The Authentic Self: How To Understand  And Be Your True Self.9 min read

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I’m not always my authentic self. Many of what I say or write are stolen ideas from people who are smarter and better than me. Most folks are like me, though I think they go too far and don’t admit it. They use face apps to make themselves look like ageless dolls, or write fake profiles to attract attention. They even lie about their family status just to fit in with the cool kids. It’s sad but almost a norm now. 

But let’s be real, isn’t that how we all start out? We steal ideas from others and model our behaviour after them. Struggle with imposter syndrome before finding our own voice. 

Being authentic is challenging for many reasons such as our society, religion, or experience. So let’s first understand what it really means before we go any further.

Authentic Self: Meaning and Significance  

Although the idea of being true to yourself by actualizing and preserving your innermost desires and personality traits might be attractive, it’s not always viable in contemporary society. Uncontrollable factors, including your genetics, upbringing, and surroundings, influence your impulses and character and steers you toward a predetermined personality and fate. 

This is why a kid born in Nigeria doesn’t magically speak Mandarin, and neither do they become Monks. Their attitude, goals, dressings, and to a large extent futures are “copied and pasted” into their lives. So hardly is anyone truly authentic in this sense.

If we are not going to consider authenticity as choosing who we are, we can at least consider authenticity as being honest with ourselves. That is, being your authentic self means acting in ways that align with who you say you are. And, it starts by accepting the facts of your human condition and working from that standpoint to become whoever you believe would be best for you (and hopefully the world around you). 

Hence, communicating your thoughts, emotions, beliefs, and values is a critical step in becoming an authentic individual. But this doesn’t mean, your values should limit you. Rather, it means you should re-evaluate yourself and your values from time to time, in different circumstances and demands, while being humble enough to accept where those ideas come from. 

In other words, being authentic starts with acknowledging the default ideas and biases that have kept you alive this long.  

“I am not who you think I am; I am not who I think I am; I am who I think you think I am.”

– Charles H. Cooley

Why You Need To Be Authentic

Being authentic  can help you:

  • Understand and improve yourself:

When you’re authentic, you understand your strengths and weaknesses and work genuinely on improving yourself.

  • Building stronger relationships: 

Authenticity allows you to build deeper connections with others because they can see that you’re honest and would believe you’re genuine with them.

  • Gaining more self-confidence, respect, and fulfilment in life: 

You feel more confident in your decisions and action when you are authentic. In turn, earns you respect from others and a sense of fulfilment in life because you’re living in alignment with your values.

However, while it’s important to be true to yourself, it’s not okay to be a jerk, aggressive, or unfeeling to others. Respect what makes other people unique, even as you stay true to yourself. Remember that just because something is true for you, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right for everyone.   

“We are all different. Don’t judge, understand instead. ”

– Roy T. Bennett

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Authenticity and Values: The Interconnection

Our values are things we consider important. Living by those values can help us be more authentic, but sometimes, our values can lead us astray if we don’t question why we value certain things.

For example, valuing fast driving just to impress college girls, working out excessively to intimidate others, or going to medical school just for the title of “Dr.” may seem good on the surface, but our underlying motives may be selfish, toxic, and harmful.

Questioning your values allows you to uncover whether you’re living a lie or genuinely following what is right. 

Why do you value certain things? Is it because society tells you to, or do these values actually benefit you and other people? 

Reflecting on and understanding your values can help you avoid being an authentic jerk and show the loopholes in your beliefs

How to Be Yourself When Surrounded by Differing Opinions

Authenticity can be tricky and tough in different situations. For example; you’re a grown-ass adult who enjoys watching anime, but everyone around you thinks it’s for kids. You start feeling like a total loser for liking something that’s not “cool” or “adult-like.” Seriously, who cares what others think? If watching anime and wearing that Naruto headband brings you joy and makes you happy, then that’s all that matters.

Although, it doesn’t mean you get to act like a self-centred prick. As much as you want to stay true to your choices, also be aware of how it affects those around you. Respect others’ opinions and don’t judge them for not being into the same things as you. That’s just basic human decency.

Moreover, what you like or don’t like doesn’t define you. Human beings are made up of many things like their values, actions, relationships, experiences, and traits. And no single factor can fully capture the essence of who they are. The point is that: Authenticity is not a one-size-fits-all concept. What is authentic for one person may not be authentic for another. What is authentic today might not be tomorrow, and that’s okay.

At the end of the day, being authentic still requires serious introspection, reflection, and the bravery to challenge your own beliefs and that of others that don’t align with your values. 

“Just be what you are and speak from your guts and heart – it’s all a man has.”

– Hubert Humphrey

How You Become An Authentic Person

Being authentic is essential for your personal growth and happiness. Here are some tips to help you stay true to yourself in different situations:

Know the why of your values: 

know what you stand for, and why you stand by it. With the right reasons it can be easier to be authentic and if they are wrong it can be a step to improve. Because you will not have to keep up with pretence and heavy appearance. Also, you become fulfilled and successful on your terms. 

For instance; 

  • Learning martial arts BECAUSE you want to gain physical fitness, self-defence skills, and discipline.
  • Getting a car BECAUSE you want to get to work faster.
  • Studying medicine BECAUSE you want to save lives. 

Be aware of your triggers: 

As a human, you’re vulnerable to various external forces that can influence your thoughts and behaviour. Whether you like it or not, there will be instances when you’ll be triggered to react in certain ways.

That’s why it’s crucial to identify what sets you off and come up with a strategy to deal with it (hint: develop self-awareness). This way, you can maintain your authenticity even in tough circumstances.

Embrace vulnerability: 

Being authentic requires you to be open and honest about flaws, even when it’s hard. When you allow yourself to be vulnerable, you build deeper connections with others and create more meaningful relationships. It also helps you to grow and become stronger, like when iron sharpens iron. 

So don’t be afraid to show your ugly part and embrace vulnerability – it’s an important part of living an authentic life. 

However, being authentic doesn’t mean you need to shout out your flaws like it’s a damn parade. It’s about acknowledging them and working on yourself. Don’t use it as an excuse to be an insensitive jerk. Be real, but not stupid. Some things should be best known to you. 

Set boundaries: 

Personal boundaries and authenticity go together like Amala and Ewedu. To stay authentic you must clearly communicate who you are, what you like, and what you can and cannot tolerate. You don’t have to bend to other people’s whims nor allow their opinions to shape you. You also must accept responsibility for your own choices – for being authentic.

To do all these; you gotta have some decent self-esteem. People with high self-esteem are better at setting boundaries and sticking to them. Plus, don’t go blaming other folks for your own emotions and actions. That’s just playing the victim and it’s a recipe for disaster.

You also can’t take the blame for other people’s emotions and actions. Trying to solve all of the world’s problems is a one-way ticket to exhaustion and self-sabotage. So, define your boundaries, be clear about the consequences of crossing them, and follow through.

However, there are times when you gotta be flexible, adapt, and sacrifice for the people you love. It’s like in a romantic relationship, right? Sometimes you gotta put your own needs aside and do something special for your partner, even if it’s not exactly your cup of tea. But that’s what love is all about, baby!

“Authenticity requires a certain measure of vulnerability, transparency, and integrity.”

– Janet Louise Stephenson

Conclusion: Love Who Are, Admire Who You Might Become

Being authentic is a lifelong process. You might sometimes feel like a phoney but don’t worry, we all have those days. Making mistakes is part of the process, so don’t beat yourself up. None of us were given a manual on how to do life perfectly, we’re all just winging it. So, don’t take other people’s judgment to heart. We are all learning to become better versions of ourselves. Love and accept yourself. Keep trying, keep learning, and you’ll eventually figure it out. And if not, well, at least you’ll have some good stories to tell! 

A mindful self-help writer and photographer

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