What Does It Mean to be Authentic?
Why should I care? What do I have to do to be Authentic? The 4 essential steps.
Being authentic is at the heart of Authentic Life Concepts. But what does it mean to be the real you, the person that only you can be. It means that while you learn from others, you don’t try to be them. So, the first step in being authentic is to be honest.
1. Be honest – with yourself first and then others. Be honest about what you believe in – really. Be honest about what you care about. Be honest about the people who mean something to you. Be honest about how you got to this point in life. Be honest about where you hope to go in life. Be honest about what difference you hope you can make in life. Perhaps most difficult of all, be honest about your capabilities. I promise, spend a few minutes with me, and I will show you a wealth of assets you have that you don’t even realize. Or see my post, “All My Amazing Hidden Assets.”
Know that authenticity is a process, like climbing a staircase. You can be authentic but not finished yet. In fact, the more you emerge, the more fully you realize how much more there is. But it’s not bad news. As you begin to emerge as authentic, further development is exciting.
A note about being honesty with others – tact and discretion are important. You reveal your authentic self appropriately, in the right way, and at the right time.
2. Own your story, then direct it with purpose and integrity. No one can be born, survive, or make it in the world on their own. You had help. In the ideal circumstances, you will have been loved, taught foundational values and truths, and given the chance to experience your abilities to do things. Many of us don’t have the best of circumstances, so our story is filled with pain, confusion, and devaluing. Either way, your story has brought you to this point and has influenced you greatly. But your story has a part two. The person you were taught to be and the valuing of yourself that you were taught to hold, are not actually who you are. To be authentic, to be the person you were born to be, you must take charge of directing your own life with purpose and integrity.
A note about your story as written by others. Moving to the next phase in which you direct your own life with purpose and integrity, does not mean to divorce yourself from what went before. That really was you, but not your adult, authentic self. Much of that will remain with you. Much of it you will embrace, learn from, or reconcile with. Now you can separate your authentic identity from the opinions of others and the experiences you have, that you couldn’t do as a child.
3. Live in the world, embrace the good in the world, and commit to impact the world in a positive way. Just as we needed the world to survive and thrive, we will always need the world. There is much good in it. There is insight, inspiration, information, ideas, instruction, and beauty. But believe me and remember, you are here for a purpose. The world needs you and your impact, because the world also has inequality, injustice, incorrect ideas, suffering and need. Thus, we live at the crossroads of the pushes and pulls of the world and the things we value in our hearts and souls. Just as the world influences us, we are to impact the world.
Something else about the crossroads you need to know. The crossroads has its own content. Where the world and you meet there are enduring, overarching truths which don’t depend on the agreement or approval of either the world or you. For instance, the kind of seed you sow determines the type of harvest you can expect. This is a rule in the physical realm and a great metaphor for interactions with others. Learn the content of the crossroads – enduring, overarching truths.
4. Realize that what is true for you is true for others, as well. Just as you are unique, valuable, capable, and with a purpose, so are all others. Just as your value and ability may not be readily discernable, the same may be true of others. Just as the world needs your impact, it needs that of others as well. To be authentic, then, is to urgently desire that all others recognize and achieve authenticity as well. Life ultimately isn’t a competition. We all do better as all others do better. Once you realize your authenticity, you don’t need others to fail, suffer, or be less than you in order to increase your value. You already know you are unique, valuable, capable, and with a purpose.
To be authentic is to experience all the good, fulfillment, and accomplishment that is possible. Authenticity doesn’t deny or ignore evil, suffering, or wrong, but authenticity is not derailed by it. Rather, authenticity is challenged to rise to its greatness by the needs of others.
See also the post, “The Extraordinary Value in Authenticity.”
Written by Bill Halsey, Spring, 2018