Authenticity currently seems to be THE topic in the world of personality development and spiritual growth. Wherever you go, you hear or read “Just be authentic” everywhere. And yes, it is highly needed that we all become more true to ourselves, that we show more of how we actually feel and think. But like everything else, authenticity has a shadow side. It can become a trap if we are not aware of it. And this is why:
What does being authentic actually mean?
Being authentic means being real. Instead of showing everyone our happy face 24/7, it’s about expressing how we truly think and feel in each situation. In a society where everything is about success, image and the pursuit of happiness, this is a major and much-needed paradigm shift. Authenticity allows us to finally build real and deep connections instead of interacting with a mask. Only if we know the truth of someone else can we meet them where they are – and vice versa.
It might be a little challenging at first to show yourself with your insecurities and fears and to be open with feelings that are less accepted socially, like envy or anger. But you don’t have to rush and you can and should start with people you think are trustworthy and loving enough to hold space for that. I have experienced many situations in which I or someone else has opened up about their feelings and the other’s response was a relief and “I feel the same!” When we are more authentic, we allow others to be more open, too. And the connection to them can deepen naturally.
What’s your truth?
The key to understanding authenticity is that we can only be as authentic as we are conscious of our own truth. We all have different aspects of our personality and are not aware of all these aspects. And these aspects can hold very different perspectives, especially those that are unconscious and therefore not fully integrated into our everyday personality. So if you perceive contradictory signs from someone, it does not necessarily mean that they are lying to you. They may simply not be aware that there is an underlying inner conflict. If you want to follow the path of authenticity, I strongly recommend that you surround yourself with people who are on a similar level of awareness and who also want deep, authentic relationships.
I see several traps we could fall into when we are on the path to authenticity. Most relevant is the use of “authenticity” as an excuse to act out our shadows. So rather than being open and vulnerable about how someone feels deep inside, they would cover these sensitive emotions with what appears to make them feel better. Like someone who acts out their anger in the name of authenticity, when what they feel deep down is actually powerlessness. And both of these perspectives are true – anger and powerlessness. So authenticity is about admitting both, not just the one that puts us in a better position. Only when we connect with these vulnerable aspects can we integrate and heal them. And only when we reveal them to others do we create the opportunity for a deeper connection.
It is absolutely crucial what the intention behind our authentic expression is. There is a big difference between authentic sharing and complaining! When we use authenticity to validate our suffering and to collect pity, we actually only reinforce victimhood. Empowered authenticity admits how we feel deep inside – sad, insecure, desperate, powerless… – and then takes responsibility and moves towards healing.
As I have already mentioned, we can only be as authentic as we know ourselves. And this applies not only to the “negative” suppressed aspects but also to our potential, the expression of the greatest version of ourselves. If we only ever stay true to our current self, we are actually missing out on something. Because who we want to be, our calling, the expression of our higher Self, is just as authentically us. Our authentic self is not only the small self that we have learned to become, but also the greatest version that we know to be deep within ourselves. We are so much more than that – because we are it all at once.
The path of authenticity is also a path of integration – integration of the vulnerable aspects and the empowered ones, the aspects that have been shamed and those who have been praised, the shadow aspects, and our higher Self. The more integrated we become the more authentic we can be. And the more we can be truly seen by others and connect to them from heart to heart.