Recently during multiple conversations with various people I’ve heard the term ‘authentic’ come up when talking about other people or their relationships with other people. That word has sort of stuck in my brain and is slowly but surely making me pay attention to it (kind of like the story of the princess and the pea). Then today, on the morning radio show I listen to on my way into work, I heard it again. Ok God, I get it, I get it. You see, I don’t really believe in coincidence and when something like this happens, I truly believe it’s God’s way of saying “HEY! I want you to hear this! Pay attention already!” So, he’s got my attention.
Now, we’ve all heard this word before. It’s not new to the English language or anything. We hear it a lot I’m sure. I’ve heard it more often than not used when referring to food… authentic New York pizza, authentic Chicago dog, etc etc. What does it really mean though? As usual, I turned to my handy dandy go-to reference manual… dictionary.com.
1. not false or copied; genuine; real: an authentic antique.
2. having the origin supported by unquestionable evidence; authenticated; verified: an authentic document of the Middle Ages; an authentic work of the old master.
3. entitled to acceptance or belief because of agreement with known facts or experience; reliable; trustworthy: an authentic report on poverty in Africa.
1–3. Authentic, genuine, real, veritable share the sense of actuality and lack of falsehood or misrepresentation. Authentic carries a connotation of authoritative certification that an object is what it is claimed to be: an authentic Rembrandt sketch. Genuine refers to objects or persons having the characteristics or source claimed or implied: a genuine ivory carving. Real, the most general of these terms, refers to innate or actual—as opposed to ostensible—nature or character: In real life, plans often miscarry. A real diamond will cut glass. Veritable, derived from the Latin word for truth, suggests the general truthfulness but not necessarily the literal or strict correspondence with reality of that which it describes; it is often used metaphorically: a veritable wizard of finance.
Ok, so now that we know what that word means, I figured I should look into what it means to be an authentic person. You see, I think I’m an authentic person. Then again though, how many people would say that they think otherwise? Generally though, I’m a very real take-me-as-I-am type of person (probably to my own detriment a lot of the time). Anyway, since I’m not an expert on this by any means, I figured I’d go looking for someone else who perhaps is. So, I went to my other handy dandy go-to reference guide… Google.
I came across this website… http://regainingfreedom.com/self-actualization/becoming-an-authentic-person/. Now here’s my disclaimer: I know NADA about the person who wrote this or about anything on the rest of this website. I’m not endorsing it, I’m not not-endorsing it either. I just thought what he/she/it had to say about being an authentic person was interesting.
Rediscovering freedom involves regaining a feeling of comfort in your own skin. The awkward layers that have been assumed to please others are shed, and the real person is revealed – an authentic person. What does this mean, and how do we regain our authenticity?
Firstly, what does authentic mean? The dictionary definition is: Conforming to fact and therefore worthy of trust, reliance, or belief; not counterfeit or copied. The authentic person is the real deal, what you see is what you get. The outside reflects the values of the heart. There is no show for the sake of others. The authentic person is reliable because their inner values and motivations are clear.
The definition of authentic precludes something that is copied or counterfeit. A copy is not original, or individual. It conforms to an image of something else rather than being itself.
The opposite of authentic is fake or superficial. The fake person is easily seen for what they are by anyone who is astute. Only the person who is not looking is fooled. The fake item always has low value. Everyone can see it is not what is purports to be.
A fake Rolex is obviously not authentic when you look at it closely and it tarnishes quickly. You can buy one for a few dollars then throw it away, while the real thing commands thousands and keeps looking good. Fake medicine looks the same as the genuine article, but it has no power to heal. It tries to ride on the reputation of the real item, but doesn’t deliver on its promises. In both cases, the fake or copy is of little value. The analogy holds for the fake person as well.
The fake person has lost their connection to the real person inside. After a while, they forget that they were ever an individual. They just become another clone, to be used or discarded by others, with little perceived inherent value.
So we have established that it is bad to be fake or superficial. How do we become authentic? Well authenticity is our original state. We are born as authentic individuals. There is nothing more real than a baby. A baby doesn’t fake anything. We lose authenticity along the way when we conform to what others think, rather than thinking for ourselves. We doubt our own wisdom and stop listening to our minds.
Regaining authenticity is a mental exercise. Firstly it involves identification of our core beliefs, then challenging those that are not congruent to where we want to be as a person. Only the strongest individuals will do this.
For many people, cognitive dissonance will cause them to immediately reject the new way of thinking. New fresh ideas will conflict with existing false beliefs. It is easier for the person to resist change and rejection of what they see as their true self (their false beliefs) than it is to logically assess the new ideas.
Once inner beliefs are changed, then outward change can follow. You can’t impose outward change, and expect inward change. Outward change comes from deciding to act in accordance with the dictates of the heart. It comes from refusing to again compromise core beliefs to “fit in” and refusing to learn what has been told rather than critically thinking it through.
Once the person has regained their authenticity, their character will be again congruent with their outward persona. This means that the energy that was spent in denial of reality, or keeping up a front can now be channeled into more productive areas. The individual will regain peace and self awareness. They can start to unleash creativity and fulfill their purpose in life.
Conclusion? Be real. Warts and all. That’s it. I had an up-front-and-personal-in-your-face experience with this this week. I’m not a fan of admitting failure but this week I had to go to some of my friends and admit that I was failing at something and I seriously needed their prayer. In the back of my head was Mr. Negativity saying to me ‘if you admit this to them, they’ll think less of you.’ What B.S. These are women I consider to be my very dear friends AND they’re all women of God. They’re not going to think less of me for admitting that I’m struggling. So, tearfully, very tearfully, I told them of my failures and asked for prayer. Guess what? I was right. They love me warts and all. I’m very lucky to have women like this in my life.
This brings up another topic though. What does it mean to have authentic relationships? Yet again, I’m not claiming to be an expert (as evidenced from the paragraph before) so I went looking for someone who is. Remember my disclaimer from earlier about not endorising and not not-endorsing either? Yeah, it applies here too.
Let me begin this month’s topic with a parable:
A traveller nearing a great city asked an old man seated by the road,
“What are the people like in this city?”
“What were they like where you come from?” asked the old man.
“Horrible,” the traveller responded in disgust. “Mean, untrustworthy, detestable in all respects.”
“Ah…” said the old man thoughtfully, “you will probably find them the same in this city as well.”
A few hours later another traveler passed by and asked the old man the same question.
“What were they like where you come from?” he similarly asked.
“They were fine people. Honest, industrious, generous, caring; I was sorry to leave,” the traveller responded.
“You’ll find them the same here,” the old man replied.
What is quite incredible is that this simple parable contains an astounding truth. If your thoughts, beliefs, expectations and personal vibration of energy have produced a life where you are encountering generous, kind, honest and caring people, then that is what you will continue to attract no matter what new city or change of circumstances you find yourself in. Likewise if your thoughts, beliefs, expectations and personal energy have produced circumstances where people are dishonest, greedy, mean and self-centered, then changing your city without changing yourself is highly unlikely to produce anything different.
Let me illustrate this reality in this way. Recently a friend of mine was trying to entertain his young son and thought of an ingenious way to keep him busy. In a magazine he saw a full-page picture of the world map. He knew his son was interested in geography so he took out a pair of scissors and cut the map into numerous pieces, making a puzzle. He gave it to his son figuring it would entertain him for some time. Five minutes later his son was back to say, “I’m finished.”
“How did you complete it so quickly?” his father asked in amazement.
“It was easy,” answered his son, “On the other side was a picture of a man. I figured if I got the man right the world would be right.”
Oddly enough, here another truth is revealed: Get yourself right and your world will be right. If you want authentic meaningful relationships with others, look no further than yourself. Become authentic. Become yourself.
I have a good friend who is the most authentic person I know. People love being around her because she is so real, with no pretence. She makes everyone feel special, not in a phoney way; she makes them feel special because she is genuinely interested in them. She values people. She values relationships, knowing that even the most causal relationship, a moment with a stranger, has the potential to gift them and us in some way. And so she lives her life day-by-day, moment-by-moment, open, honest and receptive to others. It sounds simple but it’s actually revolutionary, given that most of us approach others with an agenda of our own.
The question you must ask yourself is do you value relationships? Are you willing to be authentic yourself in order to have authentic relationships? Are you prepared to change, grow, open your heart and show yourself to others? Unless you can answer yes to all three questions, it’s futile to hope for authentic relationships with others.
Here are a few of my own observations on the qualities possessed by those rare individuals I have encountered who are one hundred percent authentic in who they are:
1. Authentic people are not afraid to be who they are and show who they are. There is no pretence. There is no building themselves up to look better, there is no tearing themselves down to look worse. They are secure with who they are. They know their strengths and use them in a loving, compassionate way. They know their weaknesses and catch themselves, without recrimination, when they fall into them. They are what we sometimes refer to as being “real.”
2. Authentic people are approachable. It doesn’t matter what position they hold or what activity they are engaged in, if you are with them you will be treated with respect and attention.
3. Authentic people are interested in others. They have learned that having an authentic relationship holds the key to joy and happiness. It is not work or effort for them. It is natural because they have developed this ability through wisdom. Whether it is a life-long relationship or an encounter of ten seconds, they know it holds within it the core truth of our being, namely that we are all one. They see in others another part of themselves, another part of God, a tiny piece of the unfolding matrix that is totally unique in and of itself. This is of interest to them.
4. Authentic people put others at ease. We know when we are in the presence of an authentic person because we feel relaxed, at home. We feel heard, respected, important, interesting. Authentic people make us feel that way because that is how they see us, and through their sight we in turn see ourselves anew. We see the promise of our own lives and our own possibilities through their enlightened vision. We knew it is true because they see it, and we trust their vision. It is one of the greatest gifts we can be given, and in turn give others. But we can only give it if we’re authentic.
5. Authentic people know their place in the world and fulfill it with joy and attention. Sometimes it will be a position of power and influence. Other times it will be the most humble of occupations. It is not the occupation or position that distinguishes them, but rather their ability to know and be themselves, and to have deep meaningful relationships with others.
6. Authentic people live day-by-day, moment-by-moment. They have the presence of Zen masters. They know well that life must be lived and experienced one situation at a time, so that’s what they do. They know deeply that nothing is more important than this very moment. When we are in their presence we know it too, for we vibrate with their frequency.
Authenticity does not happen overnight. We humans are too filled with our own arrogance and selfishness. Too attached to our agendas. Too busy with our own lives. Too fixated on our goals. Our concern is primarily with ourselves, but this can change when there is the vision and will. If authentic relationships are important to us we can practice being authentic. We can make a start and learn as we go. Nothing is impossible to us. Then, as we become more authentic ourselves, we will discover the joy of deeper relationships and will want to become one hundred percent authentic.
We might find that we want no distance or barrier between others and ourselves. There is no telling where it might lead us. The masters of old were just like us before they began their journey of discovery, and we will be just like them when we take our own journey into authenticity. It is a worthy journey.
So now that I’ve written (ok, stolen) the longest blog entry ever, I bet you’re wondering why I’m writing about this. Well, it’s because I needed to hear this this week. I needed to learn about being an authentic person and having authentic relationships. It’s what God wants me to work on. This may or may not be helpful to you but I believe it’s worthy of sharing. I believe we’re all in need of a little bit more real in our daily lives. I believe that when I can be true to myself, and not be ashamed of who I am or hiding who I am to the real world that yes, I’m putting myself out there and there’s a chance that I could get hurt, get laughed at, or fall on my face. However, when I find other like-minded authentic people (fortunately I already have some of these in my life) I believe that I will find the most fulfilling, comforting, satisfying relationships I will have ever known. I’m looking forward to it and I’m getting started right now.