When I first began to unpack this question, I thought: What the flaming heck. What do I look to for authenticity?? ??? ? ? ??? The question seemed to contradict itself because surely if you are authentic, you do not look to anything for that authenticity — it simply resides within you. The more I thought about it, the more nebulous the question seemed, and that tendril got wispier and wispier and I forgot about it altogether. Until I was sprung into action, driving home from yoga and the supermarket, having spent the remaining $7.99 in my bank account on organic tofu and coconut milk like the millennial I am. I suddenly had some thoughts following a cracker of a weekend, a conversation with a wise friend, and possibly the onslaught of terrible weather that has just begun in Dunedin and looks set to remain for the week. So, I would like to unpack this juxtaposition and use it to answer the question of what I look to for authenticity. Let’s shimmy.
It seems archetypal to define authenticity to begin this analysis. Because doesn’t every nerd love arguing the semantics of a word? But without further ado, I present to you the Google Dictionary definition of ‘authenticity’: “The quality of being authentic.” Wow, what a great definition! Not at all a tautology. (That was sarcasm.) Cue the definition of ‘authentic’: “Of undisputed origin, not a copy, genuine.” … Bravo Google. I would agree with this. (That was not sarcasm.) Authenticity is the quality of being genuine and not a copy. Like an authentic designer handbag conferatur a knock off you bought at the flea market. To apply this to a human being, authenticity is therefore the quality of being completely yourself. Staying true to who you are, which is the very essence and core of your being. And, as a necessary adjunct, having enough confidence and certainty in yourself that you feel comfortable in being authentic and owning who you are.
Authenticity & hate / change / acceptance
To be genuine and authentic, you have to fully accept yourself – the good, the bad, and the ugly. So often we look to change because we do not like ourselves. Change is not a bad thing. But it is important to make peace with all parts of yourself because they are who you are in this moment, and they are what you have to live with and accept. Therefore, if you wish to change, any change that does occur must come from a place of acceptance. Acceptance of the fact that you are in this place now, but you will not always be in this place. And acceptance of the fact that you are not making the change for anyone else but you, so your actions to drive the change must stem from you, for you. That is authenticity. And if you feel that you need to change, being genuine and honest with yourself to figure out what you need. Not living your own lie or anyone else’s lie. Not fulfilling someone’s expectations of you or society’s expectations of you, or your family’s expectations, or your religion’s, or whatever framework of life you have created for yourself that you feel trapped in but cannot seem to get out of.
Fully letting go.
When you have the introspection to look into yourself and realise what you truly need and what you truly want out of this life for yourself, you begin to look in the right places for your own authenticity. You begin to discover that everything you needed to be authentic was already there inside of you. This introspection cannot come from a place of hate. Hatred has no place in authenticity. Hate is so powerful an emotion that it disguises the other things below that are impacting our ability to live authentic lives. It muffles our true state of being and paints a negative valence over the crux of the issue. Moreover, hatred is an emotion that would not be nearly as self-directed as it is if we lived without worrying about others, their actions, their words, or judging ourselves by other people’s standards. So when seeking to be your authentic self, do not seek to change out of a place of hatred because you will never become authentic in that way. You will only construct another paper doll version of yourself — cut, stuck, glued together from pieces of what you believe others want, what others tell you will make you happy.
But tell me, if you papier machée together your identity out of scraps of truth which society and others tell you, are you becoming you? Will you not just paste another bit onto yourself the minute society tells you another thing you should be, or do? Are you not merely thickening the layers of paper and glue and getting further and further away from your core? You become a version of yourself that you think you should be, because you hated A, so ostensibly if you change from A to B, then all will be well. But B doesn’t address why you hated A in the first place. B is just another bit of paper that you have put over A and slathered with a bit of glue to hold it in place. B is a cover-up for something you never bothered to address. Thus B is not an authentic change at all. You never peeled back the layers of paper and glue to discover who you really are, and whether you really needed to change at all. Therefore, on this conception, what I must look to for authenticity is not in the world around me or anyone else, but within myself. What do I want or need to do to make to make myself happy and to live my own truth? How am I going to be honest with myself? Can I be honest with myself?
Authenticity & honesty
Being honest with ourselves is one of the hardest things to do. You have to really, really be prepared to find some ugly that you thought you had buried deep and forgotten about, or thought had miraculously combusted as you continued on with your life. However, what I look to for authenticity are those truths about myself. You cannot be authentic without acknowledging those truths, as difficult as they may be. Once you know your truths then you know who you are. And as above, if you need to change those truths you have to change them from a place of acceptance of those truths rather than hatred. Because once you accept and acknowledge, you can move on in a healthy way. But if you hate, you are always running (or always gluing, to keep with the metaphor above). Honesty is the act of being honest, and to be honest is to be sincere and truthful. And to be sincere is to be genuine. In other words, your truth is your authenticity. Too many people forget this by looking to outside sources to find their authenticity and their truths. They forget all along that they were born being who they are, and that their unique life experiences have enhanced this. That they don’t need to change or paste any layers on top of that, but merely live and accept it — and through living and accepting, cultivate it to make it even more.
Authenticity: What do I look to?
So I guess the answer to what I look to for authenticity is pretty egocentric. I look to myself. What values do I want to uphold in my life? What do I like or dislike? How do I want to express myself? The h8trs out there will be saying that I must base these choices a teensy bit on the outside world and be influenced by others. And I concede, I do to the former and I am to the latter. Of course, there are people who you will admire, and/or who you will think are cool. Can you learn from them? Yes. But should you be like them? No! In being my authentic self I don’t let others define me. I define me. I live by my own rules and values (within the confines of the New Zealand law!) And I believe that is authenticity. I do not look to anything for authenticity because I believe that my authenticity comes from within me, and correspondingly, each individual’s authenticity is a function of themselves.