Take it from someone who writes for a living: putting together a piece on authenticity is extremely difficult if you are the kind of person who thinks in black-and-white terms. Despite the cultural push to be more authentic in our daily lives, few people can actually articulate what genuine authenticity is. There is a lot of room for differing opinion.
That is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, you could make the case that differing opinions form the basis of being authentic. Your thoughts and opinions are the foundation of your authenticity. Likewise for other people. Because all our thoughts and opinions differ somewhat, our views of authenticity differ as well.
In an attempt to find clarity, you can read all sorts of articles defining what it means to be authentic. A bit of research turned up the following six things that may or may not characterize authenticity, depending on your particular definition:
1. Remaining True to Values and Beliefs
If there is one core characteristic shared by most definitions of authenticity, it would be this: remaining true to your values and beliefs when making decisions. That makes sense. Our values and beliefs make up the core of who we are from a mental and emotional standpoint. The most difficult part of authenticity in this regard is remaining true to them when they lead to decisions that run counter to societal norms.
2. Honestly Expressing Opinions
Next, truly authentic people apparently express their opinions in an honest and open way. They are not afraid to share what they really think. However, there is a fine line between honest expression and sticking one’s nose in where it doesn’t belong. A willingness to honestly express one’s opinion doesn’t mean that doing so is always the best course of action.
3. A Willingness to Be Vulnerable
Vulnerability and authenticity seem to go hand-in-hand for some people. A willingness to be vulnerable is important enough that it is first on a list of authentic character traits found on the back of a very popular LatinX T-shirt from the boutique Plurawl brand. Plurawl designers have even gone so far as to promote ‘intentional’ vulnerability rather than just plain vulnerability itself.
4. Following the Inner Voice
What some people call the ‘inner voice’ is actually the conscience. It stands to reason that following one’s conscience is an important aspect of being authentic. After all, a person’s conscience tends to be the most powerful guide in determining how life should be lived.
5. Setting and Honoring Boundaries
Many definitions of authenticity include the concept of setting boundaries and then honoring them. A big part of honoring them is walking away from situations you consider toxic. If it is not good for you, avoid it. If it crosses your boundaries, do not go anywhere near it.
6. Pursuing One’s Passions
Last but not least is pursuing your passions. Whatever it is that gets your heart racing and your mind working is worth pursuing. At least that is the thinking. Truly authentic people tend to make whatever they are most passionate about the centerpiece of their lives.
Of course, all six things listed here are open to interpretation. You may identify with all of them. They may all be included in your definition of authenticity. Then again, your definition may be completely different. Who is to say who’s wrong and who’s right?
If you are striving to be more authentic, only you can define what it means for you. Letting someone else define it violates the whole concept of authenticity and makes it moot.