I love the topic of authenticity. As human beings, we are all ultimately the same at our core, yet we often have such a hard time being ourselves. Why is this? And what can we do about it? Let's discuss...
Why be Authentic?
“Everything will line up perfectly when knowing and living the truth becomes more important than looking good.” - Alan Cohen
Think of someone you know who is really authentic. How do you feel when you’re around them? I’m guessing you probably feel pretty good. That’s because being genuine not only improves your life, but also the lives of those around you.
Authenticity does mean being vulnerable, but the reward is that vulnerability brings connection. When you do come from a place of authenticity, you have the ability draw to yourself the people, love, career, relationships and experiences that match who you truly are. Once your life is in alignment, you enter a flow where life just feels easier. And who doesn’t want that?
Right now you may be thinking, “Whatever Kira, that’s easy for you to say, but I can’t do it.” I agree that at first being authentic can feel scary (if not downright terrifying!), but in order to get the bigger rewards, we need to take the bigger risks.
But it Feels Safer to Play a Role…
While being truly authentic is a powerful experience, taking the initial steps to get there can be difficult and scary. It’s usually no problem when you’re belting out your favourite song alone in the shower, or dancing in your living room like no one’s watching because no one’s watching, but start adding other people into the equation and authenticity suddenly becomes a lot more elusive.
Being someone else is safe because then the real you is protected. But at what cost? Let’s take a look at the effects of being, and not being, yourself:
The effects of being inauthentic: loneliness, insecurity, emptiness, pain, lack of connection, unfulfilling relationships, unhappiness, uncertainty, frustration and struggle.
The effects of being authentic: connection, closer relationships, love, understanding, peace, happiness, freedom, fulfillment, joy and the ability to live with ease in each moment.
If inauthenticity were a pill, would you take it? No, I wouldn’t either.
What Role Have You Been Playing?
“No one man can, for any considerable time, wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which is the true one.” - Nathaniel Hawthorne
When others are around, you might find yourself becoming who you think others want you to be, or someone you think they will approve of. In that way you play a role and become someone else, no longer showing up as your genuine self.
Which parts of your personality are not truly you? Take some time to identify the different aspects of yourself, which you have created for the sake of pleasing others, or for protection. Where in your life, and in which relationships, are you not being authentic?
Make a little inventory of the inauthentic parts of yourself which you would like to shed. This may take some thought, since after a while we often go about our role-playing in a very unconscious way.
Recognize the Real You
Once you’ve identified what isn’t you, it’s time for the fun part. What does it mean to be you? Who are you underneath it all? Explore your values, beliefs, passions, goals, quirks and all your wonderful eccentricities (I can’t be the only one with those, right?). Feel the pressure lift as you take some time with the real you. Be compassionate with yourself, and know that you are whole, complete and lovable just as you are - and yes, this applies to everyone, including you!
Show Others Who You Really Are
“Just be what you are and speak from your guts and heart - it's all a [wo]man has”. - Hubert Humphrey
The real pain is in others not seeing who you really are, so show yourself off! Communicate from your heart, rather than your head. You’ll find you worry less about what people think, who you “should” be, and what you just said. Instead, you will be sharing your true self and building connections that go far beyond the superficial.
But Being Authentic is Scary!
“Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.” - Mother Theresa
Yes, being authentic can feel scary. By opening up and being genuine you may feel you are making yourself vulnerable to judgment, assumptions and criticism. If you show up as yourself, and someone turns you away, the rejection really hurts. It’s risky, I get it. It’s easier to take rejection when you’re playing a role, because it’s the character that’s being rejected, not the real you. Chances are though, you’ll experience less rejection when you’re being yourself than when you’re being someone else. Besides, I wouldn’t be suggesting authenticity if there wasn’t a big reward at the other end. And if you don’t believe me, believe Mother Theresa.
Do it Anyway
“To be nobody but myself - in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make me somebody else - means to fight the hardest battle any human can fight, and never stop fighting.” - e.e. Cummings
Here’s the thing: If you show up as yourself, chances are the other person will do the same. And if you play a role, staying in the persona you have created for yourself, the other person will likely stay in theirs. Two people interacting, both playing roles, does not create a connection, it creates distance.
The choice is yours. If you decide to take the initiative and show up as your authentic self, you will attract the same, it’s inevitable. So gather up your courage, experiment and practice (and then practice, practice, practice some more). Don't wait for someone else to make the first move!
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