Authenticity, great value, isn’t it? Who doesn’t want to be authentic? What is authenticity anyway? But most important, what does it imply?
Let’s take a look at the Merriam Webster definitions.
- worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact
- conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features
- made or done the same way as an original
- not false or imitation:REAL, ACTUAL
- true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character
So, speaking about people, it can be defined as the capacity to be real, truthful could be its synonym.
Real as in doing, being and portraying who you really are, what you really like and what you are all about. This is hard, no doubt about it.
Why is it hard you say?
OK, it’s easy and even convenient to believe that you are authentic. You might believe you lead a life wholly created by you and for you, but ask yourself again, how much of that is actually true?
There is an impediment for authenticity.
Something we all have and that, especially in our times, is pervasive. That is the need for recognition.
The need for recognition or being validated by other people impedes your capacity of being authentic. Instagram anyone?
When your goal is to be recognized, you are acting most likely not on what you want, but on doing what other people like. You are, whether you admit it or not, being controlled by others.
Authenticity is about being you, doing you, not someone else’s.
If you shun the despicable need of recognition, inevitably, you are going to end up doing things and being things that other people might not like. But to be truly authentic, you have to be OK with being disliked by other people. A truly authentic person will say and do whatever he thinks is correct or real to himself, no concerns about what other people think.
You might say: I don’t want to be disliked by other people! Who’d want that?
Well, the things that you gain from authenticity, I would say, are immensely more rewarding than recognition and the petty need of being liked by other people.
A life of authenticity will bring you freedom and trust.
The need for recognition is based on the punishment and reward system. If you behave well and do as you told, you are going to get rewarded, but, if you behave wrong, you are going to be punished.
It’s funny to think of it in these terms. It feels as if we are still children right? But hey, it works just the same. When you do anything in your life, be it getting a job, buying a shirt, or behaving in a certain way. Why do you do it, honestly?
If you do it because you feel that you are going to get recognition and people are going to speak good or bad of you, you are basically seeking to be rewarded or punished in any case.
This isn’t authentic, this isn’t real when you are searching for recognition and validation, you are basically a slave, a puppy to whatever society mandates you to do.
What happens when you shun your need for validation and recognition is that you discover what you really are all about. You might not like many things you’ve rationalized yourself into believing you like and that is OK, it is OK because once you do that, you will start to know what freedom is really like.
“Freedom is the only worthy goal in life. It is won by disregarding things that lie beyond our control.”
Freedom to like what you want, freedom to go out with whom you want, freedom to follow the life you think is more pleasing. Lovely and beautiful freedom.
To be authentic is to be free. Free from prejudice and judgment. Free to follow your own estimation of what is better and after freedom, trust arrives.
There is no trust without truthfulness, that is, authenticity. The need for recognition comes with a certain degree of untruthfulness, you are not doing, being, saying what you really think is true to you, but what is true to someone else, simply, you are lying. There can be no trust with a liar.
The hard truth, I know.
An authentic man might not be liked by everyone, but rest assured that you can trust him, as he is hiding nothing.
So how does one come about authenticity?
A long time ago, there was a city called Gordium, the legend went that inside the city there was an old cart tied to a pole with the famous Gordian Knot.
The knot was tied by the peasant king and husband of the goddess Cybele, Gordius. The cart was a gift from the king to the god Zeus. It was said that the no one would be able to untie the knot but the very next ruler of the city. Whoever could untie the Gordian Knot, would become the ruler of the city. Alexander The Great passed through the mighty city during his conquests in Asia Minor with his army, he heard the legend of the knot and naturally went to the place where the ancient cart with the knot still lied.
He arrived at the place and got close enough to see the knot. Everyone was attentive on what the conqueror was going to do next.
Alexander took his sword out and with one fierce blow cut the impossible knot through the half. He turned to the crowd and his army and said:
“Destiny is not something brought about by legend, but by clearing away with one’s own sword.”
Living an authentic life is just the same. Cut the knot of the need of recognition. One blow.
Get your sword out, and liberate yourself from, cut the need to be liked by everyone. This is how you become a truly authentic person, by cutting yourself loose.
There is a precursor to authenticity, and that is courage. There cannot be authenticity without having courage first. The courage to be OK with not being everything for everyone, the courage to be disliked.
Cut loose, be free, be authentic.
A great complement to this read: Separation of tasks
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