So, I have a problem with all this authenticity shit being tossed around in the personal development world. I don’t have a problem with telling people to be authentic. That is an obvious means to happiness and satisfaction. What I have a problem with is expecting people to know what their authentic self is when, for so long, they have had to be something they were not. I know it took me a long time to decide what the authentic me would look like. I had to work on figuring it out because I was already wearing a lot of masks that were forced on me by external influences. Family. Friends. Co-workers. They all influenced me to think I had to be something I wasn’t until I actually became that. My authentic self didn’t exist because I hadn’t the time to decide what it was. God knows I wanted to be authentic, but I had to discover it, decide what the hell authentic meant to me, and then create it.
My point is this. You don’t get to just be authentic because you choose to be or because some new age hippy wisdom says you should be. It doesn’t work that way for most of us and we are looking to build a different kind of mojo here. One that we get to create. So how do we find out our authenticity and keep it among all the other people that are trying to force us to be something we are not? Well, it takes effort and some heavy, repetitive mental lifting. It also takes some brutal fucking honesty and sincerity but it matters, because the only way you are going to find your mojo is if you figure out who the hell you are and what you are trying to accomplish in this world.
So what do you need to do to find your authenticity?
Get really honest about what your core values are and be brutally committed to them.
The hardest thing to do is admit that you do a bunch of shit that doesn’t serve you and often goes against your core values. It makes you feel guilty and sad and sends you further away from what you are trying to accomplish. Are these negative things we do part of our authentic self? No. These are the coping mechanisms we put in place because we couldn’t defend our authentic selves when we were growing up. We all have a set of core values that drive our lives. Things that, when we live by them, fill us with mojo. You do something that really agrees with a core value, especially when it is a hard to do thing, you feel stronger. Core values are the building blocks of authenticity and they are our implicit claims to what we value in others of the world. They are not the only things we value, and we do not have to value what someone else does, but we need to figure out what values truly move us. If you don’t know what your core values are or don’t know where to start then go here. After you figure out your core values you need to commit to them fully and decide how they can be amplified in your life. This means making time for them by any means necessary. You value intelligence? Make time to read. Etch it into stone and know that it’s just something you do now, no matter what. Like blinking and breathing. You value health? Then shop better, eat better and exercise better. In stone. Never changes. Is that hard? Is that easier said than done? Why? Because that’s just not you? Because you need to take it slow and ease into it? You don’t even know who the hell you are so you don’t know what you are capable of! Listen. You just wrote out the things you value most in this world and I bet my life that you want to fully embody those things because you know they will change your entire life for the better. Well, if you want it that bad, then write it in stone and be that value no matter what it costs. As German philosopher Nietzsche has pointed out, and psychological studies about the short and long term happiness levels in parents versus non parents has reinforced, we do not always pursue the path to lasting satisfaction directly, sometimes we take a harder path and embrace the struggles of that path, because we know it has something of greater value to offer us at the end. We defer our smaller fleeting pleasures in order to grasp the grander prizes that we deserve. Finding and maintaining your authenticity will be a struggle, but it’s worth the effort.
Forget who you are right now.
Yes. You need to forget what you are shaped into. You have been melted down into a hunk of malleable material that can be reshaped into what you should have been. You can’t dwell on the shape you used to be. You just need to focus on doggedly pursuing your values, because that pursuit will form you into what you should truly be. There is a quote by Aristotle that goes;
The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.
That is the goal. Do not spend any energy focused on all the crap of your past. Conserve your energy to spend on the change itself. You knew what you were. You lived it. It doesn’t matter though now because you are not going in that direction anywhere. You are going to where you should be. You know where you should be going now because you decided on your core values and everything points in that direction if you want to find your authenticity. So forget everything about who you used to be.
Find and emulate someone who you think embodies your core values.
Sometimes pretending we are something we are not is exactly how we get to be who we want to be. Sounds ridiculous, but hear me out. I am not saying lie or deceive people about frivolous or big things. I am not saying lie to yourself about the effort that will be involved in all this. What I am saying is, how do you learn how to do things quickly and efficiently that you might have never done before? You watch someone else do it and you copy them! If I am not trusting of people, I can pretend that I am by acting in a way that shows trust based on an example of someone who is very trusting. The fact is, the actions I commit to define who I am and what I think. Now, my thinking might require some time to catch up to what I actually, authentically, believe about myself, but acting in a way that is compatible with my values will build up the stores of confidence in me that I am becoming authentic because I am acting like the person that I want to be. The first step in this is emulating the actions of someone else that embodies our core values. We emulate them until our thinking is able to catch up with our actions and we are not just acting in accordance with our core values, we are living in accordance with them! So read about people you look up to. Biographies are perfect because they are usually the idealization of someone and this gives us the opportunity to copy the extremes of our core values. Another great option is to find a mentor or coach that embodies the values you espouse. They can hold you accountable and give you guidance when you waver. Whatever you need to do, find someone who can be the compass to which you set your ship until you become someone else’s compass.
And that’s that. Authenticity is a struggle. It is not a childlike discovery of wonder. It takes some hard work to peel back all those layers and get committed to who you are. It will take time and it will take effort, but when you are done, you will have the start of some serious mojo. Now go do the work.