A fake. We all know what it looks like. We all know how that feels. Those are fake plastered smiles. It's a pretentious laugh and giggle. It's a sickly sweet or overly macho personality. It is posing and setting up on social networks.
These are pouty lips in photos and feigned expressions of surprise. It’s jumping around and showing people a picture of your life that isn’t entirely true, just to get validation or to cause envy. You can probably think of half a million other examples.
And here’s the thing: none of us is innocent. We all pretended to be people we weren’t once in the past. Whether due to fear, lack of self-awareness, or a desire to be accepted, putting on a mask is sometimes our only choice. In fact, some situations in life (like working for a horrible boss) require us to adopt a certain persona. And that’s fine – as long as we’re aware of what we’re doing.
The danger comes when we wear the mask for so long that we forget what’s underneath. And we forget who we are. This slight horror movie scenario happens all the time. Self-induced amnesia is a terrible way to live. It must have happened to you at some point.
If you’re sick of being something you’re not; if you are tired of letting others dictate who you “should” be, now is the time to find your true self.
What is the real me?
Also called your authentic self, real self, or original self, your true self is the most honest aspect of who you are. In other words, your true self is the most authentic version of you – all masks, affectations, and pretensions aside. Your true self is you when you are most open, most vulnerable, and most carefree.
Think about the time you spent with those you were 100% happy with or the times when you were completely alone. These circumstances often reveal your true self.
What authenticity is NOT
Many people are quite confused when it comes to the common phrase “be your authentic self”.
How often have you felt that you need to go in search of your authentic self or try to become something other than who you are? How often have you heard people say (or heaven forbid, teach) that authenticity is speaking your mind 100% of the time without a filter? Or that you should be completely uncompromising in everything you do? Or that there is a certain formula you must follow?
Authenticity is not about demonizing or disrupting anything or anyone that seems inauthentic, fake, or insincere – because that is just an immature reaction.
So what exactly is authenticity?
Authenticity is not an attempt to BECOME something, but to accept yourself exactly as you are in the present moment. There is no need to chase some ideal ‘authentic’ self here. There is no need to try to become “more” honest or “more” real. Why? Because chasing authenticity only creates more suffering.
Being your true self means being exactly who you are, whatever that looks like. It’s about understanding and accepting the fact that being ‘wrong’ is perfectly fine. It’s about accepting all the ‘ugliness’, ‘strangeness’, and ‘flaws’ inherent in your nature. It’s about working with your strengths and coming to terms with your weaknesses, not trying to be anyone else.
Of course, it is impossible to be authentic on the outside 100% of the time. Do you really think your boss would appreciate you dragging yourself to work in your pajamas with rudders in your eyes? Do you think it would be helpful to tell your mother-in-law that she has the voice of a dying crow and move away from you forever? Of course not. We have to draw the line somewhere.
Life is a dance of dualities: light/dark, pleasant/unpleasant, work/play, thinking/feeling, truth/false. Some situations require us to wear a mask. But that doesn’t mean we have to lose ourselves in action. We can still be in touch with our authentic true selves, even when we’re putting on a show.
How to be your true self
I’ll say it again: embracing and owning your true self does not mean becoming nothing. It’s about looking at yourself in the present moment and embracing all your beauty and ugly awkwardness together. Without radical acceptance of all that is, there can be no experience of authenticity – the two go hand in hand.
Question: Is it possible to still be in touch with your true self, even when playing a role?
Yes, it is possible.
But only if the role you set up is conscious and not unconscious. Here’s an example: Your job requires and depends on you dealing with the public. You can consciously put on a friendly, extroverted, and charming mask while still being in touch with your authentic feelings, values, and needs. You are only inauthentic when you lose touch with your authentic feelings, values , and needs and allow others to dictate them to you.
There is no black or white here. You just can’t be 100% authentic all the time out there. Happy functioning in society! Those who insist that you must always behave a certain way (in this case “authentically”) do not understand the nature of life. Life is fluid and contextual. Behaving one way in one situation will not always benefit you in other situations.
How to remain authentically yourself
Fortunately, you can strive to stay in touch with the inner truth of who you are regardless of the outer situation. Some approaches you could take include the following:
Develop self-awareness, i.e. who you are, what you like, what you don’t like, what you value, how you feel, and what comes most naturally to you.
Clean yourself up and admit who you really are – all the ‘ugly’, ‘weird’, ’embarrassing’ and embarrassing parts included.
Stop pretending or imitating other people without first being aware of what you are doing.
Accept your imperfection and forget about trying to be perfect in any way.
Allow emotions and feelings to emerge and embrace your vulnerability – this will help you feel more comfortable in your own skin.
Accept (that doesn’t mean fake) inauthenticity and understand that it’s a normal part of being human, but try to be aware of it.
Explore ways you can still be connected to your parents. Developing a strong and clear sense of self is a prerequisite for developing authenticity.
Don’t depend on others to validate your self-worth – that’s easier said than done! But realize that you will never be “good enough” for everyone, so stop trying to be and redirect that energy into accepting all that you are.
While it’s not possible to be your true self in every situation (eg around your boss), know when to get away from situations that require you to be someone else. There is a difference between knowingly wearing a mask, because it is your bread and butter, and wearing it just out of social habit or convention.
Let go of fake and insincere friendships or relationships that don’t support you in expressing your true self – it’s just not worth it.
Keep a journal that will allow you to become self-aware and understand your own thoughts, feelings, dreams, and values.
Say what you think – as much as possible, be direct and direct.
Be vulnerable with yourself – admit when you feel scared, lonely, ugly, or ashamed; it will help you be vulnerable with other people.
We feel when others are authentically themselves
The truth is that most people can sense when another person is being fake, rude, artificial, pretentious, or insincere. By being authentic, you will encourage others to be true to themselves.
You’ll also make people feel more comfortable around you, which of course is secondary to your own experience of being freer and more comfortable just being you!
Finally, you will also be able to connect with people much more deeply and establish satisfying relationships.
Remember that being authentic is a present moment practice. It is not about searching for some ideal self in the future. It’s about aligning with who you are and how you feel in the moment and accepting it all.
What is your experience with authenticity and being your true self? Do you struggle around certain types of people? What advice can you share with others in your situation? Please share below.
2 thoughts on “How to remain authentic, in a society of fakes?”
Thought provoking read. Going to keep this article in mind,
What a nice read! I have to say, I think one of the things that I appreciate so much about my 40s is feeling completely comfortable in my skin and it’s odd because the more authentic you are, the less you attract fake people. It’s really odd but my late 30s and early to mid 40s, fake people just kind of get removed from your life and I have to say it’s not something I even encounter anymore. These are such good tips as it’s not an easy thing to do, for many people especially, it’s about: who am at work versus outside of work? Great thought-provoking post thanks for sharing!!
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