Authenticity: Learning to be Yourself
“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” Anna Quindlen
As humans, we are social creatures and we develop in accordance with the people, cultures, and worlds around us (hence the importance of the ‘nurture’ debate). As such, we learn how to be human in conditioned ways. Sometimes these external ways align with our internal reality, and sometimes they do not. The work of becoming ourselves is to become acquainted with our internal worlds and then work to bring them about (give them space to exist) in all of our worlds.
“How real am I? I asked myself. What are the illusions I’ve created? What false selves do I need to pare away?” Sue Monk Kidd
The first part of learning to be yourself is getting to know yourself; it is the work of insight, delving, and innervism. It is asking: who am I? Then it is the work of being able to trust yourself; what do I want and need? And next is the work of intentionality and authenticity: who am I becoming? To be authentic is to be what and who you truly are. Brené Brown talks about the anatomy of authenticity, identifying the structure of authenticity as:
- Cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable.
- Exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of strength and struggle.
- Nurturing the connection and sense of belonging that can only happen when we believe that we are enough.
When you have the courage to be imperfect, you can show up as you are and recover with resiliency. When you set boundaries, you are communicating to yourself and others that you are here to take good care of yourself and look out for your wants and needs – you are your caretaker. Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable also allows us to experience connection, love, and belonging. When you exercise compassion and recognize that we are all made of strength and struggle you are practicing empathy; scientists are now recognizing empathy as one of the most important behavioral traits for flourishing. When we practice empathy, we are able to see ourselves in others and get outside of our own silos. Seeing, hearing, and acknowledging the authenticity in others evokes our authenticity and connects us to a greater whole.
When you learn to be yourself, you are learning to let your most vulnerable and powerful self be deeply seen and known. Brené says, “Staying real’ is one of the most courageous battles we will ever fight.” The original definition of courage was ‘to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.’ Being ourselves is about integrating who we are on the inside with who we show up as on the outside; it is about becoming whole people who believe in themselves and move through the world with self-assurance. This is how we become authentic, being ourselves.
“She rests now in the solid center of herself, having arrived at her own condensed truth. She is herself. And that is all.” Sue Monk Kidd