The greatest advice most of us have ever received is to simply be ourselves. But what does that actually mean? How do we be true to ourselves, and what does it mean to live that truth in today’s world? How do we live an authentic life?
Coming to Understand Authenticity
Authenticity is such a personal, subjective idea that it can be challenging to define. It is something that can actually only be lived, like love, trust, and other primary qualities of humans. But we can explore what some philosophers have said about authenticity to begin to understand it for ourselves.
Existential philosophers defined authenticity as the ability to live in alignment with one’s true self at all times. This connection to one’s self should remain even at times when it would be inconvenient, unpopular, or dangerous. It will probably trigger a sense of separation from the external world. Authenticity requires reconciling what we know to be true about ourselves with how we are conditioned to believe the world works.
Other philosophers defined authenticity by what it is not. They would refer to the many ways humans can be inauthentic as a way to understand authenticity by its opposite. Then authenticity becomes not pretending to be someone else or lying about our needs and desires.
The essence is to be true to yourself, no matter what. Do not hurt other people or the Earth. But do not pretend to be other than you are, hide, lie, or try to “fit in.”. Do not define yourself by what other people tell you is true or healthy. Discover and live your own truth.
Authenticity in Action
While it may look different on each person, authenticity feels the same in everyone who lives it. It conveys a sense of rightness, of perfect alignment. Authentic people are inspiring to be around because they are very comfortable with themselves, even if they are in the midst of an uncomfortable personal inquiry. They resonate with truth and empowerment.
The quest for authenticity inspires people to tell the truth about themselves and how they see the world. It looks like people engaging in behaviors that feel healthy and natural to them. It means that their words, actions, and creations are in alignment with their core truth and deepest understanding of self. If everyone were living authentically, there would probably be more art, peace, harmony, and health in the world.
Of course, no one can actually tell you what authenticity is for you. We can talk about in a global sense. We can define inauthenticity easily. Most people can tell, even if only on a subconscious level, when another person is being inauthentic. But no one can tell you how to be yourself – only you can discover that.
Here are a few guidelines t0 help you discover living an authentic life.
* Follow your bliss. Go after your greatest heart’s desires. Once you know your deepest dreams and loftiest ambitions, do your best to follow them. According to the wisdom of scholar Joseph Campbell, life conspires to support people who pay attention to the wishes of their hearts.
* Know yourself. Pay attention to what makes you happy, what angers you, what turns you on, what frightens you. Ask yourself why you do the things you do, and what stirs your deepest passion. The more you understand your desires, motivations, and feelings, the easier it will be to live authentically.
* Do what you know is right. Once you understand your belief system, follow it. What you believe to be healthy and important might not align with society’s views. Do not let yourself be imprisoned by cultural norms. Of course, don’t hurt other people or break the law. In fact, living authentically usually inspires greater compassion and empathy, and a stronger moral compass.
* Share your truth. Authenticity loves to be shared. This will look differently in different people, but the choice is the same. Tell it like you see it. Share your art, whatever form it takes. Have the courage to let people see the real you.
Authenticity must come from within. No one can define it for you, or tell you how to be yourself. But discover it you must, if you wish to be truly happy and healthy. We can only go through the motions of life for so long before something beautiful and precious inside of us dies. We were meant to find out who we really are and live in alignment with that truth.
Encoded within the wisdom of all great philosophies is the instruction to “know thyself.” Beyond anything else we might learn in this life, discovering who we really are – and having the courage to live that truth authentically – may be the greatest knowledge of all.
This post is contributed by Ron McDiarmid, who is the founder of My Healthy Living Coach. Having had health challenges along the way Ron was keen to share the research and learning he gathered. Through MHLC this continued into a current presentation of healthy lifestyle choices and how to implement them. Check out his website at www.myhealthylivingcoach.com.