Authenticity has become a bit of a buzzword in recent years. People are drawn to others who are real, raw, and brutally honest. In this modern age of photoshopped visuals, well crafted rhetoric, and a dizzying number of infographics and memes with questionable sources, we all are looking for the real deal; what hasn’t been doctored, manipulated, designed to elicit a certain response from us. We reach, and then applaud, when we find traces of authenticity in others because it gives us hope for living authentically ourselves. We long to display a true reflection of ourselves to the world.
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Sometimes I think we have made an idol of authenticity. As if we were programmed with a chip which dictates our True Self, and we need to summon up the will to live according to the plan. But the formation of our identity is far more complicated than a pre-installed blueprint. We are instilled values from our parents as children, experiment with different outfits (literally) and persona during adolescence, and move into adulthood often still unsure of what we want to be when we grow up. All along the way, our self identity interacts with the external voices, sometimes in tandem or otherwise conflicting. In the end, living authentically feels more like wandering in dense fog hoping to stumble on a possible path.
Still, we try. We long for truth in others and living true to ourselves. Here are some of the ways I spot people who live authentically:
- They recognize they are a work in progress. They haven’t bought into the lie of the True Self chip, and humbly acknowledge the community in which their identity was formed and continue to offer themselves up for critique and change.
- They are not defensive. They are comfortable enough with who they are without feeling threatened by encountering the inevitable divergent views.
- They live into their passion. Authentic people are not people pleasers, they do what they do because they love it. I remember going to a concert where I did not like the style of music being played, but the raw passion with which the musicians performed drew me in. Authenticity draws people in.
My experience has been, the more time I spend with authentic people, the more easily I quickly recognize counterfeits. Just as authentic people radiate life to those around them, their counterparts drain and destroy. I find a good rule of thumb in authentic living is to focus on the true instead of constantly calling out the false.
How do you spot authenticity?