Like an aroma of coffee or sweet chocolate drifting in the air, everyone wants to inhale the essence of being authentic. The deep desire, almost desperate ambition to be viewed as authentic is taking a grip on the world around us.
In business and relationships, the ‘A’ word is bounded around like a password to open all doors. It’s like a weapon of introduction, inclusion and tribe membership. It is the new and old buzzword to be part of a gathering, club or group. If you are authentic come in and join us.
Derived from the Greek for ‘self’ and ‘to do or be’, authentic means ‘to be one’s self’, and today we use the word when we want to describe being genuine, acting on one’s own authority, or possessing an immutable truth. It amazes me and honestly bothers me too, how people believe that being authentic is being different from whom they are now. All day long, we are being ourselves, in all the different roles, disguises and activities we perform.
As Carl Jung reminds us, we meet ourselves time and time again in a thousand disguises in our path in life.
Your behaviour changes as new, familiar and old situations arise in your daily life.
Put aside masks, false-hoods, make-up, pretenders, liars and their sidekicks; most of us go around being authentic all the time. I believe that the reason we crave to be seen as authentic is, in reality, the yearning to overcome the shyness, self-consciousness, and constraints of society. The longing to be recognised as authentic is like a rebellion from the insecurity and inhibitions of the cultural and religious kind. Those written and un-written laws that hold us back and stop us from expressing what we think, how we feel and, in turn, our true opinions.
What I call ‘the rules from schools’ and the laws and commandments, duties and obligations that bring on this fear of showing your unique personality. Cultural programming that reaches back thousands of years. Centuries of oppression and suppression accepted and imprinted into our psyche. Like the laws that stopped and prevented huge numbers of the population from access to education. Laws that said professions such as judges, neurosurgeons, pilots, presidents and owners of financially successful businesses should not be allowed to be in the hands of certain sections of society.
No wonder so many people strive ‘to be authentic’. No wonder it has become a quest and a pursuit to re-claim the rights and privileges afforded to some but not everyone. I understand this drive and longing to re-gain those arenas previously forbidden or prohibited. It is one hundred percent logical to want to have the same rights and access to life as anyone else. And what many of us do not realise is that being authentic is part of our daily performance. The way you are, your mannerisms, gestures, language skills and awareness, all of these indices contribute to your authentic performance.
It includes sticking up for yourself. Stating and saying your terms and conditions in a clear voice. Almost like your personal manifesto of all the things you will and won’t do. Performance and authenticity are part of the same package. They are not competitors. They live inside of you – they are both you. The battle you face is not between authenticity and performance, it is the struggle to fight off the indoctrinations, cultural stamps and stigmas of the world, as we know it.
What Is This Thing Called Authentic?
My experiences have taught me that being authentic is about letting go, refusing labels and not over-thinking. But wait; let’s check this out in detail. Being authentic is telling it how it really is. Saying, ‘No, I don’t wear thongs, drink cocktails, work for nothing, bend over backwards or believe everything you say.’
- Being authentic is saying out loud what you want and then taking the relevant action. I want to be a singer, writer, photographer, financial advisor, pilot, footballer, physicist, director of companies, theatres and banks – and president too!
- Being authentic is about your unique personality; showing it, rehearsing and practicing until you are proud. Making it work for you. Making errors, boo-boos and discoveries, and then, making more mistakes and learning from them.
- Being authentic is showing the best of you to the world and being recognised and rewarded for it too.
- Being authentic is giving the best performance, so you are heard, understood and believed.
- Being authentic is stepping up and standing out. Using your courage, confidence and competence to fulfil your creative energies.
- Being authentic is about releasing ‘the rules from schools’, written and spoken laws and brainwashing or cultural and religious programming.
- Being authentic is about learning, exploring, taking risks and opportunities in life. Developing skills to enrich your communication and your performance with the world.
- Being authentic is saying ‘No, I don’t want this, I’ve had enough.’
- Being authentic is about defying and denying what doesn’t gel for you.
- Being authentic simply means that your expression is your genuine performance and nothing more or less.
An extract from The Rule Breaker’s Guide To Step Up & Stand Out: A Manifesto For Rebels by Georgia Varjas (Filament Publishing, July 2 2019, £11.99)