Personal authenticity is a lifestyle decision that involves self-knowledge, moral integrity, and a commitment to maintaining one’s individual identity and values.
In our image obsessed society, it can be difficult to find people who are authentically themselves. This is made more complex by the fact that authenticity isn’t black-and-white. It’s a personality trait, like empathy, spirituality, or open-mindedness, that must be created and consciously maintained throughout one’s lifetime. Truly, some of the people who seem most authentic at first glance are only most skilled at faking it. This is one of the great tragedies of our culture. As Vironika Tugaleva put it, “You’ll never know who you are unless you shed who you pretend to be.”
Here are five traits that authentic people cultivate with intention:
– The better we know and love our authentic selves, the less inclined we become to pass judgement on others. In fact, most of our condemnation is rooted in our own failures and insecurities. The more compassion we develop for our own flaws, the easier it becomes to accept the faults of others. After all, if you were happy with yourself, why would you want to bring other people down? As John Mark Green wrote, “The self-righteous scream judgments against others to hide the noise of skeletons dancing in their own closets.”
– An authentic person will always choose to live by their values – even when the decision to do so is controversial or unpopular. Often, when we decide to present a false front to the world, it is because we want to avoid the criticism of others. It is easier to compromise our values than to rock the boat. However, a person who lives with authenticity would rather carry society’s disproval than their own. This is because they value their own character very deeply, and believe wholeheartedly in who they have chosen to be.
– Authentic living requires a surprising amount of personal courage. It takes a great deal of courage to take an honest look inward and discover who you truly are. It takes even more to present your most genuine self to the world. As Maya Angelou explained, “Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.” Each of the other behaviors on this list is important. However, without courage, there’s no chance of making progress in cultivating any of them.
– People who live their lives with a great deal of authenticity tend to forgive themselves and others more easily. They recognize that hurtful behaviors, mistakes, and even character flaws, are almost always unintentional. In their honesty, they are able to identify their own flaws and shortcomings. They are capable of recognizing their errors, making things right again, learning, and moving on with life. A person who practices this in their own life is more inclined to allow others the grace to do the same.
– A lack of self-reflection can be the greatest barrier to authenticity. We cannot be our most genuine selves, after all, if we have no idea who that is – and unfortunately, most of us don’t. Take time to examine your inner and outer worlds. Look to your character with honesty and compassion. What mistakes have you made lately? How did you handle them? What are the things you do that you are most proud of? This isn’t about punishing yourself for your imperfections. It’s about the decision to look at your character with kindness and a commitment to personal growth.
“Don’t let the expectations and opinions of other people affect your decisions. It’s your life, not theirs. Do what matters most to you; do what makes you feel alive and happy. Don’t let the expectations and ideas of others limit who you are. If you let others tell you who you are, you are living their reality — not yours. There is more to life than pleasing people. There is much more to life than following others’ prescribed path. There is so much more to life than what you experience right now. You need to decide who you are for yourself. Become a whole being. Adventure.” ― Roy T. Bennett
Your identity is all you truly have. Don’t give control of it to society, cultural expectations, or even your loved ones. Take charge of who you are. Own it. Embark on the adventure of discovering your true self.