What does it mean to be authentic? Authenticity is real, genuine, true and accurate living. Authentic living is when I am not copying, pretending or giving a false sense of myself. Authentic people are described as honest, forgiving and accepting of themselves. Someone with authenticity will acknowledge their strengths and their weaknesses. Authentic people tend to be compassionate, thoughtful and desire to learn from their mistakes. We might say that someone is authentic when their public self and their private selves look very similar.
Take a moment and think about someone who you would describe as authentic. What is it like to be around that person? How do you feel in their presence?
Authentic people know who they are and have a capacity within themselves to resist the temptation to pass judgment on others. Likely, when you are with the authentic person you thought of, you feel accepted by them, and you feel safe and valued. Dr. Stephen Joseph writes in his book Authentic: How to be Yourself and Why it Matters, that “authenticity is ultimately about those qualities that show non-defensive functioning and psychological maturity.” Dr. Stephen Joseph suggests authentic living requires that you know yourself, own yourself and be yourself.
How do you define yourself? How do you know yourself? Are you defined by what you do? Or is there a deeper knowing, a value inside that helps you know yourself? If knowing yourself is discovered only through what you do, you might find yourself tossed around or upended when circumstances change.
Maybe you’ve been a stay at home mom for years, and your youngest is in their last year of High School? What do you become then, after the adolescent graduates and you know longer have any kids at home? Are you still a stay at home mom? What if you went to trade school to earn your electrical tickets, but then face a tragic vehicle accident that leaves you without the use of one of your hands? How do you become the new you? Or shortly before your 50th wedding anniversary, your spouse receives a terminal diagnosis. Within months, you are a widow, alone, afraid and very unsure of what to do next.
Maybe you’ve been a stay at home mom for years, and your youngest is in their last year of High School? What do you become then, after the adolescent graduates and you know longer have any kids at home? Are you still a stay at home mom? What if you went to trade school to earn your electrical tickets, but then face a tragic vehicle accident that leaves you without the use of one of your hands? How do you become the new you? Or shortly before your 50th wedding anniversary, your spouse receives a terminal diagnosis. Within months, you are a widow, alone, afraid and very unsure of what to do next. Do you no longer know who you are?
To know yourself may mean taking the time to redefine how to be your authentic self when your circumstances change. Knowing yourself means you know when you need to make adjustments, when too much is enough and when to say no or not now. Knowing yourself requires you to understand your capacity emotionally, spiritually and physically.
In the face of adversity, can we still live authentically? Yes.
There are seasons in our lives where our sense of who we are feels shaky. How we have defined ourselves no longer fits, but are we able to adapt? Can we adjust to our circumstances or do we let our circumstances throw us around? At our core, the place where we have set our values on, or built our inner knowing, it is out of this place that we can continue to live authentically. The first step would be to acknowledge the unsettling season for what it is: a transition…evidence of a need to adapt, and to make changes. Living with authenticity may look like talking to someone about how hard it feels to be in the midst of the change and inviting someone to be in the darkness during these moments of transition.
Mike Robbins, a corporate trainer, and the author of Be Yourself, Everyone Else Is Already Taken shares his thoughts: “Who we are evolving and changing,” Robbins says. “This is a dynamic process and one we can keep moving into at deeper levels. Feel that, pay attention to that. This is less about a destination than a journey of going deeper to keep discovering and unfolding new pieces of ourselves as we go.” The new things we discover will align with our values and that inner sense of who we know ourselves to be.
I would suggest this kind of authenticity to be different from how someone might describe themselves or another as “brutally honest.” If I am going to be “honest” with you, it may very well come across as permitting myself to tell you how annoyed I am with you. Being authentic, on the other hand, would be acknowledging first that I feel annoyed and doing what is necessary to repair the rupture between us. I take responsibility for me and allow you to do the same. If you choose not to, I am still ok.
However, when I find myself not ok, I take care of myself with kindness, compassion, and care.
If you notice that you are in a transition and need support to continue living authentically, please give our office a call. Someone is here to walk alongside your journey towards living more authentically.
Tracey Dahl, MA, RCC
Director, Canvas Counselling