Authenticity: not false or copied; genuine; real, having the origin supported by unquestionable evidence; authenticated; verified. –Dictionary.com
The Merriam-Webster defines authentic as the quality of being genuine and worthy of belief. So a person who is entirely trusted is said and thought to be authentic. Yet to be authentic requires transparency, where people are allowed to witness the unfiltered personality, without any masking.
Unfortunately, many people especially my fellow women and women of color, are overwhelmingly concerned with what others think of us. So we disguise or modify parts of our personality to cater to others.
Being authentic is important to me because it means that I love myself and others enough to be “real” with them. We can spend a lifetime trying to change ourselves into a person who others want us to be. When we put on a “mask” to please others, we are hiding and isolating ourselves, which causes shame. This fear of being truly seen holds us back from being and revealing our authentic self. Staying hidden is a setup for isolation and depression. Toxic shame shuts us down and prevents us from moving toward the best version of ourselves.
Why do we do this?
When we worry about what others think of us then we manipulate our personality and communication style either to seek approval or avoid disapproval. This masks our true or authentic self.
Most of us have a unhealthy need to be liked by everyone, so our actions in a given moment are intended to avoid certain negative consequences. So we alter our message or the way we communicate to reduce the possibility of negative consequences. As a result, our thoughts work against us in a intertwining of excuses. We say to ourselves we can’t do or say one thing or another because of this or that excuse.
Hiding parts of our personality is a trait that is commonplace, however it is far removed from authenticity. The tendency to alter our communication and or behavior explicitly diminishes our authenticity, constrains our growth, and reduces our self-esteem.
Thus our words and actions become diverted from their original intent, because we choose to mask or hide them. When we do this, we literally subvert our genuine self.
When we alter our thoughts and feelings to appease others, we limit our own development. By doing this we inadvertently allow others to influence major decisions in our life. We then become full of self doubt and don’t trust ourselves to make decisions. I have to admit it is truly exhausting to try and be all things to all people. When you are worrying about being inconsistent, and acting differently around different people, you become disconnected from others and unable to cultivate meaningful relationships. It’s as if we suppress our authenticity in deference to a safe and non-challenging communication. This hinders the opportunity for a more meaningful dialogue that might actually generate a better understanding between ourselves and others. Real communication becomes blocked and each of our own “truths” are never revealed.
This leads to relationships, whether personal or professional, becoming stuck. Two or more individuals, struggling with their own authenticity, unconsciously contribute toward an inauthentic relationship. If we are all being authentic then we might have as many truths as there are people, and it’s the conversation about these “truths” that deepens understanding and brings people together.
I am not saying that you say whatever comes to your mind whenever you like. You need to be respectful and tactful. There is a time and place for everything, and at times you need to be silent until there is a more opportune time to speak your truth. As we all know it’s not always what you say but how you say it.
Being authentic requires a genuine sharing in the present moment. Additionally, authenticity is a vital source of genuine self-esteem. I have found that when I withdraw into myself and stop being genuine, then I am betraying myself, which can lead to a variety of destructive consequences.
Being a people pleaser or avoiding constructive confrontation betrays your own authenticity, as you submerge your thoughts and feelings in deference to others’.
If you want to have more meaningful relationships, higher self esteem, and to be true to yourself, then:
- Be honest
- Be genuine
- Be loyal
- Love yourself
- Be beautifully YOU!
Genuine self-esteem requires avoiding self-betrayal. You can’t be true to yourself and betray your authenticity at the same time. This is not to suggest that you shouldn’t act from compassion and generosity toward others, but you shouldn’t undermine yourself in the process. It’s the exceptional individual who seeks authenticity. Much of the personal challenge lies in the fact that being genuine is devalued in our culture, while success, achievement, and avoiding criticism are highly prized.
I challenge you to look for every opportunity to be your genuine self, even if it will make you and others uncomfortable. We are all beautifully unique and shouldn’t have to conform to others or societies standard of “normal” or “proper.” Doing this will bring you peace, joy, and happiness in every facet of your life.
Be Congruent, Be Authentic, Be Your True Self.- Mahatma Gandhi