Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let your true selves be seen. ~ B. Brown – The Gifts of Imperfection
The idea of being authentic was first introduced to me in graduate school. The first few times I heard the word, it was not honestly all that impactful, but it did peak my curiosity. What does it really mean to “be authentic?” In truth, I think it is more difficult than standing physically naked in front of a room of people, strangers or not, and letting them pick apart your physical form in all of its perfect or imperfect ways. Why?
Because being authentic is about being emotionally naked.
Rising to every occasion imaginable in an open-hearted and vulnerable way sounds pretty daunting to me. I would actually say not only is it not feasible, it is risky! Especially when you consider the great lengths most people go, to avoid being vulnerable at all. Being authentic, or emotionally naked, means sharing who you are at the core of your being. It means being open to ridicule, judgement either good or bad and opening one’s self up to the opportunity of being seriously hurt. Being hurt in deep and meaningful ways, not simply the superficial level many of us like to reside at.
Now, I do not mean to say we as a people like to live superficially or behave superficially on purpose. Most of us are protecting our hearts, the core of who we are, which is reasonable. It is a defence mechanism we employ to protect our innermost thoughts and feelings. Being emotionally hurt is often more destructive to us than any physical wound we may sustain. Not to mention, society at large and close family and friends will often intentionally or unintentionally, reinforce the concept as well. We learn through a variety of circumstances throughout our lives, that being authentic leaves us open to emotional turmoil . Being vulnerable means potentially being hurt or even devasted by those we attempted to be vulnerable with. This begs the question….if it is so awful to be vulnerable/authentic, why on earth would we want to do it?
If life’s lessons have taught us we are safer if we live at a more superficial level, why would we want to act in a potentially unsafe way by exposing our true selves?
Honestly, it sounds scary as hell to me! Yet, if graduate school has taught me anything on my way to becoming a counselor, it is the idea that being authentic can also be very rewarding. It is hard work trying to constantly fit in wherever you go and with whomever, you are with at the moment. To constantly protect yourself is exhausting. Wanting to always be liked, wanting to please and wanting to always be seen in a positive light is almost impossible! It is also an enormous amount of pressure to place on yourself. No matter how hard you try, some people will simply never like you. Those people are most likely not worth your time or effort. Trust me.
Being authentic is a very courageous way of being.
It can lead to true friendships or relationships, which are often more rewarding and fulfilling. Being authentic allows you to connect on a more meaningful level. It can enrich your life in ways you never imagined. Not to mention it offers the kind of freedom, most of us long for. To be able to say to another person, this is who I am and it is ok if you do not agree with me or like me, is liberating! There are so many different ways of being in this world, why would you want to be anyone other than who you truly are?
No, this does not mean it is acceptable to be a jerk or disown the idea of having some tact or manners. Nor is it ok to be totally offensive to those around you! It is not a hall pass to act manipulatively! Opting to behave in these ways is simply making yourself a menace to society. Not to mention, it is socially irresponsible and you might very well find yourself alone before you realize what has happened. By the time you do, it might be too late to fix it. So…try not to be that person.
So within reason, do you!
Be true to yourself.
Be honest with yourself and others.
Put yourself out there as the original person you are.
The worst thing that can happen is someone will not like you, or you will get hurt and it will take some time to heal from it. The truth of the matter is, you will most likely be hurt either way. There will be times where you may have to apologize for something you did or said, if being you, accidently hurts someone else. One thing is for sure though you will learn a lot about yourself and others, through the process of learning to be authentic! Oh and let us not forget, the only thing in this world which remains constant is change. So it is not only reasonable, but completely understandable, if who you are changes and develops over time.
I believe the process of learning to become authentic will definitely change you. I also believe it will be a positive, if not life-altering experience. You will never know unless you try.
So take baby steps, be brave and listen to your intuition. You totally got this!