I feel like authenticity is a trending buzzword when googled it delivers over 130 million search results! However, it is not actually a new concept, rather its principles are rooted both in psychology and existential philosophy.
Mike Sturm gives a nice description of authenticity in his book The Wabi-Sabi Way: Simple Principles to bring Calm, Meaning & Authenticity to your Daily Life. He writes that, at its very simplest, authenticity is the honest belief that you are okay just as you are. That you are 100% original and don’t yearn to be the same as everyone else. He explains that our imperfections are what make us interesting and relatable – and provide us with a meaningful and special way of connecting with one another.
So, to embrace authenticity is to whole-heartedly acknowledge your uniqueness and accept your individuality. In letting go of comparison, you stop trying to mould yourself into the “someone” you think others want you to be.
Surely you see the irony here? All the time and energy spent on trying to shape your “insides” (as Strum affectionately puts it) into someone else’s “outsides”. The reality is that these two will never align.
As I research and read more about authenticity and living an authentic life, I see a recurring pattern of positive tendencies or habits which authentic people practice. Instead of becoming preoccupied with the definition of authenticity, I thought it healthier to clear my schedule and make space for some of these authentically-orientated practices.
I’m also a firm believer in the power of three, so I’ll conveniently share what I believe to be three healthy habits that build a positive mindset and promote authenticity.
1. Authenticity is not rigid or static
In her book, Wired for Authenticity: Seven Practices to inspire, adapt and lead, Henna Inam maintains that authenticity is not about defining who you are and then rigidly applying that definition of yourself to every situation.
Being true to oneself should not be fueled by an insistent need to project a specific image of yourself without taking the situation or context into consideration. Inam goes on to assert that whilst authenticity requires an understanding of our personal values, it doesn’t mean that our values and thoughts can be thrown around with no regard for the impact that they may have on other people.
Search for a deeper understanding of yourself, but don’t impose it on other people. Be mindful that you are not static, rather you are constantly growing and evolving – and who you are today, may not be who you are tomorrow.
2. Authenticity is born from curiosity
Inam writes that one’s authentic self is what you find right at your core. It shouldn’t be confused with your sense of identity and the labels you use to define that identity. Your roles in society, your gender, nationality, beliefs and values help to describe the outer core of your identity – but they are not who you really are.
The real journey towards living an authentic life is born from curiosity. A genuine and burning desire to get to know not only yourself but also those around you. Inam encourages her readers to stay curious. She writes that curiosity leads to creativity, connection and better decision-making.
So, how do you practice such curiosity? Nothing out of the ordinary, Inam writes that life offers plenty of opportunities to ask questions – do just that! Take the time to question and understand your values and purpose, what energizers you versus drains you. Once you are done then look at your fears and insecurities, your strengths and weaknesses.
3. Authenticity requires presence and reflection
More often than not, we are too busy doing instead of living.
Exercising curiosity to better understand and know yourself requires a concerted effort to make the time and quiet to practice reflection. Inam stresses that this can only happen when we slow down.
Reflection is a very personal activity, and a healthy habit to develop for a number of reasons, not just finding authenticity. It may require you pen some time into your calendar, or it might be a conscious decision to wake-up 30 minutes earlier, adding this as “me time” before your day even starts.
Being one hundred per cent present is just as important as carving out time to reflect. Many of us live in the past, unable to let go of what has been, whilst others are constantly looking to the future, focusing on what may be. In both these instances, we forget about today and what is happening right now.
You need quiet to truly reflect – this doesn’t just mean the TV is off and your work emails are closed for the day – it means the noise in your head is silenced. If you are truly present, focusing on the right now, it’s a lot easier to quieten that noise.
Still a little pie in the sky?
Just be you, everyone else is already taken. No need to book a consult with your therapist or seek out a life coach. Make a habit of practising these three little things.
Firstly, schedule quiet time with yourself as often as you can where you forget about yesterday, place the worry about tomorrow on hold, and focus only on the right now.
Secondly, when enjoying this quiet time with yourself, ask yourself questions, and when you think you’ve asked everything there is to ask, find some more questions to ask.
Thirdly, as you being to learn more about yourself and understand yourself better don’t be fooled into thinking you’ve got yourself all figured out – you are an awesome human-being growing and evolving from all your introspection.
But rest assured you are walking a path towards authenticity and you’ve developed some nurturing, positive habits along the way.