It is important for everyone to live a life authentic to themselves, to be governed, not by what is fed to them through the media, or by parents and teachers, but the truths that lie deep within their own hearts.
For those of you who are sensitive or introverted, those who feel like misfits, your very nature a rebellion again the grain of society, it is doubly important – not only for your own sake, but humanity.
It is very common for those who do not fit in to try to change themselves in order to be accepted. We all want to feel loved. Even evolution favored those who were part of the “in-group”, which is why rejection and ostracism, even in this day-and-age, when we are less reliant on each other to survive, still cuts deep. But being accepted by not being true to yourself only hurts you, and is a false acceptance at that.
I am quite sure every “weird” person that exists today – whether their “weirdness” stemmed from a lack of sociability, a heightened sensitivity, an awkwardness, an inability to relate to mainstream society – pretended, at some point in their lives, to “fit in”. Introverts wore masks of extroversion. Sensitive people drank to dampen their nerves at stressful functions. Any unorthodox traits or opinions were kept carefully sealed behind a smiling, agreeable facade. You pretended, you faked it, and you lied, to those around you, but most of all, to yourself. Perhaps you are still doing it – and if that is the case, I urge you to have a deep conversation with yourself to assess whether the person you are portraying is who you really are, and whether the life you are living is the path you really want to be on.
For authenticity, at its core, is the key to happiness: it is the unlocking of who you are, deep down. And what’s more, like most things in life, only you possess the key. It is not difficult to be authentic, once you stop trying to be anything than what you already are; it simply comes naturally as breathing, the unfettered outward expression of your soul, of your innermost being. Children are born playful, and authentic – the shackles only begin to twine around their limbs as they grow older, until, like many adults walking about today, they are weighted with links upon links of falsehoods.
As to how you can tell whether you are being authentic, there are a few markers that serve as warning signs of inauthenticity. Fatigue, not of the mind or the body, but that of the soul, the kind that sinks deep into your bones, is one. That tiredness comes from playing a part, acting a role removed from your true character. If waking up in the morning is a chore, and the imminent day ahead of you a burden, then it is time to re-evaluate your life, and see what you need to do act and live from a place of truth again.
Another sign is if you would, perhaps prompted after several glasses of wine, admit that you do not particularly like the people who exist in your life. When we are inauthentic ourselves, we also spend time around people who are also not compatible with us. Negative energy lures in more negative energy. If there is anyone whose company you feel uncomfortable in, who you do not like spending time with, it is time to be merciless, and cut them out of your life – they are not contributing to your goal of authenticity.
But the easiest way to judge whether anything you are doing or any way you are acting is inauthentic is to simply ask yourself the question: Do I like doing this? Authenticity, above all, makes you happy, so if anything feels unpleasant or plain “wrong” to do, such as waking up early to go to job that, frankly, bores you to bits, or listening to that friend of yours twitter on about nonsense you have no interest in, and never will, then that thing is inauthentic. It is about trusting your gut, and your intuition: children very easily know when something is unpleasant (school, for instance, is inauthentic place to be for many young humans) but as you grow older, excuses accrete, covering up the intuitive “wrongness” of something – something is a “duty” or “right” or “for the best”. But remember, these are only excuses, blinding you from the single truth that matters: That you owe nothing to nobody on this planet except to live a life true to yourself.
And when you do, the world will open for you. Following authenticity and doing what feels good to you is often rewarded by the universe, whether it be opportunities that come your way, people who change your outlook on life, or an increase in creativity. These nudges are not entirely painless – some are more like sharp digs in the ribs – but they are necessary to align you with your new path. Old beliefs, patterns and beliefs need to be shed to make way for the new.
Make no mistake: being authentic does not mean everything magically becomes easy in your life. You’ll still have your fair share of hard work, heartache, and struggle – if nothing else, I can guarantee you that. Just because something is painful or hard does not mean it is inauthentic; you have to look at the bigger picture, and see the larger reason behind the pain that make the difficulties worth fighting through. When you do things that you enjoy and are in alignment with your inner purpose, at the end of the day, even if you are exhausted and have shed a gallon of tears in the interim between morning and night, you will still fall asleep with contentment instead of the dissatisfied emptiness that comes from inauthentic living.
That kind of peace is worth more than all the riches and prestige in the world. It has been my opinion for many years that much of the world’s suffering has been the result of people living inauthentically. Tragedies like wars and oppression and inequality, or even the daily 9-5 highly unproductive grind, are all the result of human beings working from the mind, which is easily programmed (for instance, to chase money and power instead of contentment, and be greedy and selfish instead of loving), rather than the heart, which always knows the truth.
By living authentically, you are, in essence, not only helping yourself, but contributing to the greater good of society. You are unique; there will only ever be one of you, throughout time and history and space (disregarding parallel universes, of course); and therefore, as a unique expression of our universe, you should be you, not something manufactured and molded by what exists around you. Who knows how many inventions, discoveries, great works of art, how much Good, has been stifled by people living inauthentically.
At its heart, living an authentic life is simple: Listen to your heart, to what it is telling you that it wants to do, what would make it happy, and find life a joy rather than a burden – and then go do it. One caveat though: If your heart is telling that what would make you the most happy is to be rich, and beautiful, with a thousand ready pleasures at your fingertips, think again. Living authentically does make you happy, yes; but it is only authentic if it has a greater purpose, and if it benefits the lives of others, too. Only when you are aiding mankind, making connections with and helping people, and happy doing so, will you be living an authentic life, and be truly happy.