‘This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.’ – William Shakespeare
We have established prior to this that being authentic means being as true to your identity as possible – but what is identity? The concept of ‘identity’ is nebulous and constantly changing, it is the unique combination of your beliefs, upbringing, experiences, actions and world view. To find your authentic self, you need to have a strong idea of what these concepts mean to you.
What do you believe? Your beliefs and your values shape how you see and interact with the world around you. To identify your beliefs, consider the following:
- What traits would you like to be remembered for?
- What do you admire most in other people?
- What do you dislike most in other people?
- What do you argue about most?
- Is there anything you would die for?
- What is something you could agree with all of your friends about?
This should give you an idea about your general belief system. For example you may have found that you value justice, friendship, equality and traditions. It is just as important to consider what you don’t believe in, it may be things like; laziness, control, arrogance etc.
Our future is a shadow that our past casts in front of us.
No one in the world has experienced your exact upbringing, no matter how ‘average’ you consider it to be. Your upbringing comprises every influence and action you have experienced up until this point. This includes; your family, schooling, social class, race, sexuality, gender, journeys, the food you have eaten, the jobs you have had – literally everything has shaped who you are. When you are true to where you have come from, you are able to speak with a completely unique voice. What is your background? Do you hide it?
Part of being authentic is consistency in your actions, as well as in your beliefs. If you believe in punctuality but are constantly late, that doesn’t reflect well on you as an authentic person. Allow your beliefs to dictate your actions, not the beliefs of others. Worry less about impressing others and more about remaining true to who you are, people come and go, but you are stuck with yourself forever.
Everything we have discussed so far plays into your worldview – what are your opinions? Consider the biggest issues that face our world today, what do you think about them?
All of these things make up your identity, to be authentic you must remain true to it. Holding your ground against society’s pressures is incredibly difficult; humans want to be accepted and will often put aside what matters to them in favour of what they perceive others to care about. True authenticity requires you to have the confidence to stand up for your beliefs and to know they are valid. It does not mean that your beliefs cannot change, if you find that something has changed your belief, then you change and adapt with it. Being authentic requires you to be at peace with who you are and even further: it asks you to stand up and be proud of it.