What is Real?
“What is real?… Real isn’t how you are made. It’s a thing that happens to you… It doesn’t happen all at once… You become… It takes a long time…”
Margary Williams, The Velveteen rabbit
It has been a perfect few weeks to explore authenticity as it has been a challenging period. Normally in such challenging periods I would have pushed everything aside and adopted the aforementioned ‘Fake it til’ you make it’ philosophy. During tough times I’d turn on the shiny exterior and pretend that everything was great and that if I just kept pretending that things would eventually change. The result… exhausting.
Over the last few weeks I have experienced challenges with my work, my marriage, my child, finances, my future and overall existential being. There were still times that I lied to myself and others when asked the omnipresent question of “How is it going”, but for the most part I tackled authenticity head on and let myself be free.
Here’s what I’ve found out about authenticity over the last few weeks (some of it courtesy of David Irvine’s book ‘Becoming Real’:
Authenticity is about opening to the experience of who you really are and courageously bringing that realness into the world.
We often neglect our true feelings and focus on how we should be. This is exhausting and unnecessary. Who are we doing it for? The fleeting approval of others or ourselves?
More than being taught, the journey to authenticity probably will best be caught. Letting go of the need for prestige or approval from others will bring you freedom.
To be nobody but yourself, in a world which is doing its best, night and day to make you just like everybody else, means to fight the greatest battle there is to fight and never stop fighting. ee cummings
It is a tremendous battle we are all up against… to be ourselves. When we dip our toes into the cold, uncertain waters of authenticity we realize that when we choose to fight, what we are fighting for is ultimately freedom.
Authenticity means living according to your values and virtues and purpose and expressing your unique gifts in the service of others.
What this all means in the context of authenticity is… if you don’t know your values, virtues and purpose, your screwed.
The paradox of looking back and measuring our authenticity, we can often say how inauthentic we were, but the reality is we were probably as authentic as our consciousness would allow at the time.
We will have moments of authentic behavior, inauthentic behavior and sometimes that inauthentic behavior will be authentic. The importance is to develop the ability to continually ask yourself the questions that drive authenticity (based on your values, virtues and purpose).
You aren’t what you do, because when you don’t, then you aren’t.
We often think that we are what we do. A doctor, a lawyer, a homeless person, a student. This has nothing to do with authenticity. When we strip away the labels and are left with our feelings, essence, passions and energy. That is who we are.
Authenticity is freedom
To be inauthentic is to be in the chains. I have often made up in my mind that I’m less important if I’m not living up to my standards and those standards I think people have of me. What I found out over the last two weeks when I articulated my truth to people around me is that they too opened up. It was an invitation to be real. The freedom came through realizing that my struggles are not individual, but those that are experienced by most others. The freedom came through realizing that when I let them go I am no longer carrying the burden of trying to be something else. What is here is real.
The end of the first part of authenticity is definitely just the beginning.
I’ll leave you with some ALI’s (Authentic living indicators)
Did I act according to my purpose today?
What was my greatest expression?
Where didn’t I act congruent with my purpose?
What do I need to change?
Did I act according to my values today?
What was my greatest expression of these values?
Where was I incongruent with my values?
What do I need to change?
This is a simple and effective way to measure your authenticity…