Authenticity is in these days. I often read inspiring posts and articles that encourage me to be my authentic self and I feel charged up and think “Right on!” However, a lot of people do not understand what authenticity is, or what it means to live an authentic life. Authenticity is a practice… A continuum, if you will…It is at once both the simplest of things and the most complicated of endeavors.
Authenticity begins with truly knowing who we are. First of all, being authentic means breaking through our limiting beliefs, and understanding our deepest fears, because becoming well acquainted with our deepest fears will point us in the direction of our deepest desires. It means knowing and growing into our zones of genius, because allowing ourselves to become distracted by less inspired activities will only take us away from ourselves. It means understanding the difference between our ego, and our true selves, which are infinitely wiser, kinder and more ready to offer grace and forgiveness, to ourselves and to others. It means understanding that someone else may not be at the same place as you are on their journey toward authenticity, but that that does not make them inauthentic.
Why is it down right scary to be honest and authentic with some people and almost impossible not to be honest and authentic with others? When we spend time with people who share our values, being authentic is easier, because we are more likely to find common ground. If we share values with someone, we naturally feel safer and more connected with them. It gets trickier when our values clash with someone else’s. Especially if we want them to like us.
Often, it is with people who have shown us that they have rejected or judged others for holding values in conflict to theirs that we find it most difficult to be authentic. If they said bad things about that other person, then they might say bad things about us, right? Maybe they are not even able to articulate that they hold different values, which makes a relationship particularly lonely. Or, perhaps, they do know that they hold different values, but they would rather be in a known lonely relationship, than in no relationship at all. If we know that they have lied to others, we will surely wonder if they might lie to us. However it happens, we can usually tell when we are not wholly accepted by another, and if we are wanting to be, we might get stuck in the cycle of trying to win them over to our side. This makes authenticity difficult.
In contrast, we sometimes meet people who seem to rarely, if ever, stoop to judgement, while offering only inspiration and support, even if their values differ from ours. These are the people who will listen dispassionately to our darkest shame, offer forgiveness before we have asked for it, and encourage us to reach for dreams we never thought could possibly come true. They understand that even if they hold different values from ours, we are made differently than them, and that is OK. They understand that our differences, and even our failures, are a beautiful part of our journey and they support us to be on that journey. These people understand that authenticity is equal to love. It is always easier to be authentic with these people.
Sometimes, we are doing a pretty good job overall at being authentic, and we just get confused. Maybe we know someone who needs our help, or so they say, or so we believe. We may believe that our unique position, knowledge or skills in life will be the exact thing this person needs to step out of a bad situation and into a better one. We feel like it would be wrong not to be there for them, even if they have not even asked. Maybe we believe that we owe them something. Maybe they are popular and we want them to like us. Or maybe we are just lonely and want to feel important. These are the times when it can be tricky to distinguish from our ego and our true selves. Trying to manipulate someone into liking us is not authentic. How can they know who they are liking if we are not honest with them? If our ego gets involved, being authentic is going to be nearly impossible.
But that’s OK. Because few of us are 100% authentic 100% of the time. Jesus and Buddha seemed to have figured it out, but most of the rest of us are still struggling with the concept. Judging or resenting someone who we deem to be “inauthentic” does not make us more authentic. Nor does it make us happier. Being authentic means understanding that we are all doing our best to be our “authentic” selves, and offering grace and forgiveness when someone falls short of the goal. It also means caring for our own needs.
A huge part of being authentic is learning to communicate in ways that take 100% responsibility for our feelings. Along with learning to identify limiting beliefs, our deepest fears, and zones of genius, learning to identify our feelings, needs and values makes communicating a much easier task. That way, we don’t feel the egoistic desire to call someone names, make their life difficult or otherwise cause them pain. Being authentic means understanding that true words, spoken without love, are not true at all.
Living an authentic life requires that we understand that we are loved, by a power much greater than ourselves, and that we are forgiven when we fall short of our goals. It means understanding that what we may have thought was “rejection” or “dishonesty” is merely our ticket to a better life. It means understanding that our beliefs shape our lives, and that we can choose how we see things that happen to us.
It means understanding that the belief that someone is “selfish,” “does not like us,” or has “hurt” us, is not going to connect us with our bliss. Instead, we can learn to see that they need something else in life, and so do we. It is up to them and their their higher power to lead them to their most authentic self, and it is up to us and our higher power to lift us up to ours. As we learn to see opportunities where we once saw pain, we can step into another paradigm of living. We can live in a world that leaves judgement at the door and creates a safe space for truth, even if we cannot understand it.
So, the next time we feel that pull to tell a half truth, go along with something that is not really in our best interest, or the best interest of others, I hope we can stop… and remember that living an authentic life is a conscious practice…and take practice it does.
If we all get up each day, put our judgements, fears and anger aside, pursue our passions, grow our genius, communicate with clarity, and strive to be the kind of person around whom we would find it easy to be authentic, we will get to Authenticity, together.