By J. B. Cowling...
An authentic person is one who is true to the nature of themselves.
Authenticity is simply a state in which something is unrefined, unfiltered, unique. It is the state in which something remains true to the nature of what is inherent. The real version. An authentic person is one who is true to the nature of themselves, to the elements that make up their character, to their ‘Qualities of Uniqueness’.
Authenticity is a place of inner resourcefulness, a place that allows you to adapt to the changing events of life with a sense of fulfilment, contentment* and appreciation.
Authenticity in a person is best seen as a spectrum. At one end of this we have the ‘Influenced Self’ and the other end the ‘Authentic Self’.
Influenced Self - This is the self that is shaped by the opinions of others, it is the self that we want others to see and is often steeped in fear. A great deal of actions we take to fulfil this ‘self’ feel forced and rather than natural. Have you ever noticed how you act differently in different crowds? Living in accordance to this self leaves us feeling incomplete, disconnected, discontent, stressed and in a constant state of struggle. This version of the self is often moulded by EXTERNAL pressures.
Authentic Self - This is the self that is inherently you, it is not a struggle to be this way. It is the you that surfaces when no-one else is around, the person you are naturally. Living in accordance to this helps us to function in a state of satisfaction, acceptance and gratitude in the present. This version of the self is INTERNAL and intrinsically present.
We move back and forwards along the spectrum depending on the situation and our internal strength at any time. It should be made clear at this point that the idea of the ‘Influenced Self’ is not to dismiss the relevance and importance of the impact that the external world has on us, in fact, what is the self without influence? We are shaped by the people we meet and the experiences we have, it makes us who we are. It is just about making sure that the influence is not turning us away from our authenticity, from being ourselves.
If the ‘Authentic Self’ is so important, why do we act from an influenced state? Who we believe we are is developed as a child and continues throughout life as our perception changes. We are often led by what seems right, what society tells us is right, what has been modelled to us, what has been advertised, what we are taught. We develop an idea of who we should be. It becomes easier to develop our identity based upon the expectations of others rather than allowing who we are inherently to just be. But in taking this path, we are left discontent and lost.
Take Mary for example, a middle aged women who all her life dreamt of acting, yet only ever committed to law because that’s what her family thought was best for her. So she lived discontented and disconnected. Generally at the bottom of all lack of authenticity is a feeling of ‘not being enough' and as such, people don’t act in a way that reveals their uniqueness.
What does the authentic ‘you’ look like? What are the things that make you unique, your specific ‘Qualities of uniqueness’? To be authentic we need to allow our uniqueness to show and become aware of where along the spectrum of authenticity we are acting from. In creating a picture of your authentic self, you inadvertently develop a reference point for use when checking in (Pausing). The use of ‘Red Flags’, which are hints that we are moving away from authenticity, are useful mindfulness triggers along our journey to being our genuine selves. These are indicators that become clear through the process of introspection. They may range from the feeling of being discontent, to feeling resentful, to seeking escapism, to doing things to be liked or simply the act of filtering the real you.
Authenticity is a place of inner resourcefulness, a place that allows you to adapt to the changing events of life with a sense of fulfilment, contentment* and appreciation. It’s not a mystical place that you can reach, it’s a journey of becoming more mindful of where you are at and re-directing yourself at times when you move off track. To experience the glory of authenticity, you need to reveal your uniqueness, to be vulnerable.
* Contentment is essentially a state in which you need no more, a state of completeness. In being authentic we acknowledge that we are complete.
Vulnerability gets a mixed wrap in today’s society. We subconsciously avoid that which makes us vulnerable, yet there is such a societal push for us to embrace these things. Essentially, vulnerability is the state of being exposed to threat, at risk of being harmed. When we are vulnerable, it’s a natural response to protect ourselves. Think of when you burn yourself, you instinctively pull your arm away as quick as possible to avoid further pain. We naturally want to be protected from harm and as such put a barrier up to avoid that which exposes us.
Whilst this protection may be great for a lot of things such as physical pain, vexatious people and potentially dangerous situations, it can also be very detrimental to other things. When we constantly try to avoid pain, we avoid living and greater than that, avoid being ourselves. We avoid the feeling of losing someone and in turn never build deep, meaningful relationships. We protect ourselves from the potential risk of embarrassment by not performing in-front of people and in turn, never get to share our musical talent with others.
Vulnerability also has another use, it reveals what you deem to be deeply important, what you do not want to risk being harmed or exposed. An example of this from an emotional perspective would be avoiding relationships to protect yourself from being hurt, when really what your subconscious is telling you is that stable relationships are really important to you. We opt for risk aversion rather than personal insight. The thing is, that often the things that make you feel the most threatened and vulnerable are the things that are most important and bring about the most satisfaction when embraced.
To embrace the vulnerabilities in our lives, we first need to look at what we are concealing or protecting. Is it something in our best interest, such as protecting our physical safety or is it causing us to avoid things which are truly important to us and from being our authentic selves? In committing to delve deeper into our vulnerabilities, we can identify whether or not we need to challenge the fear. If you are moving away from that which is important or from your authenticity, you need to find ways to change directions and embrace the vulnerability. What is the worst that can happen? I’m sure it’s not as bad as you just thought.