I often get asked these days, why authenticity is such an important topic to me. The answers go deep - into my own family - and are manifold.
One of the main reasons is, that I want to raise awareness for the HEALTH RISKS associated with an inauthentic life.
Playing roles and not being your true self, is a draining and exhausting exercise - mentally and physically. Mentally, a very common consequence is "burn-out".
Physically, we see more and more lives being destroyed by bulimia and anorexia, for instance. (Also see Gabor Maté´s great talk).
So, why are people inauthentic then, if the costs are that high?
There are a few things to say about this.
First of all: No one would probably say about themselves that they are inauthentic. We all want to be true and honest human beings. We perceive ourself as such, and we want to be perceived that way, too. So, being inauthentic is not a choice we make. It is largely subconscious.
Secondly, and linked to its subconscious nature mentioned above, people who are inauthentic a lot are not bad people. Nor do they want to deceive others by frequently playing their roles. This is a very common misperception, which keeps us from confronting ourselves with the underlying purpose of the roles we sometimes play. - I will get to that purpose in a second.
Sadly, these roles only set us further apart from our “authentic selves” and thereby from our internal source of peace and true success in our lives.
So, why then? Why are we sometimes inauthentic - again, mostly without being aware of it, or only becoming aware of it after the fact? And after we did something "that just didn't feel like us".
“The reason behind inauthenticity is the desire to please others”
- for different reasons, I should add.
Some people want to “get ahead” and are focused on pleasing superiors. Not surprisingly, it is mostly men, who fall into this category.
Others (mostly the ladies) want to “get along” and waste a lot of energy and time by thinking about ways to ensure others like them. At work, it is their peers, or even direct reports. At home, their neighbors, friends, or family. The inner dialogue and justification, going something like this: "They should be happy, so why not do a little more than I actually want...". That is not so bad, right? WRONG! So wrong. So exhausting. So self-destructive.
Thus, reasons for - mostly unintended - inauthentic behaviors may differ. But there is one thing that people who act inauthentically have in common: they very much focus on the outside world.
So, where does this strong external focus come from?
A very pervasive reason is not knowing, loving, and being yourself enough.
This, in turn comes from the way we were raised. To oversimplify it a bit here for the benefit of reading time: The ones we actually try to impress ("getting ahead"), or please ("getting along") with our subconscious role-playing, are not our neighbors, friends, colleagues, or superiors. It is our parents. Why? Because they have - mostly unintentionally - shown (!) us what roles and behaviors are worthy of (their) love and acknowledgement.
Bottom line and a bit more solution-oriented:
If you want to do something about this exhausting and mostly unconscious practice of constant screening of your environment for opportunities to please others - to either "get along" or "get ahead" - you can do so, by changing just one key thing: Stop looking outside, and start looking inside, instead.
Start to look inside and begin your journey towards your authentic self. There will be so many benefits along the way, which will exceed everything you ever wanted to get from others.
One more tip for all the mothers and fathers reading this - and this is related to the below movie-tip: Please stop praising your daughters for how pretty they are. You are not doing them a favor and are causing more harm than you can imagine. There are already too many insecure women out there, whose main concern it is to look pretty, thus wasting months of their lives just looking into mirrors.
And to the fathers reading this: let your sons know that you love them - unconditionally, regardless of what they achieve in life.
So, the movie I am recommending - which was the reason for me writing this post in the first place- is called Embrace.
Be happy. Be mindful. Be yourself.
About the author
I write and speak about the "authentic self” and promote authenticity in lives, leadership and careers. I am a life-long learner and student of life and people. At the same time, I am also a guide and coach for people on their paths of self-reflection and self-discovery.
Sources of inspiration: