the definition in the dictionary. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, being authentic is to be “true to one's own personality, spirit, or character”. Let’s dig deeper. Does it mean to care less about what other people say? Perhaps it means to wear whatever the heck you want to wear? Both of these factors are facing outwards, and points externally. Sure, we can decide to care less about what other people say, but whatever angle we look from, we are not in control of what people say about us regardless. Being authentic is more than this, and it goes much deeper.
I’ve found that the best synonym for being authentic or the concept of authenticity is freedom.
So let’s spin off my opinion on this for a bit, and see where it takes us. The opposite of freedom is according to Merriam Webster Dictionary dependence, which is explained by the quality or state of needing something or someone. To me that sounds well fitting, but I’d add another word that comes to my mind, which is slavery.
For years and years I was terrified of being disliked. In hindsight I felt enslaved to pleasing people with the fear of rejection. This might sound overly dramatic, and that isn't my intention.
The problem with people pleasing is that you can become very likable as you adapt to the people you meet. Because being liked equals being on good terms with them, hence the idea of not being rejected. However, this can cause a problem with the topic that we’re on, being authentic.
The saying that someone’s not “my cup of tea” has a negative connotation to it, and I must say after becoming older and hopefully a bit wiser, I disagree that it is. It just means that a person might not be for everyone, and that’s okay. In the big picture, let's literally talk about a picture, the picture will look different to any person that looks at it. Out of ten different people at an art gallery, some might want the picture on their wall, some might think it will be the perfect gift for a friend, while others dislike it. But that doesn’t define the picture in reality, it has just been judged externally.
If being authentic leads to freedom, and the antonym to being authentic is to be dependent on something or someone, then that means that you as you aren't enough. You will have to seek outwards, if it’s recognition, self-value, comfort or in a more unhealthy direction, perhaps even substances?
When my friends tell me about growth they’ve experienced recently, or new insight they have about themselves, I get really excited. Every single time this happens there’s a sense of relief. Not necessarily because something tangible happens, but because my friend is one step closer to alignment with themselves. It doesn’t even mean that there’s been improvement, but that there’s been a better understanding of self, and why they reacted that way to a certain situation, or why they think a certain way about something or someone.
This idea is the same for myself when I keep getting a better understanding of who I am. However, that’s not enough. I can know myself completely, yet if my thoughts and actions are not in accordance I don’t feel aligned and I don’t completely feel authentic. Of course, feeling completely authentic all the time is impossible, and I don’t mean this in a self-judging way, but from the desire to be me completely. Nevertheless, the keyword here is alignment. Knowing who we are, and taking action that feels aligned with that. Not taking action that feels favorable in our instant feelings and wants, but with a mind focused on our inner values and boundaries.
If you’re still reading, you might see that the word authentic is much more than the word authentic, at least in my perspective. There’s a lot of depth and meaning that falls under what the word actually means, which is why I wanted to challenge you today to reflect upon this. I shared earlier in this post of how important the word authentic is to me. It’s been a word that has given me a lot of meaning as I have been seeking my own freedom by becoming aligned. Under now circumstance am I done with the alignment, but with putting more attention into my values and my boundaries, I’ve seen more alignment with what I do and who I am. And what has it given me? More freedom, or at least, the feeling of freedom.
I want to share what you can expect as you become more aligned.
First, boundaries become much more clear, and in a sense, I feel like they are much more strict than before. This can disappoint the people around you, but remember, your boundaries are for you, and honestly, you make them out of love both for you and the people around you.
Secondly, you might see how much control you’ve let go of in the past, either by going with the flow or letting others decide. This can make you feel empowered, but it can also feel like a loss, because you’re letting go a part of your “old-self”.
Last but not least, in relation to the feeling of loss that was mentioned, you will experience that becoming aligned with your boundaries and values will take away a decent portion of your life. That can be friends, family, habits, hobbies, traditions, networks etc. I’ve experienced the feeling of grief as I’ve let go of what I saw as unhealthy for me. I believe the reason for this is because I had spent a lot of time, I was invested, there were a lot of memories, and there was an emotional mixture of hurt and compassion over the situation. This might sound vague, but the main point is that becoming aligned is not all flowers and butterflies. It’s hard work, it’s an emotional rollercoaster, but on the other side, as mentioned before, there’s a lot of freedom.
Today I encourage you to take a dive inwards to your own alignment. Do you feel like you’re working against or that you are aligned with your own values and boundaries? Maybe in certain situations you are aligned, and others you're not?
If that’s the case, write a list. Write a list of what action steps that would make you feel more aligned with your values and boundaries. Be honest to yourself, and remember, nothing is too crazy or too harsh. This list is for you, and for you only.