How to protect your authenticity
To be honest with you, I never got the hype about the importance of authenticity. That is, until I lost a big part of mine. You only know you love it when you let it go. So, a few months ago, I went on a journey to get it back and I’d like to tell you more about it. What is authenticity? Why is it so valuable? How does authenticity provide your with a sense of security? And most importantly I’d like to tell you how to protect your authenticity.
It’s important to note this is not a post about ‘how not to be fake’, because I believe people generally act fake either to gain something (fame, popularity) or to protect themselves when they believe their own self will be attacked. This post is for people who lost their authenticity or are scared of losing it and that want to get it back, even if that may mean some people won’t agree with your choices.
How do you define authenticity?
Your authenticity is basically what makes you ‘you’. It’s your uniqueness, the purest form of who you are. It’s what drives you, makes you get up in the morning, but also the weird quirks you might have and your pet peeves. The Cambridge dictionary definition is: ‘the quality of being real or true’.
Now when you define authenticity like this, it’s almost silly to ask why it’s important, of course it is! In my eyes though, authenticity was basically a given. Yes, it took some balls to speak up after being bullied and yes, I sometimes measure my words carefully. However, I never did things or agreed to things that I didn’t like and I was relatively insensitive to group pressure. I was pretty unapologetically me when I was young. If being me made me lonely, it was fine because the alternative always seemed like an impossible standard to uphold.
The importance of being your true self
I won’t dive too deep into what made me lose part of my authenticity, but the main idea was that I felt like I had to quiet down parts of myself in order to be with someone I loved. So slowly, my opinions became more quiet, my hobbies faded into nothing and I even started questioning my own choices and personality. It came to a point where I would get anxious buying foods and drinks for others, because I was scared of buying the wrong things. I stopped singing and dancing, even though I sang and danced ever since I was a toddler, because I felt it wasn’t okay to do so or that it would be criticised.
This made me a shadow of the girl I used to be. The girl who’s eyes sparkled when she sang, the girl who could debate like no one else, she slowly disappeared without me even noticing. This made me tired, frustrated and angry without knowing what I was angry at. I couldn’t release my stress anymore, since all my hobbies were gone and I couldn’t revive or get inspired again because of it as well. This, in turn, made me often too tired to see dear friends or to focus on things like school and work, because I was way too distracted with being ‘good enough’.
And, to be honest; I wasn’t good enough, never. Because you can never be good enough if you are not you. We need you, not someone else or a vague shadow of you. You don’t drink soda mixed with litres of extra water, you want the full experience! Therefore, people also need you in all your colours. You can’t be happy living half a life and you won’t bring much happiness to others that way either. This is why authenticity is so important.
Finding your authentic self back
When I separated myself from the situation I was in, I felt confused. It’s hard to make choices for yourself if you forgot who you are and the world seems like a scary place. However, I had nothing to fall back on. Although I have amazing friends and even more amazing parents, they wouldn’t tell me what to do, because that’s not what people should do in a healthy relationship. They can give their advice (and they did), but eventually you have to decide how to continue.
So slowly, I started to make small personal decisions again, like what foods I liked to eat and what music I wanted to play. Then, I started actively giving my opinions again in conversations and for instance giving suggestions on what restaurants I liked. I chose birthday cards and snacks and drinks without extensively debating and discussing it with others first. These steps may seem tiny, but when you lost your authenticity, they can feel like huge steps. Actively doing this helps to build confidence to make bigger choices later, like wearing that outfit that’s more out there or becoming friends with people you wouldn’t usually mingle with.
Finding your authenticity back if you’ve lost it is hard, but definitely possible. Take it one step at the time and try to follow your gut every once in a while. Once you see you don’t get into trouble by doing that, you’ll start to like and trust your own opinions again. Push yourself a little bit out of your comfort zone or explore what actually makes you happy, relaxed or inspired. Try new things or pick up old ones and see where they bring you.
The keys to protecting your authenticity
Some situations may be a danger to your authenticity. The (perceived or expected) opinions of others, the harsh voice in your own head, your community, being too busy to actively be you, and more. Here’s how to protect it as much as you can:
- Make a list of what excites, relaxes or inspires you. What hobbies light a fire in your eyes? What music gets you going? Hold onto that and actively make time for it. Having friends with those same interests can help you also. They’ll remember you about who you are and they’ll ask for you when you’re not around. Maybe even plan special evenings or days to do things like this, so you prioritise it.
- Create a safe environment to be yourself in, even if that environment is you alone at home. You deserve a place to wind down! Although I hope that you’ll get to a point where you can be you everywhere, start small. Build it from there. It’s also great if this space is with other people, as long as you know you can absolutely be yourself with them. This sense of security from authenticity will grow over time.
- Remember, repeat, write down and never forget: someone who wants you to be less you, more you or a different you, does not love you. Someone who forces you to stay quiet and who drags you away from the things you love because of bs reasons like ‘it takes up too much of your time’ or ‘it’s weird’ or ‘you’re terrible at it’, does not care about your happiness and they do not deserve to be a part of your life. People who are doing and saying things to you like this are emotionally abusing you and that is never okay. They are not good enough for you and if you can: lose them. You will be better off for it.
- Think about the people you love and care about. Why are they so special to you? I bet that it’s not because they’re like everyone else. It’s because their amazing sense of humor, their endless kindness or their way of powering through life. It’s what makes them unique that makes you so attracted to them, so why wouldn’t that be true for you? The people that love you, love you because of your uniqueness, so let your authentic self shine! Yes, it is scary. However, it is way less scary than you think and it’s even less scary than imagining going through the rest of your life with only 50% or less of yourself.
- Take your time. It’s a long way to learn about yourself and find yourself. It’s an even longer way to start living according to those findings. Don’t rush things. Rushing only makes you more vulnerable to use heuristics and biases which is not the way you make authentic decisions. Also, making authentic decisions can be scary, because they reveal your true personality. That’s okay, so don’t overwhelm yourself and start small. You will get there and it will be worth it!
- Your authentic self does not have to be flashy and shiny. I think we live in a time and place where the authentic self is more and more celebrated, which is amazing. However, this celebration tends to attract and therefore show a lot of extraverted people with often quite ‘out there’ styles and personalities. This is great for them, but it might give you a wrong idea of how your authentic self is supposed to look like. It’s not supposed to look like anything other than you. So, if you’re not this super colourful, flashy, out-there person, that’s okay, great even! If you’re authentic self loves to curl up in a big grey sweater, reading a book in between some houseplants, perfect! Do you love reading books on a beach in bikini and then discuss it with a big group? Also great! If you hate books, that’s absolutely fine, don’t read them!
- Set goals and a vision. Why is authenticity important to you? What do you want to achieve with it? Can you set some tangible goals tied to that vision? An example can be: I want to feel comfortable wearing … or putting … on my profile as a hobby without feeling weird about it. A good goal can also be to be able to have a clear, honest and complete way of introducing yourself to someone. So try the exercise, how would you describe you to you? And if any of the you’s change into another name, would you change the description to seem more likeable or acceptable?
I can understand that this is a lot, it really is. However, you are a lot to write about as well, so that might explain it! I hope you found this post helpful. What does authenticity mean to you and how do you protect it? What do you need to protect your authentic self from? Let me know in the comments below! If you want more content like this, please subscribe and get my free e-book to help you save money for these amazing books. You can also find me on Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter, so you’ll never have to miss a new post.
Lots of love,
LisaHome » Mind »