The internet has changed things.
It has destroyed barriers to communication, work, and access to information.
Anyone can share their thoughts regardless of geography or demographics. We communicate freely with people from different countries and timezones. And nobody holds the exclusive rights to information.
But this information has turned into a deluge.
We’re surrounded by experts, influencers, and thought leaders who display their lifestyles and successes online. They say we can achieve what they’ve achieved. All we have to do is pay them our attention and money.
This deluge has brought its share of doubt in us. Whom should we trust? Do we agree with their methods? Will they bring us results? Are they authentic?
Hell, is God authentic anymore?
More importantly, do we even know what authenticity means?
What Does Authenticity Mean?
For physical goods, “authentic” means genuine. Parts, equipment, art, and so on. One can quickly tell whether they’re genuine or fake.
But for human beings, things aren’t binary. We don’t get a checklist to gauge whether someone is genuine or fake. Many times, we’re not sure whether we ourselves are genuine or fake in a situation.
Being authentic means to behave predictably regardless of circumstances, to let intent drive action even if it means swimming against the tide, and to be trusted for what we say AND do.
Being authentic beings with self-love. It demands that we accept our vulnerabilities and idiosyncrasies, rip off the mask that turns us into whom we try to impersonate and instead, discover who we really are.
The never-ending journey for authenticity is not easy. There is no 3-step process like taking a copy from the office machine. Authenticity is like a recipe — the taste differs by person even when the ingredients are the same.
Here are 5 ingredients for living an authentic life.
“The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple.” — Albert Einstein
Simple is not easy. While one can achieve easy without effort, simple means something uncomplicated and easily understood, and achieving it demands effort.
You cannot lead a simple life by doing many things, giving into FOMO, and paying attention to what others do.
Focus on what makes you happy in the long run and on how you’ll pursue it. Before taking action, ask yourself why you want to do it. If the reason is simple, go ahead. If it’s not, pause.
This feeling of being control of their actions is why authentic people are happy.
“If you talk about something that’s not in your experience, you’re just a liar.” — Sadhguru
Action frightens us. It creates a void that pushes us outside our comfort zone. Just the thought of the void is enough to strike fear in our hearts.
This is why many people take the easier way out. They peddle others’ words as their own. Or they halfheartedly try something, fail (duh!), and spend all their time talking about why they failed and how artist’s block, anxiety, and everything that stops us from taking action, is “real”.
But action is the only real thing.
Face the void and work despite fear. You will create something beautiful which ignites confidence in you… something that no teacher, course, or mentor can ignite.
Action eliminates your desire to talk about yourself. As Ryan Holiday wrote, “The only relation between work and chatter is that one kills the other.”
This is why authentic people choose to work in silence.
“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” — Marcus Aurelius
There are three ways to gaze at the world: drishti, divya drishti, and darshan.
Drishti is seeing what’s tangible.
Divya drishti is the ability to see the intangible (like the underlying thoughts and feelings behind actions).
Darshan is when we get a glimpse of who we are while gazing outward.
The more you work, the more you learn not just about the task but about yourself as well. This darshan is your best teacher on the path to authenticity. It shapes the beliefs and values that form the foundation of your life.
Most people behave differently in different circumstances because they’re unsure of their own values. So they use others’ validation as their North Star.
Let an internal scorecard drive you. Stick to your principles even in tough situations because you know that you can count on them. Let the values that emerge from your actions and learnings forge your character.
Values are the reason authentic people rarely show a gap between their words and actions.
“There is no right or wrong, only actions and consequences.” — Bhagavad Gita
Many people love to think of themselves as authentic because they do what they want. But when the results don’t turn out as expected, they complain about how unfair the world is.
If only their parents had been richer, if only their ex hadn’t dumped them, if only their team hadn’t screwed up…
The main cause of sorrow in the world is that we pay too much attention to what we cannot control and barely any attention to what we can.
You can only control your perceptions, actions, and willpower. Accepting the consequences for your actions is as important as the action itself. Even when the outcomes seem unfair, accept them for what they are rather than what you want them to be.
The ability to take responsibility for their actions is why authentic people don’t claim that they deserve something. (That’s entitlement, really.)
“I don’t divide the world into the weak and the strong, or the successes and the failures, those who make it or those who don’t. I divide the world into learners and non-learners.” — Benjamin R. Barber
It’s exhausting to hear people call themselves experts because they achieved a new (equally low) personal milestone, or got lucky at something and mistook that luck for expertise.
No one is an expert today regardless of their knowledge or the number of years spent in the field because the world keeps evolving and we all must evolve to keep up. We must remain curious all our lives if we want to thrive.
Be fluid enough to tweak your values if someone can convince you. It’s okay to say “I don’t know” to things you don’t fully understand. Don’t cling to rigid beliefs like they’re life jackets on a sinking ship because those beliefs ARE the sinking ship.
Learn and grow, and never stop trying to be qualified at what you do.
Expecting someone to tell you how to be authentic is like transplanting the engine of a Japanese car into a German one. The car will work, but it just won’t be the same.
The ingredients mentioned above apply to everyone. But how you embark on the journey to self-discovery belongs only to you.
Authenticity is not about being better than others, but being better than you were yesterday. You’re better at being you than at being anyone else.
The world needs you, the uniqueness you present, the value you bring to the table. Don’t waste your life living a lie. Spend it being true to yourself, even if the truth is bitter.
What does being authentic mean to you?