Authenticity Part 1 – The Path to Imperfect Authenticity

The word “authentic” has been tossed around liberally of late. So I thought it was high time to seek its meaning. Merriam Webster lists a handful of definitions for “authentic” … but my personal favorite is “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.”

Clients are clamoring for authenticity. Perhaps because the world is so full of artifice – the images on TV, the headlines on magazines, the words spoken by politicians. But really, I believe people are finally learning that it’s too painful to try to be somebody else. It’s like wearing a pair of jeans that are too tight – despite how many times we try them on, they inevitably cut into us, making us feel uncomfortable, like we cannot breathe. 

During my coaching sessions, I often draw a diagram of a bull’s eye, with the center representing our most authentic self. That place inside of us that is untouchable – that something we were born with, that something that is eternal and immutable. Our core is often surrounded by layers of contrivance and fiction – all the expectations from our families and society – all the “shoulds.” So many of us are on a ceaseless quest to be liked, to belong, to do more, to be the best… the list is endless.

I call this artifice – or the external ring of the bull’s eye – our “identity.” Sometimes we’re not even aware of it. It’s simply a veneer we apply upon rising to get through our days, our lives. This cloak can make us feel safe. Truthfully, however, being anything but genuine leads only to shrinking our connection to the world, and ourselves.

I have learned many things about authenticity over the years. First and foremost, however, is the fact that becoming authentic is not for the faint of heart. It takes work. Personally, I found it necessary to slow down, to sink into myself and listen to the whispers of my soul. To get to the place where the voices of creativity and vulnerability arise, striking a disturbance in the status quo, emboldening me to become exposed, to risk, to finally just be.

I wish I could say it’s easy, but with anything worthwhile in life – becoming authentic is a process. There is no such thing as being “perfectly authentic.” We must give ourselves space. Room to grow, stumble, explore, endeavor time and again. As long as we keep returning to the path, we are moving in the right – the authentic – direction. To our true selves.  

So how to identify and embrace the center of the bullseye?  It starts with becoming quiet. Identifying the ways in which we’re being false. Hearing all of the “shoulds” and questioning them. Asking that voice, “According to who?” And then, “But is that what I really want or need?” It’s a process – a continual evaluation of what is true.

This journey may sound too challenging to take on. Many who put their foot on the authenticity path rear back, believing that staying the same must be easier, safer. But I’m here to tell you – becoming true to yourself is not only possible, it is, in my opinion, the only way to be human. 

In the next post on authenticity, I’ll tell you about my own journey. And I’ll share some ideas on how to start down your own path.

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