Our practice of inauthenticity began when we were children. We learned from adults, teachers, parents to behave a certain way at certain times, many times despite how we truly feel, or else be punished and shamed. In adolescence, we did what we could to fit in and find belonging. We may have even done things we were certainly not proud of. Even now, years and experiences later, we all shape-shift and deviate from our most authentic selves. Many of us may still not even know who our most authentic selves are, let alone recognize when we try so hard to be something we are not. Some lives seem so perfect on the outside, but are falling apart from within. In the age of social media, it is SO easy to be inauthentic, SO easy to put on a face that truly doesn't belong to us, and why? Mostly because we cannot accept our true selves, what our life is really like, and who we really are.
Authenticity equates to the ability to be vulnerable, real, raw and open. Can we be authentic all the time? Maybe not, but we at least we can be mindful of when we aren't and why. I believe myself to be authentic, but I realize there are many opportunities when I give in to inauthenticity. There are patterns that creep up, usually driven by fear and insecurity, and one small decision to protect myself turns into a new mask. We have to learn one way or another through our mistakes, through our anger, inauthenticity and regrets. But this only works if we can recognize when we are being inauthentic. Then we can name it, and really see what’s causing us stress, and what's causing us to compromise our own values to be something we are not.
5 Telltale Signs of Inauthenticity:
Anger. Resentment. Irritability. Judgment of self or others. Are you carrying any of these? Does it exist beneath your skin while you put on a happy face wherever you go and tell people you are “fine”? Anger is a real emotion, worthy of our attention, worthy of our time. It could take a long time to dig at the true causes of our anger, or the true cause of why we judge ourselves or others so harshly, but acknowledging it is the first step towards authenticity. The next time someone asks you how you are doing? Tell them the truth. You don’t have to tell them the whole story, but be real about where you are.
Resistance or Dread. Are you resistant to doing something, seeing someone, saying something. Recognize the resistance and ask why. Are you saying “yes” when you really mean “no?” What will happen if you say “no”? Being inauthentic means forcing ourselves to do things we don’t really want to do, not to be confused with doing things we know we have to do (like working or cleaning). However, if we look a little closer, resistance to going to a job we hate is another form of inauthenticity. We all have times when we do things as a means to an end, but are you being honest about it? Are you pretending you love what you do? You don’t need to love what you do to survive, as long as you own your authentic self. This also goes with relationships. Are you hanging on to one that you know is not healthy or good for you? Why?
Needing validation. Inauthenticity can point to insecurity and lacking confidence (and vice versa). We utilize people-pleasing or “flexing” to be liked, needed, noticed, or to feel worthy. Are you obsessing on Facebook or Instagram, or any other social media about how many likes you are getting or not getting? Are you waiting for someone to text you, notice you, invite you? Do you do things because you have fear of missing out (FOMO)? Are you telling people what they want to hear, or telling little white lies about yourself? When we are feeling fully present and authentic, we just don’t need to do any of these things, and we don’t care about “likes” and what people think. It doesn't mean we can't post something we feel good about, but pay attention to your intention behind it. Are you posting to boost your ego, are you posting for attention, do you feel utterly upset or depressed when you don't get the likes you want? Attachment to the outcome is a good sign we might be compromising our authenticity for ego.
Can’t make decisions. If you know who you are, making decisions is easier. Indecisiveness, constantly changing your mind for fear of making the wrong decision, asking everyone else what they think...these are potential signs of struggling with authenticity. If you are clear and aware of what you like or dislike, there won’t be much hesitation, even with the tough choices. Lacking the ability to make clear decisions is a sign of not trusting ourselves, and not trusting ourselves is a good sign of inauthenticity. If you feel indecisive, ask what the fear is. Are you compromising to please someone else? If you truly can’t make up your mind about something, take a deep breath, clear your mind, and listen for the clear choice.
Inability to accept what is, complaining and numbing out. Are you a complainer? Perfectionist? Consistently disappointed and dissatisfied? Chances are you might be a control freak and have much anger (see #1). If we are in a constant state of dissatisfaction, if we are constantly complaining, we are not accepting how things are, and authentic gratitude is out of reach. If we have voices telling ourselves we aren’t good enough, thin enough, smart enough, fast enough, successful enough, rich enough, kind enough, grateful enough and we just aren’t enough enough enough, chances are, we are not being authentic to who we really are.
This kind of personal and life dissatisfaction often reveals itself in escapism, numbing out, avoidance-- we eat too much, drink too much, spend too much, we use substances, TV, our smart phones, sex, whatever to distract and avoid the raw and the real of who, what and where we really are. We then judge ourselves for these things we do and the negative cycle continues – more anger, more dissatisfaction, more resentment, more judgement.
Authentic happiness and gratitude come with authentic acceptance. Knowing we cannot fix everything, do everything, be everything and being truly okay with all of it, including loss, grief, death, this perhaps is our toughest challenge, one that we work on daily. The closer we are to truly knowing ourselves, the better we get in finding the tools and modalities that help us achieve authenticity, acceptance, and true happiness.