How Redefining Authenticity Helped Me Rediscover My Sense of Self

The definition of authenticity needs to be dynamic.

Woman sitting on step

Getty Images / Nick David

If a stranger asked you to describe yourself, what would your answer be? If you know without much thought, I’m shocked. Because if you’re anything like me, you’ve already asked for some time to sit and think of the perfect words to capture your existence.

For so many of us, growing into who we are is a journey—on that takes time and often involves several mistakes. Therefore, defining ourselves might require some processing. Of course, there’s potential for each life lesson to inch us closer to our true essence and life's purpose. As we align to what feels right, many of us naturally part ways with what disrupts our peace. But in a world filled with choices, how do we know if we’re moving in the best direction? My guess is authenticity is the best compass for our journey. In practice, however, this is much easier said than done.

The timing of recent life events has kick-started a search for my interpretation of authenticity. Although I try not to obsess, it’s been difficult. Until recently, the embodiment of authenticity from my lens left people in a balanced, fulfilled, and euphoric state of being. As someone who had spent several years in an unpleasant cycle of anxiety attacks stemming from self-doubt and fear of failure, I longed to attain what was once my premature notions of "authenticity."

I continued to search high and low for a clear framework so I could start moving in the appropriate direction. However, despite my intention to live authentically, I felt defeated after each attempt. I thought if I practiced authenticity perfectly, my anxiety would dissolve, my confidence would skyrocket, and my life would be a huge win. I admit this was a naive misconception.

When I chose to explore this topic, I thought it would be easy to tap into. Yes, it's a multilayered topic. But's it's one with a fairly straightforward solution. To my surprise, and through conversations with those I love and trust, I’ve had to rethink my initial ideas around authenticity to leave room for the friction that might come with us existing as our truest selves. 

Defining Authenticity

"Living life authentically" is a beautiful mantra we should all keep in mind daily, but I find it impossible to land on a definition for "authenticity" that fits all. Because our authenticity is directly tied to our internal belief system, it needs room to be dynamic.

What Do We Believe About Ourselves?

With this in mind, I found two questions to help align us more closely with our authenticity. The first question: What do we believe about ourselves? Give your search for the answer time. Although no answer will be the same from one person to the next, I’d argue striving towards authenticity is one of the best ways to level up. It’s the major key, as DJ Khaled so eloquently puts it. When we operate from a place of acceptance and love for who we are, we create our own world of freedom.

When we align with our purest being and harness our confidence, it seems much easier to trust where life is taking us. Our self-doubt is minimized, and our ability to take risks is amplified because being authentic always takes us to what feels like a better fit. We can remind ourselves everything we encounter is a tool we need to prepare us for the bigger picture. But even after finding a definition that resonates, how and when can we be authentic in a world filled with so many rules?

When we align with our purest being and harness our confidence, it seems much easier to trust where life is taking us.

Is Authenticity Rigid?

This leads me to my second question which is two-fold, and the one I find a bit more triggering. Are we willing to exist authentically at all times, and is authenticity rigid? Remaining aligned with our internal beliefs is easiest when we’re alone or surrounded by those who accept us, but that’s not always a reality. What happens when our core beliefs differ from those we love, institutions, or society at large? How do we handle instances where our authenticity is considered offensive or asked to be muted? Is it really possible to operate in this world clinging to only one definition of our authenticity? This question I leave open to interpretation; however, I will share what I know to be true. 

What I've Learned

Life is ever-changing, and yet its lessons remain consistent in leading us back to our truth. Being more intentional with my authenticity has helped me trust the process of life—pain and all. My journey back to self has led me in the best direction. Leaning into my beliefs and exploring how I want to exist in this world has been freeing, but it hasn't been without struggle. Through trial and error, I’ve developed compassion for those of us who might not have the liberty to be one version of our authentic selves all of the time. We don't have to give up on authenticity, but we might have to get creative with how we view and express our truest selves as our surroundings and seasons evolve.

Have I mastered this whole "authenticity" thing yet? No, and we never will. Life continues to push us to expand how we see ourselves. It’s the intention, commitment, and kindness we show ourselves throughout this process that makes an impact. The process is, without a doubt, the gift that keeps giving. And the intention keeps us focused. 

Life is ever-changing, and yet its lessons remain consistent in leading us back to our truth.

Let’s work to never dim our light, but also release feelings of shame when we might be asked to redefine our version of authenticity. It’s about letting go of the idea that life is without needing to shift. When I’m most intentional with my authenticity, I’m also leaving room for growth. This is when we embrace life's flow. 

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