I’m running on a tight schedule with my writing but I still took 2 days to stew on this. I found it difficult to tackle. I asked myself, why? Why is it so hard?
And I realized it’s because Authenticity is such a big word. It seems silly for this to be the biggest obstacle but it’s the same energy as someone asking you to define trust. Or success.
Or love. They are deceptively simple words with meanings that are subjective. Meanings that are bigger than us.
So how should I define authenticity? How do I make a list of traits that will ring true when being authentic is still something I strive towards?
With good intentions, vulnerability, and a lot of reading, that’s how. (And listening to P!NK’s All I Know So Far, which I will mention here and there. You’ve been warned.)
And so at the demise of my first Google Doc, I’m making a new list. A more authentic one this time, starting with:
1) Authentic people are vulnerable
The start of P!NK’s song that I just mentioned goes like this, “Haven’t always been this way, I wasn’t born a renegade. I felt alone, still feel afraid. I stumble through it anyway.”
And I’m taking cues from that “I stumble through it anyway” line, so instead of courage and honesty, I’m choosing “vulnerable” as first on this list.
Yes, it takes courage to live your truest self. To choose yourself every single day despite the world telling you otherwise. To own up to your beliefs, to show up as who you are.
And yes, the path to self-acceptance also requires honesty.
But allow me to take this piece of wisdom from best-selling author Brené Brown, Ph.D. out of its medical context, “There is no courage without vulnerability. Vulnerability is not weakness. It’s the ability to show up and be seen. It’s the ability to be brave when you cannot control the outcome.”
In a world that values conformity (and while conformity has its merits), it takes guts to go against the grain. To show up and be seen as who you are.
It is IMPORTANT for me to drive this point home as there are a lot of honest conversations that you need to have with yourself first.
And that? That is scary. As freeing as that also is, admitting our flaws and our shortcomings can be a terrifying thing.
And it also takes time. Lots of it.
2) Authentic people stand out
Perhaps a side effect of non-conformity is this: Authentic people stand out.
They become innovators, visionaries, or trendsetters. At the very least, they are memorable.
Honestly, I was debating whether or not to include this standing-out point because “trendsetters” is the best-case scenario.
There are times when being different and standing out is seen poorly. (I should know, I was bullied for it and I’m sure I’m not the only one.)
Words like odd, weird, or outlier are thrown about. These aren’t bad words per se, but they could be heavy ones to carry especially if your sense of self isn’t fully formed yet, like when you’re younger.
(If you’re a young person reading this, let me state for the record that your “weirdness” is okay. You are valid and cool and you will be okay.)
So, the point is, while not always flashy, authentic people stand out. Be it their looks, their kindness, their quirkiness, their sense of justice, etc.
They are memorable in being who they are.
3) Authentic people are aligned and focused
Psychology Today says this, “Individuals considered authentic are those who strive to align their actions with their core values and beliefs with the hope of discovering, and then acting in sync with, their true selves.”
The keywords to take here are core values and beliefs. It is both the compass and the driving force, authentic people stay true to their set values and beliefs.
Essentially, they walk the talk. And they’re consistent with this, too. That’s another thing, they are consistent.
Does this mean they’re inflexible and won’t let up with their beliefs? Not really, but more on that on #5.
4) Authentic people have empathy and are non-judgmental
Coming from the previous number mentioning core values and beliefs, this is where nuance comes in. Character is still important.
There is a fine line between truth and cruelty after all.
Authentic people don’t pass judgment. I mean, why would they? They know how it feels to be judged. They have empathy.
And they form genuine connections with people because of it, too.
5) Authentic people seek learning and accept their mistakes
Authentic people don’t stop on Day 1. They aren’t Fully Realized Authentic People (ha!) right after they decided to live as such.
It’s a continuous process of learning and relearning. And because of this hunger for learning, they seek knowledge. They continue going after enrichment.
And it’s not possible to seek knowledge without knowing you have gaps in what you know. Authentic people know that they don’t know everything.
Know what else? Authentic people seek to unlearn. Decades worth of biases, prejudices, and bad habits. Like shedding old skin for new ones.
Accepting that they are not infallible, that they have made mistakes and will probably make more in the future. To be authentic is to be self-aware.
6) Authentic people are straightforward
Authentic people are straightforward.
Authentic people have time for learning and time to enjoy life and find new things to love, but what they don’t have time for are mind games.
As I said, they are self-aware, and with it is the distaste of wasting time from running around in circles.
So they say it like it is.
They know who they are and what they want.
7) Authentic people uplift others
“Live your truth. Express your love. Share your enthusiasm. Take action towards your dreams. Walk your talk. Dance and sing to your music. Embrace your blessings. Make today worth remembering.”
― Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience
Authentic people live their truths.
Is it easy? No, but living otherwise is harder.
I, for one, don’t count myself as truly authentic, I still find myself conforming sometimes. Or going off-track from my beliefs.
However, I live what truths I can. And it took YEARS to live freely as the loud-mouthed brown girl I am, in a country that pushes the kind of beauty and personality I can never be.
But I found my community. I found brown girls who live their best selves and it showed me that I can do that, too. It uplifted me, inspired me that the possibility exists.
If the only thing that you can take away from this entire article is the possibility of living authentically, that’s more than enough for me.
That’s the first step, I think.
And when you’ve discovered your truth, when you’re living it, I hope you turn to those around you and try to inspire them, too.
You know that adage you hear so often? No man is an island. I think it applies here, too.
Last few things…
Authenticity, like in most cases of human traits, is nuanced and far more complex than what I can realistically include in a single article. Or can realistically think of and talk about for that matter.
I like making dramatic endings to these things because matters of self are difficult to absorb, let’s be honest.
I wrote this with good intentions but it could still be burdensome.
So I can only hope that this sparks a thought in you despite the work it’ll take. Hope it starts a reflection or a conversation or gives you something to consider or admit to yourself.
Is the road to authenticity easy? I doubt it. If it was, there’d be more people living their truths, but should you wish to jump on this train, I hope you see it through to the end.
I’m rooting for you.
But that’s it for me this time because like P!NK, that’s all I know so far.