Autheniticty is an experiment!
For a certain period of my personal development journey, I believed that the source of not being and living with the best version of myself was because I was not being authentic. I read many articles online that would describe authenticity as the ability to express your truth, live by your values, do what you love, communicate clearly your needs and in general be proud of who you are, wherever you are. So, I did everything that these online resources suggested I do:
I took an online personality test to discover who I am
I defined my own values
I made a life timeline to learn the moments that changed the course of my life
I participated in many courses that taught how to connect to the source of my real self
I learned about Non-Violent Communication to express my needs
Finally, I made a bulletproof plan with all the new insights, techniques, and ways of expressing my very own and true self to the world.
All of this effort helped immensely in learning about myself and the world that surrounds me. However, I felt at times that I was more into ‘remembering it all to act it out’ rather than being in the moment and actually expressing myself, my needs, my opinion, my personality as it comes, true to who I was in the present situation. Apart from that, I was also critical of myself that, even though at times I was able to express myself fully, it was not consistent!! Then it hit me...
Authenticity is not fixed, it's evolving
Let’s look a bit closer. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines authenticity as:
“being true to one's own personality, spirit, or character”
Those three aspects of ourselves - our personality, spirit, and character - by their nature are constantly developing throughout our life. Therefore, becoming authentic is not a one-time achievement. We would not all of a sudden become and remain in one state of being for the rest of our lives. Instead, authenticity is a continuous experiment, as we are constantly given situations that will change our way of seeing, thinking and feeling. We will be exposed to new life events that will shift how we react, how we behave and what we want. As Greek philosopher Heraclitus said:
“The only thing that is constant is change”
Therefore, we cannot be ‘authentic’ upfront as with every new experience we discover new information about ourselves.
Our personality evolves constantly too. For example, neuroscience has proven that the brain develops continuously and is malleable throughout our whole life. In our lives, we need to see, practice, experiment - who we are and how we will respond. We will never stop learning. This way of adapting set us up for being agile - being ready for new information to absorb, new experiences to live.
As you experiment with who you are, accept yourself and acknowledge where you’re at on your journey
What happened after all of this self critique, gaguging whether I was being authentic or not? I realized that its most important to stay open and embrace who I am, even the parts of me that are ‘bad and ugly’. I decided to simply show up without shame, second thoughts, or resistance to my own process while life circumstances unfold. From this experience I found that
being authentic means to be an open channel, ready for who you are about to discover and, through that channel, express what you really feel, think and want.
If what you are about to discover you are not the proudest about, do not spend time and energy at hiding it, as staying authentic is also an amazing tool to see quickly and enough harshly what is not working for you and to make you feel enough drive to change and learn from it. So let’s embrace that journey and experiment!
If you want to read more on this topic and do some insightful exercises, here are useful materials and links:
Interesting books and articles
Branden, Nathaniel. "The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem". Bantam: Random House Publishing Group, 1995
"Stop trying to change yourself" by Mark Manson
"The limits of authenticity" by Dr Ben G. Yacobi