What does it mean to be authentic?
A few days ago, Ontario police charged three separate criminal rings for forging fake Norval Morrisseau paintings worth tens of millions of dollars. They described the forgeries as an “assembly-line” producing thousands of fakes, so many they don’t know for sure how many are currently in circulation.
You’re left with a fundamental question: which ones are phony and which ones are real?
Phony vs. Real
People long for authenticity. They want to show their real selves instead of hiding behind phony images they’ve crafted to protect themselves for fear of rejection, offending, or not fitting in.
Phoniness – or inauthenticity – also comes from people pleasing. Hard-wired people pleasers struggle with being authentic because of a lifetime spent moulding themselves around people and circumstances.
One day, you wake up and ask yourself, Where do you end and I begin? Because your identity is not clear. Your malleability has led you to this moment. While it was a gift at an earlier stage in life that let you cope in many situations, now it’s a hindrance. It prevents you from revealing who you really are.
Of course, a lot comes down to boundaries. Many people have weak or porous boundaries. What I’ve learned is no one has power over me unless I give it to them.
When I give away my power, freely and of my own accord, because of my own disordered boundaries, I can’t turn around and call myself the victim. It’s my responsibility to build appropriate boundaries.
Within my borders, I can get clear on who I am, represented by my values. That’s the first step to an authentic life, gaining clarity with myself.
Authenticity is Powerful
Being authentic translates to sharing your thoughts, opinions, and heart-felt convictions appropriately. It’s not about oversharing but a willingness to share “scars not wounds,” something I heard Aprille Franks describe brilliantly in a podcast last year.
It means expressing your vulnerability from a place of empowerment, where you encourage people to get to the other side through your words and actions, because you’ve done it. You’ve got the scars to prove it.
Vulnerability Leads to Connection
The longing you feel to show your authentic self is Spirit pulling you in the direction you need to go. It’s a process of revealing not becoming. When you’re authentic, you reveal who you are. You don’t need to become someone else as a protective mechanism.
It takes courage to be authentic. Vulnerability seems scary. You want to protect yourself at all costs from being hurt. Yet the price of protecting yourself is isolation from your inner self and the people around you. And humans are called primarily to be in union – connected – to one another.
Authenticity means feeling comfortable in your own skin. You experience congruence inside and out. You communicate how you feel instead of blocking it.
Keep in mind, authenticity isn’t just sharing hard stuff. Often that’s where the mind goes when this topic comes up. It is also about sharing joys and successes. Shining your light not dimming it.
Marianne Williamson says it beautifully in her prayer, Our Deepest Fear.
… We are all meant to shine,
As children do.
We were born to make manifest
The glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us;
It’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people
Permission to do the same …
Header Photo by Norval Morrisseau, Shaman, serigraph print, late 1970s