Authenticity Of Self

The authenticity of Self. For a long time whenever I heard someone wanting to be authentic, I got excited and at the same time scared. Because I knew that authenticity is not as easy as speaking your mind. From my experience as a coach, the journey of the authenticity of self has many traps and an intriguing truth to it. For that reason, this article shines a light on the truth of how to be authentic and gives you a step-by-step guide on how to be your authentic self.

The Meaning Of Authenticity

“Authenticity of self means owning one’s personal experiences, be they thoughts, emotions, needs, wants, preferences, or beliefs” and “further implies that one acts in accord with the true self, expressing oneself in ways that are consistent with inner thoughts and feelings” (Harter, Authenticity, 2002: 382).

Owning one’s personal experience is achieved through first acknowledging and second accepting the inner world as part of the truth. Acting on it then means speaking your truth and taking action according to your inner world.
Mostly, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Because the authentic self can directly conflict with socially accepted norms or learned ideas and behavior. For example

  • You grew up in a modest home where it was not allowed to show yourself moving sexually but you always wanted to be a dancer
  • Deep down you are a free-spirited creative person but society taught you to be effective and success-oriented
  • You always had a love for art and music but you learned that you can only be accepted by your family if you pursue a career in banking

Since belonging is the number one need in humans, going against what is socially accepted threatens your primary need for connecting. And that is where the authenticity of self gets complicated.

Your Current Self is a House of Cards

When you lived a life of inauthenticity, chances are high that you build an entire career, social circle, and routine around inauthenticity. Now if you embark on the journey of being your authentic self, thinking that everyone will celebrate and accept your authentic self, is an illusion. On the contrary, you will probably run into conflicts and rejection.

The reason for that is that your circle of friends and family got built on the foundation of the self you projected outside, which so far was inauthentic. For example, if you always projected to be nice, and managed to help everyone but deep down feeling resentment, your circle will only see you as the helping hand. And when you then suddenly express your authentic self by not being everyone’s darling and setting boundaries, you create conflict.

And that is good! Why?

Because if you are inauthentic you build a life on an illusion of self. You have a career, friends, and family that like you for who you are not. And that is a painful house of cards. So having your world fall apart as a byproduct of being authentic can first be the most painful thing you have ever done. But after that, it will be the most liberating thing you have ever done.

The Intriguing Truth: Authenticity as an Identity

Before you learn more about how to be authentic, there is a shadow of authenticity that needs to be addressed. And that is that some people who promote living a life of authenticity are making being authentic more of an identity than a process of uncovering who they truly are. So instead of taking the time to peel the onion and remove the layers of who they are not, they simply add another layer on top of being authentic. Therefore, authenticity functions more as a way of serving the self-image. Signs of that could be that they

  • speak their mind and opinion even if they are not asked for it because they are “being so authentic
  • loudly express that they are authentic
  • accuse others of not being authentic
  • feel a sense of superiority by being authentic

Now the question arises, how can you distinguish whether you are authentic or just rebelling against inauthenticity?

The Difference between the Authenticity of Self and the Ego

To best understand the difference, you can see the table below that illustrates the main points.

EgoAuthentic Self
A rational idea of SelfA deep internal knowledge of the Self
Coming from thoughtComing from feeling
Knowing what is right and wrongFeeling what is right and wrong for yourself
Based on experienceBased on a vision
The dominant emotion of threatThe dominant emotion of peace
No boundaries or boundaries from a defense perspective “I have to protect myself”Boundaries as a way of showing people who you are. Seeing it as a learning opportunity and not a defense. “This is how I want to be treated”

How to Achieve the Authenticity of Self

Achieving the authenticity of self is a lifelong process that can’t be shortcutted. As life unfolds, you need to constantly check in with yourself about what is authentic to you and make adjustments each time. Now if you just realized that you have been inauthentic your entire life, it’s hard to know where to begin. So starting with a little inventory can be a good idea. To do this, answer the following questions:

  1. What am I saying yes to that I know I should be saying no to?
  2. What do I need to say yes to that I usually say no to?
  3. What is a hobby that I always wanted to start?
  4. What in my life is just not working for me?
  5. If what I am doing right now will never bring me the success money and fame I wanted, would I still continue doing it?
  6. If I wake up tomorrow with the chance to start from scratch again, how would I design my life?

After these questions gave you the chance of reflecting, here are some practical day-to-day steps to achieve the authenticity of self. 

How to Be Authentic Every Day

1. Check in with how you feel a few times per day

Doing check-ins throughout the day where you pay attention to what you are feeling and thinking is the fundamental step towards being more authentic. It goes so far to say that you can’t be authentic without this step.

A good way to practically do this is to keep a feeling diary on your phone or in a journal. Set specific times during the day (maybe even with an alarm on your phone) that remind you to check-in. 

2. Set Boundaries

As soon as you start to express the authenticity of self you will likely start running into things you usually say yes to that don’t feel right anymore. And this is where boundaries come into play. A boundary is a sense of personal preference that is expressed. It’s a statement that expresses “This is what needs to happen to me”. 

To know what boundaries to check step, you need to pay attention to what you are feeling. As your emotions are constantly telling you when a boundary is violated and something needs to change.

3. Take Risks

Taking risks is something that may not work for everyone but it is a good technique to truly get to know yourself. As explained above, your current life, if you have been living inauthentic, is built around a false sense of safety and identity. And no matter how much internal work you do, you need to make external changes as well. And this often involves risk. For example, speaking up to your parents about the past could risk the relationship harmony. Or saying no to helping a friend which causes you to fear losing them. 

As soon as something feels right, which doesn’t mean it’s not challenging along the way, a risk is worth it.

4. Try New Things by Following your Inspiration

To peel the onion of the self and reach the core, it’s good to try out new things. This can help you discover who you are and has the potential of creating new interests and passions in your life. So whenever you have the inspiration to do something, no matter how little, do it. Your inspiration functions like the compass to your new self. 

5. Resolve Shame

If we got raised to act inauthentic, chances are high that we were not allowed to be ourselves and thus have no confidence in authenticity. You may even feel some shame when expressing your true self. If that is the case, I highly suggest booking a free coaching call with me as we can work on the shame.  

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