Authenticity: What do I look to?

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.

About the author
Rachael Monkhouse is a law and psychology student at the University of Otago. In her spare time she enjoys writing for her blog, yoga, meditating and running. She is ¾ Chinese and attributes much of her hyper awareness of the society around her to this. It is hard to accept things as they are if you yourself are always different and feel out of place. She hopes that one day the world will change so people live with less expectation and judgement, and with more acceptance and compassion.
Slow Glow

the answer made no sense but the question wasn’t giving
the mortals sought the dead while the dead were for the living
I had a want last night for embroidery and weaving
a cotton posy for the living woven

the figs are ripe to ebony they’re splitting on the tree
they taste as sweet as nectar; not how maidens taste to me
to me our taste is sawdust salty warm and half past three
we’re best (not tasted) hugged and heard and seen

I drink tea for this pregnancy I’ve lost my taste for power
for coffee and adrenaline I find it dark and sour
I miss it though euphoria and the consequential hour
the biro swift till concepts are devoured

raindrops on the roses’ stems leaves perforated bitten
a rolling sky behind them folded mountains not so distant
a saturday in autumn where the days pass by unwritten
death or liberty – smite or have me smitten

the rose leaves and the figs and the little fish inside me
are not burning for employment therefore them I’ll take to guide me
and while I move adagio the slower things can eye me
not for visions of entirety but eternity
time is soft

About the author
Angela has a passion for fixing daily experiences in passe' formal verse gem settings. She picks apples for a living. While Aotearoa is home, she is currently living in the north of Italy and looks forward to translating Italian creative writers. Further writing can be found at and
Generic qualities of a wonderful place

Celebration rubs up against mundanity
A magician dressed as a security guard

Escape the weather
Talk about the weather or your dreams

A little daughter with a big following
(the shadow is bigger than the work)

Romanticising people:
The white Child is the obsession of the nativity and _______

dying race = colonial view
The pigment faded leaving an unnatural pallor

A ramshackle building,
so purple you almost can’t see it

The relationship between art and poverty
Do you believe that paintings can move?

Brands make us anxious
Liking things without being able to explain why you like them

A palpable sense of decline and decay
To do your Country proud you need to leave


from text, images and inspired ideas around the public art gallery

About the author
Kyra writes long political analysis/rants and shorter softer, feeling and sketch-based pieces. Kyra was born in Perth, grew up in Wānaka and Oamaru and is now living in Dunedin on the lands of Kai Tahu. They are prone to self-doubt like most artists, but when a glimpse of courage comes through Kyra performs poetry around the place. 
I, The History of the World

We think we know it all
until we find we don’t know
anything at all. Not enough
not yet / If I die today
I was never born.

Left before we could meet
A brother, a son      my cousin –
Three halves of your lives later I
touch the lump behind my neck
think of yours in your brain.

These embers, too, will give. What
is care / when hurting is blind?

        The man who called me ‘doctor
        remarked he was in this very room
        last time, loved the new short stay
        unit downstairs. The man who had
        cerebral palsy but smiled wider
        than I ever had.

        The boy just older than you were
                asked if I watched the rugby
                told mum to bring his Switch
        before being wheeled into theatre
        for his third open heart surgery
        in two years.

        The lady with maroon manicures
        and the sweet tooth. ‘Thank you
        darling’ when I put her socks on.
        ‘Sorry dear’ as she wept. Her love
        of sixty years needed her. Her many
        metastases did not.

If there is anybody I should pity
it is myself. Questions answer
if you cry loud enough.

As the bells of history chime
your hands behind mine and
your many faces in my mind
I go forth   towards my time.

About the author
Jim Wang is currently training for his Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery at The University of Auckland. His literary favourites include Seamus Heaney, W. S. Merwin and Mary Ruefle. He thanks his high school English teacher for imparting to him the gravity of words. Find him on Twitter.
Dear Sylvia

If you hadn’t died so, would we have
given you this much screen-time?
Were you really any good?
A beacon for the tortured artist
everywhere — beware, beware —
Lady hair, burning red in the oven.
You were a bit of a babe.
A many-faced goddess in a
bikini or a bell dress or a graduation cap.
Your voice on Youtube clips
Interviews, readings, constant
bleedings, for a greedy listener.
We scrap you in class, give you
less attention simply because
you’ve gotten so much already.
When I was fourteen I read
your only novel and I ran
through the house to my
mother crying about how I
could never write something like
You’ve indulged me in my
‘unhealthy’ feelings, my morbid
urges, you give me unusual
hope, that which sets me
out and about to taste the salts
and peppers of a city or a
river like nothing before.
You write how many think,
each word heavy as a crystal
ball, drawl it out in that fine rich
voice of yours.
The images you fry taste
vital on the tongue.
So. Were you really any good?
Immortal, as a result of your
extreme mortality, I could
make a shrine for you
in the hole above my bed.
Despite me, to spite me,
it doesn’t matter what I think,
you were, you are,
you did, you never will,
Read Me.

About the author
Jessica Thompson is a 22-year-old Māori woman from Dunedin. She has a degree in English and Art History and is currently working on her Course work Masters at Otago University. Her style is personal and she likes to explore her identity and emotions through strong imagery and unusual language. Jessica works as the culture editor of Critic Magazine. You can find her poetry, as well as her art and photography, on her instagram: @maori_mermaid where she is selling prints as well as her first every chapbook!