Authenticity is one of the most underrepresented and under-appreciated traits I can think of.
We may think we see it, in this age of information and oversharing. Everything is out there for the world to see– you’re thinking- what could be more authentic than that?
True, the lifestyle blogs and tell-all celebrity interviews do appear to be a raw representation of these people’s lives, but you can only see so much on the screen or the page. How people present themselves in certain formats (like online, or in specific social settings) is vastly different than who they are as a whole.
Authenticity can be just as elusive in day-to-day life. Many of us tend to play into this delusion where having a friend we share a secret with every now and again or a partner who we feel comfortable farting in front of means that we’re being totally open and honest and real. Sorry, but there’s a lot more work that can be done from there (although I salute your efforts).
Authenticity is not some label that can be achieved through a collection of small actions that we- or others- put forward. (One could actually argue the opposite- any portrayal of ourselves that we put forth is contrived and therefore very unauthentic.) To be truly authentic is to live in harmony with yourself and your surroundings no matter the situation. It is to be intuitive and unabashedly genuine.
The reason I think so many people have trouble with authenticity is because it’s scary. We all want to be well-liked, and no one likes everything about everyone. As a result, we try to hide things about ourselves while playing up others. We fear putting ourselves out there 100% because it might get in the way of our people-pleasing tendencies. I have totally been there and often still am, but I also see the importance of being straightforward. Finding someone who’s quite frank is a refreshing contrast to overly-polite or guarded fellows who often come across as fake.
Over the past couple months, I have met a handful of people who put forth no effort to make small talk when I see them. Either we talk about something with substance and depth, or we don’t talk at all. When I first met these people, this was off-putting. I thought that they were rude and unfriendly. Why would they give me the cold-shoulder like that?
But I soon realized they were just being real- and I started to embrace their approach (or lack thereof). When they do ask me about myself, it is because they are genuinely interested. Their questions and comments are personal and spiked with curiosity. The discussions we do have fuel me with feelings of connection and candour. Nevertheless, there are also times that we enjoy each others’ company in silence, and that’s okay too.
Something else I’ve come to value as of late is acting the same around different groups of people. I haven’t always done this. Historically, I would put on a face for school and a different one for family and another for friend group A and one more for friend group B. There are still times when this sort of attitude seems appropriate (like when maintaining professionalism in the workplace, for instance). But for the most part, I stay as authentic as possible in all areas of my life.
I don’t like to ruffle feathers, but I do feel the need to stick with my own values, regardless of the circumstances. I never hide something about myself from certain friends, even if I fear their judgment or disdain. My thought is that if our relationship is important enough, I should be able to expose myself to them without it disrupting our connection. If anything, the honesty often brings us closer. And, discussing our own values and opinions- especially if they differ- increases perspective. Life would be boring if all your friends were the same.
On that note, one of the greatest ways you can live authentically is by fully embracing and owning what you do. Take responsibility for every thought, feeling and action that you have or take. Welcome any newfound desires- discover what you like and dislike. Stay aware that these things will change, but also become willing to accept the ones that come around full force.
Authenticity is about being unique. No one has the same exact combination of experiences and interests as you, which is pretty amazing. Rather than trying to be like others, embrace this originality– whether that be through how you dress, what your career path is, the music you listen to or the way you eat. Again, judgment is a concern here, but the payoff for authenticity trumps it. Not only is it really attractive to see people living their lives with confidence and commitment- it also leads to a more fulfilling life for them.
I have a little mantra that I say to myself: “Do what you feel.”
By this, I mean trust yourself enough to do what feels best in the moment. No- that doesn’t mean what’s in your own best interest. Often times, what’s best turns out to be the choice that takes into consideration others around you as well. Regardless, by simply doing what you feel- and then remaining honest about these actions/feelings- you can learn to live authentically.
Become your honest, open self. Expose your inner passion. Push out the fake, calculated personality for something more real. And don’t be afraid to speak what’s on your mind (or maybe don’t speak at all).
Do you agree or disagree with my claims? How do you push yourself to live an authentic life?
Also by Quincy: On Adapting to a New Environment
Photo: Jase Lam via Flickr