Telling someone to be â€śauthenticâ€ť is probably one of the least authentic things you can say. You donâ€™t have to go very far to watch a video, read an article, or have someone tell you that authenticity is the real key to happiness. Or maybe youâ€™re like me and youâ€™ve realized that the authentic version of yourself isnâ€™t all that interesting, and it might be better to imitate someone a bit cooler and â€śedgierâ€ť. It seems there is some confusion about being authentic. After all, nobody smiles in the mirror before school or work and says, â€śI canâ€™t wait to be inauthentic todayâ€ť. So, the starting point: defining what it means to be authentic.
First letâ€™s start off with what authenticity is not. A lot of the time people think that theyâ€™re being authentic because they are confrontational, or because they say what is on their mind. In the words of Mike Robbins, author and speaker, you have to ask yourself â€śam I being authentic, or am I just being obnoxious?â€ť It is true that saying what is on your mind is part of being authentic, but itâ€™s only one piece of the puzzle. After all, we still need to have go to classes, have jobs, and maintain relationships, so saying whatever idea pops into your head without considering how it impacts others can get you into a lot of trouble. Thatâ€™s why asking yourself if youâ€™re just being obnoxious is such a critical question, because if youâ€™re unpleasant, rude, or potentially harmful to people around you, without providing any real positive value, then itâ€™s likely that youâ€™re just being obnoxious.
The reason that itâ€™s such a challenge to be authentic is because authenticity is a consequence of being vulnerable. Another example that Mike Robbins uses to explain authenticity is that of the iceberg. We are all like icebergs in that only a small portion of our true self is being revealed, whereas the rest is submerged underwater. If you want to be authentic, and show who you really are, then you need to be willing to show people that part of you that is underneath the surfaceâ€¦even if that means that people might be able to hurt you.
Easier said than done, right? After all, we are all humans, and that means we are naturally wired to protect ourselves and avoid pain. The problem is that when it comes to protecting yourself from being vulnerable, it often means that we are concealing our real feelings and our true selves. So how can we be authentic, without allowing ourselves to be hurt? Well, the bad news is that you canâ€™t, the good news is that over time it will get easier.
In school, students sometimes misbehave not because they want to be disruptive, but because they want to conceal that they donâ€™t understand the subject. In a situation like this, being authentic would be admitting to yourself and the teacher that you â€śfeel inferior to the other students, and maybe the material is too difficult for you to understandâ€ť. This isnâ€™t being weak, itâ€™s letting people know how you feel, and by doing that they can actually give you some guidance. In order for this to happen you need to be willing to be vulnerable.
Okay, the last example was pretty convenient, but what happens when people donâ€™t care, or worse, when they use your vulnerability against you? Well, the reality is that this is something we all encounter in life, and as you get older you will understand to not let these people affect you too deeply. In my experience, whether it is amongst friends, colleagues, and employers, when youâ€™re true to yourself and are honest with others, people will naturally gravitate towards you.
The challenge of authenticity is trying to find out what that actually means for you. We live in a world where being authentic can often mean being outrageous and can border on being obnoxious. The reality is that authenticity is all about being honest with yourself and not being afraid to be vulnerable and speak about the things that impact us deeply.