“He tried to keep on the right side of power, tried to be loyal to so many things that he himself couldn’t tell which one of his selves was the authentic, if any.”
– Kiran Desai, The Inheritance of Loss
Authenticity can be a meaningless cliché.
Out of my list of resolutions, Be Authentic is probably the one that most seems like I’m regurgitating a typical self-help phrase.
For something supposedly about being real and genuine, the phrase often feels more precocious than a representation of reality.
I’ve often associated authenticity with identity. It's about who we are and what we stand for. About letting the real you shine through. To live your life authentically, you stay true to yourself.
But who I am has changed dramatically over the years.
Sure I was once a red-haired, lip pierced girl. But I don’t mean that I have just changed physically. My likes, my values and my beliefs have changed too.
This is natural. Not so long ago I was still a teenager, and that’s a decade of change right there. Struggling to fit-in in school doesn’t leave much time for figuring out whether the things you’re doing to be like everyone else really represents your authentic self or not.
In those days I was living more for other people than I was for myself. I wanted to please everyone, get along with everyone, and avoid conflict. I wanted to be like other people just so I could be around them. There were times when I discarded my own values in favour of pleasing the crowd. It was an unsatisfactory way of living, and I can point to many occasions where inauthentic living compounded my mental health difficulties over the years.
Authenticity has also challenged me when it’s come to blogging. When you tell people that you’re a blogger they mainly assume you write about make-up and beauty. And I have to say, I do feel surrounded by a large number of such beauty bloggers. They seem to outnumber the rest of us. And last year, as my first year of blogging, I really wanted to fit in. I thought ‘Why write about mental health when no one else is? No one will want to read about it. Beauty blogs are the popular kind.’
And for a while I lost my niche. I tried to review make-up products and write about my make-up and skincare regime. I tried to move away from mental health.
It wasn’t me. I was faining passion for a subject I’ve always had little interest in. I love wearing make-up, don’t get me wrong, but if you were to ask me about shades or textures or techniques I wouldn’t have a clue. New products don’t excite me. I just want make-up to make me look okay. That’s all.
To truly Be Authentic then must require self-awareness.
It's about knowing who you are, and using to knowledge to guide you and the things that you do.
We're only a week into January, but to fulfill my first resolution I’m already having honest, open and engaged conversations with myself about what I really like, what really makes me happy and what’s really important to me. And I'm trying to figure out my values.
Authenticity isn’t about saying ‘this is what I like now, and so I will like it forever’. Few of my teenage 'likes' transcended the leap into adulthood; Buffy the Vampire Slayer as the most notable exception.
Instead, to Be Authentic is to live according to the values that are important to me; always have been and always will be.
However, a major roadblock to my Be Authentic challenge is how a lot of the writing suggests that trying to be authentic is a sure fire way of not being authentic.
To counter this, I’m going to try to stop being inauthentic. I want to stop telling those little lies we all tell to fit in, avoid conflict or hurt people’s feelings.
This month is about figuring out who I am and where I want to be, examining authentic happiness, and taking note of all my inauthentic moments.
Stay tuned as I try to make sense of life and my place in it in January.