Authenticity is a big buzzword these days.
“Be more authentic,” “honor your authenticity,” “find your authentic self” – we hear these phrases scattered all over the internet and spoken about everywhere.
But what does being authentic mean? And most importantly, how can we tell when we’re being inauthentic – also known as “selling out”?
Table of contents
What is Authenticity?
Authenticity is the state of simply being yourself, listening to who you really are, and making decisions that align with your beliefs and values. Authenticity at its core is about deeply accepting all that is ‘you’ and honoring it above ALL else.
What is Inauthenticity (i.e. Selling Out)?
Inauthenticity, on the other hand, is about placing external things above your genuine values, needs, dreams, and artistic vision. When we ‘sell ourselves out’ we are essentially placing all of the most important parts of ourselves up for auction. Instead of making decisions based on our genuine beliefs, values, and personal style, we make decisions based on how much money, attention, fame, or acceptance we will gain from other people.
Examples of Authenticity vs. Inauthenticity
Sometimes reading examples helps to flesh out abstract concepts like authenticity. Here are a few examples taken from real life:
An artist has been contacted by a large publishing agency. They would like to mass produce her art but on the one condition that she change the titles and descriptions. Deep down, the artist knows that the titles and descriptions of her art are intrinsic to her work. She refuses the publishing agencies offer. She has made an authentic choice.
A father sees how gifted at writing his teenage son is. But instead of encouraging his son to pursue a career in writing, the father pressures his son to study business and accounting because it is the “safe” choice. The son then dutifully studies business and accounting in university. Both father and son have made inauthentic decisions.
A life coach who specializes in online mentoring wants to grow her business. In order to get more clients, she focuses solely on what is trendy and popular and writes/talks about those topics. She begins to lose touch with her original vision. She has become inauthentic.
A company is pressured by investors and shareholders to change its philosophy in order to be more “hip,” appeal to the new generation and make more profit. The company refuses to compromise their philosophy. They have made an authentic decision.
12 Signs You’ve Lost Your Authenticity and Are Selling Out
We are not perfect people. Perfection is an illusion. Therefore, it is guaranteed that at some point in your life, you will make an inauthentic decision that compromises your values, vision, or beliefs. It’s just part of being human!
Although we can’t be perfect, we can strive to be more conscious. Self-awareness and honesty are the two key qualities we need to prevent ourselves from slipping into bad choices.
If you’re concerned that you might be “selling out,” read the signs below. They will help to either confirm or challenge your feelings:
- Your top priority is making bucket loads of money
- You’re obsessed with getting new followers, fans or subscribers (e.g. on social media)
- You let others make decisions for you
- You let others dictate who you are + who you ‘should’ be
- You follow the crowd and do what everyone else is doing
- You always follow trends even if they don’t make sense to you
- You reveal only what makes you look good
- You copy other people and their style/lifestyle
- You ignore your gut feelings and intuition
- You wear a mask around others
- You’re scared to be vulnerable and express your true feelings, thoughts, or values (which may be unpopular)
- You make decisions based on how much attention, fame, money or acceptance you’ll receive rather than your genuine beliefs, values, or vision
Take a few thoughtful moments to make a serious assessment of the list above. Evaluate each point with an honest heart. How many can you relate to?
How to Stop Selling Out
Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.– B. Brown
I want to make a clear distinction here. There is a difference between selling yourself and selling out.
Selling yourself, in business and career fields, is about highlighting your genuine strengths and gifts, and offering those to the world. Selling out, on the other hand, is about compromising your personal integrity and letting external things drive you instead of internal qualities.
Also, not everyone has the liberty of making authentic decisions – but I want to emphasize that these situations are literally survival situations. For example, if a small business owner from an impoverished country was approached by a wealthy businessman who wanted to invest in and change his company, do you think it would be smart to decline? In certain environments and situations, making choices that go against our creative vision is essential in order to survive. But if you’re blessed to live in more fortunate circumstances where you’re not literally faced with starvation or anything else equally serious, then making authentic decisions is an intelligent way to live life.
Why is being authentic intelligent? Because you are listening to your heart and nurturing your soul. Money, fame, adoration, and approval from others will quench your ego’s need for safety and control – but that only lasts for so long. Soon, you will be left with a big, empty, gaping hole inside. The true joy, inner peace, and fulfillment come when you are living your truth and putting your essence out into the world.
So how do you let your essence – your passions, perspectives, and values – guide you? Here are some ideas; many of which I have discovered across my own authenticity journey:
1. Pay attention to how the decisions you make feel physically. Do you feel uncomfortable, heavy or dark sensations? Or does your body feel light and energized? Unlike the mind, the body cannot lie. Your body is the best lie detector out there. If you are about to make a decision that does not align with your values, your body will immediately feel and express that. Pay attention to warning signs such as heaviness in the heart area, tensed muscles, lightheadedness, cold shivers, and even physical cringing. Your physical warning signs will be unique to you (and can’t all be listed here), so search for them diligently.
2. Get your priorities straight. At the end of the day, what will TRULY fulfill you? Think about this question very carefully. Will you ultimately be happy with truckloads of followers, clients, money, or a lavish lifestyle, without feeling like you’ve stayed true to yourself? Money is important, don’t get me wrong. But how much money do you actually need in order to be happy and feel fulfilled? You might also like to explore what your main driving forces are: are you driven by power, success, fame, wealth or your individual and unique style, talents, passions, visions, and desires to make an impact? Focus on nailing down your main motivating force and ask yourself, “Is this healthy? Is this aligned with who I truly am?”
3. Explore inauthentic areas in your life. Intentionally carve out time and space to assess your life – that might even mean just sitting here as you’re reading this article and doing a bit of quiet reflecting. Think about areas in your life that you’re unhappy with. Have you lost your authentic voice in that area … or is the issue something else altogether? This process takes honesty. Write down every choice, commitment, and behavior that feels out of alignment with your deepest passions, perspectives, and values.
4. Make the hard choices. Once you’ve identified the inauthentic areas of your life, it’s time to act. You will need to carve out a plan – possibly multiple plans – to regain a sense of personal integrity. Ask yourself questions such as, “What must absolutely go and what can stay?” “What is true to me and what is false?” “What options do I have?” “What is the potential loss and gain in this situation?” “What is the best scenario and worst scenario?” “What is my plan A and plan B?” “What am I clinging to for dear life?” Use a tool like journaling to help you get out your thoughts, feelings, and plans in a coherent, organized, and structured way.
5. Integrate the experience with self-compassion. Once you have made the necessary change, it’s time for reflection. How did it feel to make such big (or small) changes? What parts of you felt threatened? What did you find it easy to let go of and difficult to surrender? How does it feel to walk your own genuine path? How can you avoid making inauthentic decisions in the future? These are all the kind of vital questions you’ll benefit from asking and exploring. Most importantly, integration is about accepting our humanness and all the frailty that comes along with it. Embrace your mistakes, forgive yourself, and let your hard-earned lessons make you stronger and wiser.
If you’re interested in reading more about authenticity and getting extra guidance, I recommend reading these articles on the topic written by myself and Luna:
- The Inner Prostitute, “Whoring” Your Integrity and Losing Self-Respect
- How to Be Your True Self in a Society That Worships Fakeness
In this loud, confusing, and overwhelming world, it can be easy to slip into the role of selling out your integrity and authenticity to gain power, fame, or money. We are bombarded with messages from the media, social media, our colleagues, and even our friends and family members to be anything other than what we are. But in order to live fulfilled and soul-driven lives, we need to put a firm foot down. We need to learn when to say “no” and forcefully draw the line and protect our integrity.
I hope this article has inspired you to preserve your artistic vision, inner values, or deeply held passions. What makes life beautiful is how unique and varied it is. I hope you share your own unique flavor of authenticity with the world!
What is your experience with selling out? Do you have any tips to share surrounding integrity and authenticity?
Finally, I’ll leave you with a final quote. Tell me in the comments, do you agree or disagree with this statement below?
It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not.– Andre Gide