Lately, I hate the word authentic, but it wasn’t always that way.
I hate that we’ve twisted it, and squished it, and morphed into to something that has little to no meaning anymore. It’s become a brand. It’s become a lifestyle. It’s become a hashtag. It’s become something that makes me want to roll my eyes whenever I hear it.
We use it so much we’ve forgotten what it means. We say it so much that it’s lost its meaning. We hear it so much that it no longer resonates – it has become white noise amidst the chaos of our lives.
Authenticity is not about a perfectly curated social media presence. It’s not about taking a picture without makeup and with unwashed hair and posting it on your Instagram feed and calling that “authentic”, either. It’s not about telling people that they “should___________.” It’s not about hiding your heart, and it’s not about sharing each and every detail of your life with the internet, and every human you come across, either. It’s not about the perfect filter, lighting preset, or the consistency of your “brand”. It’s not about shaming someone else when they don’t fit into the world that you have painted, and created, and built for yourself.
It’s so much deeper than any of that.
To be authentic means you are vulnerable. It means that you lead with your heart, and you do not filter your words, your actions, or your ideas to fit someone else’s idea of what you are supposed to, or who you are supposed to be. When you are truly authentic you are able to stand in your own space of pride or discomfort. When you are truly authentic you live in that place of rawness that cannot be filtered, for it is pure. It is from your soul.
To be authentic means you are genuine. The world is full of lists, and molds, and checkboxes, and confinements that are all eager to hold you within them. When you are genuine, you are not able to be held in such a way. You cannot fit into those tiny spaces. Your authenticity is bigger than that – for you are genuine. What you say, how you act, how you react – these all come from a place of truth.
Part of the definition of authenticity is, “made or done in the traditional or original way, or in a way that faithfully resembles an original.” Perhaps that’s where we get our wires crossed. This works when we’re talking about furniture, modeling a trendy table after a farmhouse original so that it looks and feels authentic. That makes sense. But we are humans, not tables, and there is no original for us to copy. Our originality, that comes from within. That’s singular to our own selves, our own souls, our own hearts, and our own minds – there is no blueprint for us to model ourselves after. We are the model, and we are one of a kind.
Authenticity in the terms of existentialist philosophy is regarded as, relating to or denoting an emotionally appropriate, significant, purposive, and responsible mode of human life. As we age, our reactions to things change, for we continue to get more information, more perspective, more clarification on what really matters to us, and to those around us. We’re learning and understanding the world more, so our thoughts and reactions will reflect this new acquisition of knowledge. This change in reaction does not mean you are no longer authentic, but rather it’s quite the opposite. You’re reacting from a place of new truth and honesty – which is the ideal. It means you’re growing.
When we allow ourselves to be authentic without regard for applause, that is a truly beautiful thing. Honor your authenticity by standing in your rawness and your vulnerability. Let authenticity have the space to evolve – for when we evolve, we grow, and when we grow, we learn.
And when we continue to learn, that’s when we bring our best selves to the table.