There is frequent mention of the importance of being an authentic person and being around be people who are authentic. But what does this mean and why is it so important?
The first thing to mention is that I feel like becoming authentic is a life time process of exploring and better understanding who we are. Being authentic isn’t something that you decide to be and “poof” you suddenly are. Being authentic starts with being honest with yourself which is a difficult task unto itself. Asking yourself who you are is perhaps life’s most difficult question. What should we base the answer to this upon? We could consider our core values or our essential characteristics as the foundation of self. The answer to this question is personal with each person’s answer being as unique as they themselves. Thus, this article is a reflection of what I feel being authentic is and what I aspire to achieve in my life time.
Material things have no true value.
Being authentic is first and most importantly the ability to separate yourself and your personal sense of self worth from the material things that you possess. Owning stuff won’t make you happy and understanding this will help you let go the power that those things can have over your sense of self. The trap of putting your values upon stuff is that there is always something else to own. This makes achieving happiness and self worth impossible. Additionally, by letting go of the need for things, you open yourself to the possibility of seeing others as they are rather then by what they own. This allows you to have more meaningful and connected relationships.
This isn’t to say that I believe that you shouldn’t own things. I’m not one of the people that have decided to pare my life down to a small pile of belongings. I admire those individuals, but have no desire to join their ranks. Consider it this way: how devastating would it be if your house burnt down and all your personal belongings were lost? If you have completely separated yourself from your belongings this would not equate to a crisis, but rather a challenge only to reestablish your ability to provide the basic needs for yourself and your family.
Experience is a treasure.
If you look back at your life, your fondest memories are likely to surround the things that you did: the party you attended, the mountain you climbed and the people you met. These experiences are essentially who we are. They have influenced all our life decisions and shaped our core values. Thus, it is important to look for experiences that will further enrich who we are.
I personally feel that education, time with family/friends and seeking out new things are the experiences that hold the most value. Education is something that no one can ever take from you. It enriches your mind and allows you to better tackle the challenges life throws at you. It does not require formal schooling. Reading, documentaries, learning a craft and other such things serve the same powerful function as school. Time with our family and friends is what gives us the sense of connection and the support that we can draw on in our times of need. Having a sense of isolation is a major risk factor for mental illness which implies how essential it is for our well being. Exploring new things helps us see the broader world view. This is important if we are going to step outside of ourselves and connect to those around us.
By seeking experiences rather then stuff, we can better shape and discover who we are.
By listening to others, we open ourselves to human connection. This isn’t just hearing the words a person is saying, but trying to understand the message they are sending. Listening is important in our every day lives; in every conversation that we have. Don’t listen to respond to what someone is saying. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted. If you cannot avoid these distractions, maybe it isn’t the time to have a conversation (especially if it is an important one). Give others your genuine interest. Be willing to seek out new things through their experiences. Not interested in video games? Listen to their experiences and try to discover why they might be something wonderful. You might learn something when you listen to someone talk about things you don’t normally engage with or find boring. Let them carry you away with their emotional response to what ever the topic is. When you open yourself to the emotions of others, you are opening yourself to a relationship with that person.
Stand behind what you believe in and let all your actions be guided by those values even if they aren’t popular. This means not being swayed by peer pressure. Express your thoughts, feeling and views without apology, but with kindness. Either report facts accurately or remain silent. Don’t fear the opinions of others. This leads directly into:
Don’t try to please other people.
You can never make all the people around you happy. Focus on your happiness and well being. Remind yourself that their happiness is their responsibility. This does not give you permission to be unkind to others. Kindness is at the core of your happiness because it allows for human connection. When you take care of yourself and are content with your inner world, you are able to care for and give kindness to those around you in a more meaningful manner. Kindness begins with yourself and then extends outward to others. Which leads into:
There is value in giving loving kindness to the world.
Give kindness to all those you encounter, even those whom you don’t particularly like. Doing this will separate you from most of the negative energies in this world. Imagine if everyone approached life in this manner. Even when approaching people with kindness, there will be times that we offend others and hurt their feelings. But it will be easier for you accept your errors if you can honestly say they were done in ignorance and with no intention of harm.
Know that you have inherent value despite all your flaws. Part of being human is making mistakes and being imperfect. Embrace this reality with in yourself. See and acknowledge your own faults with out self hatred. Accept that there will always be things about yourself that you don’t like. And extend this understanding outwards to others. Know and accept that all of us will fall short of our own expectations and standards as well as those set of us by others. You are different then all those around you. Don’t compare yourself to others in a manner of measuring your value.
Be responsible for yourself.
Be accountable for your own life. You always have the power of choice which is the core force which shapes who you are and the life you lead. Yes, things outside your control will happen to you. But you will always be the one to determine the way that you respond and the way those events effect you. Take responsibility for the choices that you make and the outcomes those choices lead you to.
My sense of being authentic.
These are the values and traits that I feel make a person authentic. I am still working to achieve each one of these things while knowing that I will never reach any of them in perfection. But I believe that moving towards them will make me a better person, will help me discover who I am and will allow me to be more authentic to my essential nature.
What do you think makes a person authentic? Do you agree with the list I’ve got here?