What Exactly Does It Mean To Be Authentic?

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I’ve often wondered what it truly means to be authentic. The concept confused me. I came across an interesting article the other day, and a particular paragraph described my confusion well.

“One big problem with authenticity is that there is a lack of consensus among both the general public and among psychologists about what it actually means for someone or something to be authentic. Are you being most authentic when you are being congruent with your physiological states, emotions and beliefswhatever they may be? Or are you being most authentic when you are congruent with your consciously chosen beliefs, attitudes and values? How about when you are being congruent across the various situations and social roles of your life? Which form of “being true to yourself” is the real authenticity: was it the time you really gave that waiter a piece of your mind or that time you didn’t tell the waiter how you really felt about their dismal performance because you value kindness and were true to your higher values?”

— Source: Authenticity under Fire (Scott Barry Kaufman)

Throughout my life I’ve had to present myself in ways that didn’t feel true to who I felt I was. I would sometimes change my views, opinions, and preferences to fit in with those around me. This would make me even more confused. Which person was I reallyAs humans we have the tendency to present different parts of ourselves to try to fit in, taking on aspects of the group and people we’re interacting with. It’s normal. But some of us take it to more of an extreme. Does this make us inauthentic during those times? Maybe.

There are certain ways in which I sometimes interact with the world and other people, that aren’t considered “normal” and that have either gotten me into trouble or caused people to view me as “weird”. Which is why I love those friends I’ve had for years that love my “weirdness” and who aren’t bothered or surprised by it. Everyone is different. Everyone has ways of being, of coping. Social anxiety is a big thing for me, and maybe this is one of the reasons I try to blend in so much. To the point where I question who I really am. I was bullied in my primary school years and labeled a “freak”, and was an outcast (along with my merry band of fellow outcasts) in high school. So trying to fit in, trying to just be “normal”, has always been something I felt I had to do in order to stay emotionally safe. And it’s only been the last few years that I’ve realized it doesn’t have to be that way. Not everyone will or should like us. Not everybody will accept or understand us. And that’s really okay.

Society expects us to behave a certain way. Our culture and environment shape us. What’s considered the norm in one culture or place, may be seen as inappropriate in another. There are certain norms that I’ve grown up with that I’m not comfortable with. Things that make me anxious. But I’m expected to fit in anyway. So I did.

I’m finding though that being inauthentic towards myself isn’t worth the price of fitting in. I no longer have the desire to do so. Sure, I still care what others think, and a part of me probably always will, but not to the extent to which I’ve always done.

I’ve come to believe that there is no single, congruent, true self that exists in all situations and environments. We are a complex mix of values, beliefs, biases, desires, etc. Both conscious and unconscious. These can get activated around different people and situations. It doesn’t mean we’re being inauthentic though. All of these are aspects of ourselves. Striving to always be authentic can sometimes backfire. Cause us to constantly question ourselves. So my goal is to not judge myself, and just try to be my best true self in that moment, for that situation. I think that’s good enough.

12 thoughts on “What Exactly Does It Mean To Be Authentic?

  1. drgeraldstein

    You might be interested in Jeanette Winterson’s memoir “Why be Happy When You Could be Normal?” The title comes from a comment her mother made to her. Winterson is a brilliant writer. She is gay and British.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Love this piece Rayne ❤

    I feel the same way about everything you wrote here pretty much.

    I read somewhere, some time ago, that there are many different selves which compose our psyche (or who we are). I think it’s just common sense to shift from 1 self to another depending on the social situation.

    As for being authentic hmm.. perhaps the best way of putting it is to not be “full of shit” with people, d’you know what I mean? 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I agree with you on all this. Its good to be true to ourselves, whatever that looks like, but not to worry too much about others, some will like us, some wont, but when we’re true to who we are we’ll be happier for it. xoxo

    Liked by 2 people

  4. What an interesting topic! Thanks for sharing. It seems like it was healing for you to write as well. I think that in learning not to judge ourselves, it helps us not to judge others too. If we can accept who we are regardless of others’ perceptions, it becomes easier to understand and empathize with people whose motives and values we disagree with or don’t understand. To be more authentic with them. Maybe that means fitting in, maybe not. I’m sure it’s not so concrete, like you said.

    I read a quote today that said “Some people will like you, others will hate you. None of it will have anything to do with you.” That felt really important. Maybe it has it’s place as a reminder here, with authenticity. I think it’s helpful to reframe that other people’s judgements and issues might be their own dance with fitting in and balancing what they want to show the world. Nothing to do with you. Who you are is pretty great. Normal be damned. Who is normal these days anyway?

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Sometimes I think we make ourselves slaves of society’s standards, norm and opinions that we fail to see the essence of self authenticity. But I believe n agree with you that being your true self should be an ultimate look for us rather than always feeling the need to “fit” in.
    Love this post 💚💚

    Like

  6. Struggling with black-and-white thinking as I do, it’s hard for me to accept that indeed being authentic can mean simply being true to yourself “in that moment, for that situation”, as you put it. There’s an air of uncertainty around it which makes me feel uneasy, but at the same time something tells me that this is closer to the truth than the ‘either-or’ conclusion I strive to achieve. I’m getting increasingly more comfortable with the idea of something being ‘good enough’, accepting that striving for perfection is setting yourself up for a failure from the very beginning. Thank you for your post, it got me thinking.

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