I feel that the word authentic is overused and misunderstood.
- We search for authentic food.
- Pay large amounts of money for authentic handbags and jewelry.
- Self improvement writers and blogs tell us to find our authentic voice.
Yet for all of the discussion, search and praise for being authentic/an original and an unquestionable one of a kind, I see myself and clients in a world full of clones.
It is a struggle to be authentic. It is certainly a struggle when one is uncertain of what the word authentic truly means.
As young girls, it is quickly learned that it is easier to morph into the societal norms of our peers. There is pressure to wear the latest trend, love the hot boy band and show up at the right events. For the girl who dares go against the grain, there is often ridicule. It takes courage to be authentic when one is 8, 16, 30 and beyond.
Authentic means to be genuine, not false or copied, real.
The push in the self improvement world/blog land/society in general is to praise being authentic. At the same time, fitness and health magazines that promote holistic and healthy living have ads for botox. Instagram stars may often share they spend hours on a photo shoot that makes it appear as if they were “just hanging out”. It can be difficult to differentiate. We may often find we are comparing ourselves to an unrealistic, inauthentic expectation.
Individuals are often not authentic for that continued fear of being pointed out, ridiculed and not liked.
There have been many times I have not been authentic in order to fit in with the larger crowd. From a fashion perspective when I was younger, I spent way too much money on clothes I did not truly like and that did not look good on me. It is almost sacrilegious to say, but this southern sorority girl never really liked Lilly Pulitzer. Also, over the years I have joined committees and attended events because it was important to be seen but truly not what I wanted to do. I’ve made these decisions at times because I wanted to fit in and at other times because there wasn’t the energy not to.
Many of my clients struggles come from the decisions they are making in living their lives. It is when one is not being authentic that the everyday events become difficult.
A recent client acknowledged she had spent her life feeling anxious about everything. A busy professional with one child and an equally busy husband, her attempts at being everything and balancing her life led to panic attacks and worry. I provided her with a simple homework assignment of making a list of her core values and what was important to her as a way to start getting to know herself.
She began the next session with this insight, “It’s when I do things not in line with my values that everything is off.”She quickly realized she had not been living an authentic life. Throughout the years she had forced herself to meet the expectations of others. She had listened to the crowd that was saying what she needed to be and not herself and what she wanted.
How does one become authentic?
I suggest trying the following:
- Ask yourself what your values are? What is important to you? Is it important to be healthy? Are relationships with your family and friends important? Do you feel strongly regarding your religious belief system?
- Are your actions and behaviors in life with your value system? Do your actions support your value of being healthy and being with family?
- Are you letting others know what is important to you? Speaking and sharing with others allows the world to recognize your authentic self. It develops an outward accountability.
There are many authentic individuals in this world. They follow the suggestions above and one can say they do walk the talk the speak. Just a reminder that this space is where I try to be authentic from both a personal and professional perspective. Each day i am making the best life I can and I hope you are doing the same.
What does being authentic mean to you? Do you ever struggle with your own authentic voice?
Today I encourage you to be you!