“Be yourself — not your idea of what you think somebody else’s idea of yourself should be.” — Henry David Thoreau
Authenticity is the gold standard for people. It is the most common motivation available right now. Self-help literature, blogs, motivation talks, etc. are all flooded with the call for authenticity. Apparently, we have started to fake everything so much that authenticity is being sold to us as some discovery, as a new way of life.
If I had a dollar for every time I heard the phrase “Be Yourself”, I would be sitting on a pile of thousands of dollars.
We all spend our lives balancing inner and outer aspects of self. Ideally, there should be only one version of the self. However, the existing culture is such that in order to fit in, to find love, to be more successful, to conform with social standards, we have to have an outer personality. Be it the Internet or real life, we are always maintaining a superficial image to live upto the expectation of the people (aka society).
The irony or rather a paradox…
As human beings, all of us want to be authentic. In that pursuit, we try to imitate what authentic means to others. This makes us anything but authentic.
We live in a society that values superficiality, strives for perfection, and defines success by the dollars earned. How well we live our values every day does not matter. We are motivated and convinced to be someone else.
The different masks or personas we project to the public can be harmful; for they not only hide our real self but also overshadow our essential human nature. The more we live in the delusion, the farther we come from our existential reality and humane values.
But it is argued that success is when you follow the ideas of society?
Agreed! By all means, our aim should be to live a happy and comfortable life. We should be better off than before. But, at the same time, our way of life should be well aligned with the reality of life. If we are not aligned with reality, if any of our beliefs are false and invalid, it means that we are living in illusion and ignorance and it is only going to hurt in the long run.
Success as defined by society is very confusing. Depending upon where you start you should be able to evaluate yourself and not keep looking at the Forbes list of billionaires or millionaires. Success also is a relative term and instead of competing with yourself you end up competing with others and that is not fair at all in life. We should be aligned with our needs and priorities that will have both the values of life and the comforts and facilities in life. Having an optimum balance and aligning the reality of life with the capabilities and opportunities we have will make us authentic.
What does it mean to be authentic?
Simply put, being authentic means showing our true selves and how we feel instead of being in that “showy” mode all the time and boasting fabricated emotions and beliefs.
- Stop proving, start being:- Proving is for people and to people; being is for self. Authenticity alone will give us satisfaction while proving will always create fear of being disproved. We must be what we are.
- A balance between what we say, think, and do:- Thoughts, speech, and action are the three forms of activity that we are always performing. A balance between them means being able to do what we think, think what we can do, speak what we think, think only those that we can speak, and any other permutation combination possible with 3 variables. If there is no balance in these three, we will be in pain and discomfort. This is the first purpose of existence for human beings – to rationalize and use the power of imagination which gives us thoughts to be aligned with actions and deeds.
- Change the barometer of valuation:- To be authentic, we must value ourselves correctly. The valuation should be done in alignment with the natural inborn instincts rather than comparative showoff stuff in contemporary cultures. It should be based on how fair, just, truthful, emphatic, and compassionate we are. These are in abundance in every human being naturally and valuation on this basis will make us authentic.
- Honesty is the reality, thus it is the best policy:- Being truthful is an innate quality of every single one of us. Culture teaches us a belief system that justifies dishonesty. The way out of the situation is to understand more. Identifying the baggage of thoughts, culture, and upbringing we carry and eliminating the wrong ones can restore honest behavior.
Current Belief – Being honest makes you vulnerable.
In popular culture – In one of her Medium articles, Tal Mandelbaum writes that being authentic and real is good and important but can put us in trouble.
As per the Philosophy of Coexistence: Goodness and authenticity are the essential traits of the human soul. In other words, they are basic human nature; the opposite of the popular perception that human beings are intrinsically evil.
The human species are in a race to outdo each other and fight for the top place. From kings the shift has been to corporations and being different, being niche, or being better is more valued than being similar or alike. While in reality, we are all the same soul with different bodies.
It will be impossible for the human species to sustain on this planet without the traits of goodness and authenticity existing at the collective level. However, we learn from culture and education these incorrect ideas that goodness is weakness and authenticity makes us vulnerable in this world of survival of the fittest.
As humans, we have “natural and default expectations” of goodness and authenticity. No matter how shrewd as professionals we become, no matter if we are always on our guards, the fundamental expectation of goodness and authenticity is always there inside us. Anyone can validate this existential truth at any time.