What exactly is the authentic self? Let’s begin with a definition of authenticity which has been described as Authenticity means being real and genuine when you communicate. We can add trustworthy, loyal and sincere as areas that are part of our authentic selves. The truth should guide you on your path.
Michael Kernis and Brian Goldman defined authenticity as “the unimpeded operation of one’s true or core self in one’s daily enterprise. (1)
Writers tend to agree that authenticity is something to be pursued as a goal intrinsic to “the good life.” And yet it is often described as an intrinsically difficult state to achieve, due in part to social pressures to live inauthentically, and in part due to a person’s own character. It is also described as a revelatory state, where one perceives oneself, other people, and sometimes even things, in a radically new way. Some writers argue that authenticity also requires self-knowledge, and that it alters a person’s relationships with other people. Authenticity also carries with it its own set of moral obligations, which often exist regardless of race, gender and class. The notion of authenticity also fits into utopian ideology, which requires authenticity among its citizens to exist, or which claims that such a condition would remove physical and economic barriers to pursuing authenticity.
“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” ― C.G. Jung
To know ourself, our authentic self, is to embark on the greatest journey of all. Author, Hermann Hesse and psychologist, Carl Jung were pivotal influences in my own journey of discovery and both continue to be touchstones for my path in life.
In self-analysis we stop looking outward and focus inward. In doing so, we begin to strip away the compressed layers of conventional attitudes we are taught as ‘reality’, or how we should be, and begin to think for ourself, as we are, with all variables in play and in doing so we come into our authentic self. We do this not in a narcissistic way, where we use the world and others to inflate and gratify an immature grandiose-self, but quite the opposite, in a whole, non-fragmented way where we are functioning on all levels – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. We detach from the world, just as we detached from our birth mother when we were born, in order to find our true identity and thus embrace the person we are.
The Authentic self is who we truly are or are aiming to be. Those that choose enlightenment and want to be better people do so but now we add the public self to the equation and everything changes. The public self is what “society” expects us to behave like, how we act, talk and our opinions are greatly influenced by what we should do. This is not necessarily a bad thing for if we did not follow laws and behave in a civilized manner there would be repercussions for our actions.
Many people present a persona on Facebook that is contrary to who they truly are, is this to follow some norm? Is our authentic self truly what we are projecting to the world of social media? Or are we inclined to be pretending to be someone else just to fit in?
The authentic self is the soul made visible. – Sarah Ban Breathnach
Behaving authentically means acting in accord with one’s values, preferences, and needs as opposed to acting merely to please others or to attain rewards or avoid punishments through acting ‘falsely.’ . . . Authenticity is not reflected in a compulsion to be one’s true self, but rather in the free expression of core feelings, motives and inclinations. (2)
Don Miguel Ruiz shares centuries of Toltec wisdom in his book The Four Agreements. To apply this wisdom, choose to create these profound agreements with yourself:
1.Be impeccable with your word. Carefully examine what you tell yourself, what you tell others, and when you decide to speak. Use your word consistently to express and strengthen your values. Don’t employ or overlook factual errors, fallacies or, distortions during communications. Express yourself authentically. Earn trust. Do what you say.
2.Don’t take anything personally. It’s not all about you. Reject the fallacy of personalization. Rely confidently on your own well-founded self-concept; it is the only evaluation of your worth that matters. Challenge and balance your first-person viewpoint.
3.Don’t make assumptions. Suspend judgment. Readily acknowledge what you don’t know and have the courage to ask questions. Carefully examine the evidence. Don’t attribute intent to others. Retain a healthy skepticism as you avoid cynicism. Develop, refine, and constantly apply your own well-founded theory of knowledge.
4.Always do your best. Do all you can while you recognize you can’t do it all. All you can do is all you can do. When you have truly done your best, there is no reason for shame. It’s ok to goof off if you do your best when it matters the most. Apply your time and effort toward your well-chosen and enduring goals.
If you are ready to explore and unleash your authentic self start with these three simple tasks and see where they take you.
1. Sit in silence with yourself every day.
Living an authentic life means taking action from the inner confidence of intuition. Most people have no idea what their intuition feels like because they are so busy. We do not stop to listen to what we truly desire. Our culture values productivity over peace and tranquility. Cultivate and harness your voice of intuition. it will always lead you to where you need to be. You need to be able to actually hear it, practice the art of silence every day — even if it’s only for 5- 10 minutes at a time.
2. Be vulnerable. That’s Where The Real Power Lies.
If we want to live an authentic life, be more real, feel more alive, empowered, and fulfilled then we need to be vulnerable. Being vulnerable is facing these emotions of shame, fear, guilt, frustration, and grief. It’s only when we connect with our pain and move through it that we connect with the emotions of love, joy and happiness on the other side.
Have the courage to be still and feel what you feel, don’t run from it. Being vulnerable is real strength. It’s the ability to honour your boundaries. It means having the confidence to be the real you even if it’s not pleasant. Being vulnerable is the path to authenticity.
3. Fulfill Those Dreams. Write out the steps you will need to take in order to live that dream and take your first “next step.” It won’t feel overwhelming if you focus on one step at a time.
1. Wright, Karen (May 01, 2008). “Dare to be yourself”. Psychology Today.
2. Kernis, M. (2003). Toward a conceptualization of optimal self-esteem. Psychological Inquiry, 14, 1-26.