I think most of us understand the basics of being an authentic person in conceptual terms.
In therapy you will hear me say the word “authenticity” a lot. I will stress the crucial nature of being true to yourself, your values, your ideas, and your desires. This is an empowering step for many who have felt betrayed, slighted, or disenfranchised. Taking ownership of your sense of self moves you forward into having the kind of conversations, connections, and life you hope to live. All of this sounds like something we want for ourselves and others, right? But what does it really mean?
Authenticity –” actual character not counterfeited or adulterated — refers to the truthfulness of origins, attributions, sincerity, and intentions. ”
Dr. Harville Hendrix has some great ideas on the subject, he talks about being authentic in his work Keeping The Love You Find. “When your fear abates, you will be more capable of examining and dismantling your character defenses so that your authentic self can emerge.” When we allow ourselves to come forward in a real way, there is a purity about our ideas and intention. We don’t have to hide who we are but rather openly express who we are at our more core level.
Of course, when you are getting all the praise for being yourself, it is much easier to let your strength shine. However, there is no pretending here in the land of being authentic. It is scary to be real when you think people won’t like you, when they will judge you, and/or mock you . Being present with your own emotions in a situation takes work and even then it can be hard to come forth. Hendrix goes on to explain: “Rejecting your authentic self, you bury it in the underground and instead present to others only a substitute self that you thinks will win their approval.” We naturally want to be like and accepted, this is a beautiful human understanding. AND yet when we sacrifice our authenticity for the sake of false acceptance we strip away the opportunity for the very connection we so deeply crave.
Once all that is figured out, there is one more layer of being authentic that requires a bit more work to accept. We tout the virtues of such on an almost daily basis by phrases like “be true to yourself, just listen to yourself, be who you want to be, I accept you as you are.” Yet, if we were to be truly honest to ourselves, we often only mean this when this authenticity moves in our favor. This is not a criticism, it is just a fact of most human interactions. I would say we “authentically want what we want” and when we don’t know how to express it, how to get it, or don’t get it at all… difficulty arises. Hence, being authentic isn’t just about encouraging other people to live their dreams, or being honest with yourself. It also requires a consideration of the process of what you create together. Hendrix notes, that once we “start modeling how to let go, how to say set boundaries,and how to be authentic about with our own needs, we begin to take care of ourselves and others more fully.”
You may not always like your authentic responses of yourself or those of others. However the beautiful part of this process is you become strong enough to embrace them as real without needing to push them aside or diminish others. And once you have taken that leap of true honesty you can also begin to work on changing how you respond to those situations. The key to being authentic is not just identifying your wants and needs (and those of others) but beginning to create an authentic connection together of acceptance even within your difference.
Your life will change dramatically the moment you risk being brave enough to be your authentic self.