3 general assumptions, 8 personal definitions, and 1 master key to authenticity
“Getting into my authentic state should quite literally be child’s play.”
“Authenticity is our natural state.” — How many times have you heard this phrase?
It sounds as if being authentic and living a life that feels authentic should be very easy. If it really was so easy, why don’t we all live in this ‘authentic natural state’ all the time?
What does it even mean to live in an authentic state?
Children are often put forward as an ‘explanation’. The younger they are, the more authentic they appear, simply because they haven’t learned yet how to be inauthentic. Especially babies are assumed to be ‘in a natural authentic state’ all the time.
Young children don’t yet have the worries we’ve learned to develop as grown-ups, they can’t fake anything, they are free to be themselves etc. This image associates authenticity with a childlike freedom to be ourselves and live happily in a loving, protective universe.
The context of early childhood makes ‘authenticity’ sounds innocent, lighthearted and liberating. Getting into my authentic state should quite literally be child’s play. And once I’m in that state, why would I ever want to leave it again?
Anybody who has been around children long enough knows that this ‘authentic easy breezy condition’ doesn’t exist. In real life, a happy baby keeps alternating with an unhappy baby. One moment the infant is smiling, gurgling, and exploring its little world, the next moment the child is crying with hunger, discomfort, or pain, and occasionally screaming in utter despair for no obvious reason. All of this is authentic and natural.
In other words, being a young child – in all its glorified authenticity – is not as free and easy as it appears through the grown-up lens.
The ‘natural state of authenticity’-phrase contains three general assumptions:
1 — Authenticity is our natural STATE.
The word state implies permanence. It makes us believe, authenticity is a place we can reach, and then stay in it forever.
The only true static place we can ever reach in human life is at the very end, when we’ll be ‘lying in state’. Until then, life is an ongoing sequence of cycles, which we experience as ups and downs.
2 — Authenticity is our NATURAL state.
The word natural implies it should be easy to achieve. What is natural to us should take no effort at all.
But our true nature is distorted and manipulated by manmade norms. We get squeezed into a straightjacket of rules, beliefs and expectations from the day we’re born. These become second nature to us, and we identify with what we know.
Our primary nature is alien to us. It can seem far out of reach, impossibly hard, and very scary.
3 — AUTHENTICITY is our natural state.
The word authenticity implies freedom to be oneself. We assume authentic means being always happy (like the stereotypical baby). We assume it means finding true love, doing only what we really want, and living the life we’ve always been dreaming of.
But authenticity turns out to make demands on us. We’re called to be our authentic selves consistently, which is a huge mission.
Having accepted the challenge of authenticity you’ll find yourself on your own. Nobody else can tell you what it really means to be authentic – what it means for you.
“We can only be authentic when we know who we truly are.”
Having been on the journey towards my ‘authentic natural state’ for decades, I’ve developed a practical understanding of what authenticity means.
Here are my 8 personal definitions of authenticity:
1 — Authenticity means going on a big adventure. It’s a one way ticket, holding the promise to take us to true freedom, wisdom, happiness and integrity. But before we get there, it’s often a bumpy ride. Authenticity is an essential ingredient of the so-called heroic journey.
2 — Authenticity means embracing the cycles of life. Authenticity calls us to dance between joy and sorrow, freedom and limitation, pain and pleasure, the Dark Side and the Bright Side of the world we live in.
3 — Authenticity means developing courage. Being authentic is often scary because you have to step out of the mainstream and even go against it. It can be lonely and risky. It is a solitary path. Only you know what’s authentic for you, and your authenticity may not always be welcomed by others.
4 — Authenticity is a skill we can practice. It needs patience, discipline, and commitment to oneself. It may take a lifetime to reach mastery.
5 — Authenticity may feel unnatural. When you start on the journey towards authenticity, certain inauthentic habits have already established themselves. They have become second nature. Old habits are difficult to break. What feels normal is not the same as what’s natural or authentic.
6 — Authenticity means facing the unknown. It means cutting through layers of masks, hypocrisy, self-deception, and self-limitation. It might mean having an identity crisis, losing your sense of who you are, and having to redefine yourself.
7 — Authenticity means claiming your own space. This also includes setting clear boundaries. Our personal authentic space ultimately feels comfortable. As we learn to claim the space in which we can be authentic, we become more confident, and it becomes easier to grow our authenticity.
8 – Authenticity means knowing yourself. Authenticity is not something we do, it’s how we are. Authenticity is a way of being. We can only be authentic when we know who we truly are. Therefore authenticity and self-knowledge go hand in hand.
“The key to authenticity is small, inconspicuous and completely invisible.”
Even though authenticity comes easy to babies and young children, the bumpy ride towards freedom, wisdom, happiness, and integrity lies ahead for everyone. Our own authenticity needs to be conquered anew many times.
Authenticity promises to unlock the door to a phenomenal place where we can meet our ‘true self’. Behind the same door we can also expect to find our ‘true reality’.
In our striving for freedom, happiness, and the alleged ease of childhood the master key to the place where authenticity thrives can be easily missed. This key lies buried in the centre of our own being.
The more I am learning to remain close to my own centre, the easier my space for authenticity can unfold, which seems like a paradox. Shouldn’t I be pushing my boundaries and lean into my edges as I move forward on this journey?
Yes and no. I’ve found the boundaries and edges to be full of latches, locks, and shutters. They all look different. Every single one of them appears to be unique. Every single one seems to present a new challenge. Every single one seems as difficult to open as the previous ones.
Focusing on the boundaries can be daunting, and forever pushing against edges can become exhausting.
But the key is always the same.
The key to authenticity is small, inconspicuous and completely invisible. Transparency is the key, since authenticity has nothing to hide. When we practice transparency, the doors to authenticity spring open of their own accord.
© Veronika Bond, 2016
This article is complemented by an e-letter published on the same date.
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