What is Being Authentic?

One of the buzz words in society today is authenticity, or being authentic.  We encourage people to be authentic, but what does that really mean and how do we go about it?

To be authentic is to be to be genuine (or of undisputed origin).  Genuine is defined as being truly what something/someone is said to be: authentic.  Basically, we have two words that mean essentially the same thing.

In human beings, being authentic (or genuine) is dependent on knowing who we are as a person.  I have to have a good sense of myself in order to be authentic.  Some people are very clear about who they are and others may not be quite so sure.  I have had people in my office tell me that they were not really sure who they were because they had been trying to please other people for so long, they had lost the sense of who they really are.

When we look at children who are from birth to around 5, you will see authenticity.  They are what they appear to be.  By the time they are school age (kindergarten), we definitely begin to see them trying to please others or behave in ways that are “appropriate” and this is where things can get a little confusing about being who we are versus being who it appears others want us to be.  Many people start altering their behavior to please others.  It gets to the point that I have actually had people tell me that if they were authentically themselves, people probably wouldn’t like them!  Add to that they can’t even tell me who they believe they are. (By the way, research shows that no matter who/how we are, about 1/3 of the people we meet will like us, 1/3 will not like us and 1/3 won’t have much feeling one way or the other.)

The truly interesting part of this topic is that people are drawn to others who are authentic/genuine.  When we have a good sense of our self and we aren’t afraid to be who we are, things tend to work out.  It’s about getting to know who we are, liking ourselves and giving others the chance to form their own opinions. (See the research note above.)

One of the parts of my career/vocation that I really enjoy is when people get to know themselves better and develop a good relationship with the person they are underneath.  Most of them find that their other relationships improve also!  And those relationships that may end are relationships that weren’t really the best to begin with and needed to be released.

The one journey that never ends in life is the journey to know, grow and be the person we want to be in this lifetime.  We have the ability to be who/what we want to be if we just make some effort, pay attention and be authentic!

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