I find that people have a hard time with authentic living and being their true selves. We rush to hide behind political or social group labels. Our social media accounts are curated to appear exactly the way we want them to. We change aspects of ourselves to “fit in”. And we spend endless amounts of wasted energy worrying about what other people think about us, hoping we’ve said or done the right thing. Trust me – I am guilty of all of these things. We see it in young kids too as their social dynamics develop. They want to form clubs and groups. They feel the need to have the latest toy or gadget in order to stay cool. And on some level, it’s totally ok. Biologically, there’s a reason why we want to make sure we’ll stay a part of the group, a part of the herd. We are social animals. Our animal instincts tell us that if we upset the pack, they might not share their food with us. That would be bad. But this instinct to fit in can be taken way too far.
Braving the Wilderness
I recently read Brene Brown’s book Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone. This got me thinking about authenticity and being willing to be your true self, aka “braving the wilderness”. I’ve been so intrigued by this book that even after I finished reading it, I downloaded the audiobook so I can listen to it during my commute.
Brown argues that “true belonging” is not the same thing as “fitting in”. True belonging means that you belong to yourself first and foremost. When you aim to just fit in with the crowd, you inevitably have to change parts of yourself and thus, lose your authenticity. What happens then? You may have tons of friends and are busy every weekend, but you’re actually more lonely. You’ve lost a part of yourself. This breeds resentment, sadness, discomfort, and a host of other yucky feelings. No wonder our society is filled with people who have mental health issues, who want to harm and hurt others. We’re too busy just trying to fit in and not living authentically.
What does “authentic living” mean to me? It means sharing what is true for you, as is appropriate of course. I am not advocating sharing certain personal details about yourself with each person you meet. Authentic living means listening to your gut and trusting that your gut feelings are there to help you. It means being ok with disagreeing with someone, or heaven forbid, being ok with having someone dislike you. It means being vulnerable with others, which I believe ultimately makes you a more empowered person.
Maybe you already do live in a very authentic manner. I believe there are plenty of people out there living authentic lives. I applaud you and I hope to engage with more people like you in my life. It’s not easy and you are brave.
I am writing about the topic of authenticity not because I’m one of those people who lives a perfectly authentic life and want to share my wisdom with you. I am writing about this topic because I want to do better. The desire to live more authentically is part of the reason why I started this blog. I want to put myself out there (as daunting as that can be at times) and put something out there into the world that is entirely of my own creation.
How can you be living more authentically?