Fakeness. We all know what it looks like. We all know what it feels like.
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It’s the fake plastered-on smiles. It’s the pretentious laughs and giggles. It’s the sickly sweet or overly macho personality fronts. It’s the posing and like-whoring on social media. It’s the pouting lips in photos and feigned expressions of surprise. It’s the prancing about and showing people an image of your life that isn’t completely true, just to gain validation or envy. I’m sure you can think of half a million other examples as well.
And here’s the thing: none of us are innocent. We’ve all been guilty of pretending to be people we’re not in the past. Whether out of fear, lack of self-awareness or the 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 OK – as long as we’re aware of what we’re doing.
The danger comes when we have worn a mask for so long that we forget what’s underneath. And we forget who we are. This somewhat horror-like movie scenario happens all the time. Having self-induced amnesia is a terrible way to live life. I’m sure it’s happened to you at some point.
If you’re sick of being someone you’re not; if you’re tired of letting others dictate who you “should” be, now is the time to find your true self and OWN it.
What is the True Self?
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’re at your most open, vulnerable, and carefree. Think about the times you’ve spent with those you’re 100% comfortable with or the times when you’ve been completely alone. These circumstances often reveal your true self.
Please note here that I am writing true self with a small ‘s’ and not a large ‘S’. I want to make a clear distinction here. When I write about your true self, I am writing about the most authentic expression of your character and personality. I am not referring to your big Self (big ‘S’) also known as your Soul or Higher Self.
What Authenticity IS NOT
Many people are quite confused when it comes to the common expression “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 what you are? How often have you heard people say (or God forbid, teach) that being authentic is about loudly expressing your opinions 100% of the time without filters? Or that you should be completely unapologetic in all that you do? Or that there’s a certain formula you have to follow?
Or what about the typical image of how being your ‘true self’ is presented, aka. as an in-your-face type of person who enjoys using explicit language like a relish. Or alternatively, a strange and eclectic (but nevertheless trendy) rebel.
Also, authenticity is not about demonizing or slamming anything or anyone that appears to be inauthentic, phony or insincere – because that is just an immature reaction.
So what really is authenticity?
What Actually Is Authenticity?
Authenticity is not trying to BECOME something, it is about embracing yourself exactly as you are in the present moment. There is no need to chase any ideal ‘authentic’ self here. There’s no need to try and become “more” genuine or “more” real. Why? Because chasing authenticity only creates more suffering.
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Being your true self is about being exactly who you are, whatever the heck that looks like. It’s about understanding and accepting the fact that being flawed is perfectly fine. It’s about embracing all the ugliness, weirdness, and ‘defects’ inherent in your nature. It’s about working with your strengths and making peace with your weaknesses, and not trying to be anyone else.
Of course, it is impossible to be outwardly authentic 100% of the time. Do you really think your boss would appreciate you dragging your ass to work in pyjamas with crust in your eyes? Or what about your mother in law? Do you really think it would be beneficial to tell her that she has the voice of a dying crow and to please piss off? Of course not. We have to draw a line somewhere.
Life is a dance of duality: light/dark, pleasant/unpleasant, work/play, think/feel, truth/lies. Some situations require us to wear a mask. But that doesn’t mean that we have to get lost in the act. We can still be in touch with our authentic true self, even when we are putting on a show.
How to Be Your True Self
I’ll repeat again: embracing and owning your true self isn’t about becoming anything. It is about looking at yourself in the present moment and accepting all of your beauty and ugly awkwardness combined. Without a radical acceptance of all that you are, 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 you’re putting on a role?
Yes, it is.
But only if the role you put on is conscious and not unconscious. Here’s an example: your job requires, and is dependent 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. It is only when you lose touch with your authentic feelings, values, and needs and let others dictate them for you, that you’re being inauthentic.
There is no black or white here. You simply cannot be 100% authentic all the time on the outside. Good luck functioning in society! Those who insist that you must always behave in a certain way (in this case “authentically”) do not understand the nature of life. Life is fluid and contextual. Behaving one way in a situation will not always be beneficial for you in other situations.
Thankfully, you can strive to keep in touch with the inner truth of who you are no matter the external situation. Some approaches you might like to take include the following:
- Develop self-awareness, i.e. who are you, what do you like, what do you dislike, what do you value, how do you feel, what feels the most natural to you?
- Come clean to yourself and own up to who you actually are – all ugly, weird, “shameful,” and uncomfortable parts included
- Stop pretending or imitating other people without being first aware of what you’re doing
- Accept your imperfection and forget about trying to be any one way
- Allow emotions and feelings to emerge and embrace your vulnerability – this will help you to feel more comfortable in your skin
- Accept (that doesn’t mean act out) inauthenticity and realize that it’s a normal part of being human, but strive to be conscious of it
- Explore the ways you still may be enmeshed with your parents. Developing a strong and clear sense of self is a prerequisite for developing authenticity.
- Don’t depend on others for validation or self-worth – which is easier said than done! But realize that you will never be “good enough” for everyone, so stop trying to be and refocus that energy on accepting all that you are
- Even though being your true self is not possible in every situation (e.g. around your boss), know when to walk away from situations that demand you to be someone else. There is a difference between consciously wearing a mask because your bread and butter is at stake, and wearing it just out of social habit or convention
- Let go of fake and insincere friendships or relationships that don’t support you expressing your true self – they’re just not worth it
- Keep a journal which will allow you to become self-aware and understanding of your own thoughts, feelings, dreams, and values
- Say what you mean – as much as possible, be direct and straightforward
- Be vulnerable with yourself – admit when you’re feeling scared, lonely, ugly, or ashamed; this will help you to be vulnerable with other people
The truth is that most people can sense when another person is being fake, cheesy, phony, pretentious, or disingenuous. By being your true self, you will inspire others to be true to themselves as well. You’ll also make people feel more comfortable around you, which is, of course, secondary to your own experience of being more free and comfortable with simply being you! Finally, you’ll also be able to connect much more deeply with people and form more satisfying relationships.
I hope that these suggestions help. Remember that being your true self is a present moment practice. It’s not about pursuing some ideal self in the future. It’s about tuning into exactly who you are and how you feel in the moment and embracing all of it.
What’s 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.
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