Living authentically does not mean you have to do something wild—like sailing around the world with just a cat, a box of books, and a case of whiskey—although challenge accepted because that sounds amazing.
Living authentically means that you do what is right and meaningful for you, like raising your children the way you want to, not the way the gossipy moms think you should. Don’t have the budget for organic produce and don’t think your kid will die from eating regular carrots? Then let the horrified moms gasp at your snack choices and go about your day.
Maybe your friends are obsessed with TikTok, but you think it’s a waste of time. Delete the app and take back your time and privacy. You might inspire others in your friend group to do the same.
Maybe you don’t want things for this year’s Christmas exchange; you’d prefer experiences. Pipe up and make a polite suggestion. It might be just the gift your brother-in-law was waiting for and was too afraid to express. Even if no one in the family agrees with you or is willing to comply with your request, at least you’ll have tried.
To be a “remarkable” person means that you’re worthy of attention. You’re worthy of others’ remarks (from the French remarquer, “take note of”). So let others take note of you as you live according to your own terms and values. You can be respectful and be true to yourself at the same time.
But being authentic doesn’t mean that you have to do anything radical. All of the above examples are minor flourishes that express your tastes.
Most of us live according to other people’s expectations. We constantly filter ourselves based on what we believe other people want or value.
So we buy the jeans we don’t like, order the salad when we want the cheeseburger, take the vacations that everyone else is taking that don’t speak to our souls, read the books that everyone else is reading, etc. It’s an oppressive way to live.
If you find yourself constantly adjusting your behavior based on what you think others expect or like, take a moment to reflect on why. Ask yourself, “What am I afraid of?” I’m guessing that you’re afraid of being rejected, of offending someone, or of seeming like an odd duck.
How likely is it that you’ll be rejected for voicing your opinion in a respectful manner? If you handle the situation well, who will be offended? Do you want to spend time with people who think you’re strange? Do you think you could find people who value you for you?
When you really dive into why you behave in ways that feel false to you, you start to see that it’s because you’re living according to other people’s values—both real and perceived. While I’ll delve into this topic more in other posts, for now I’ll leave you with a challenge:
This week, be your authentic self in one small way that feels a little risky to you. After you’ve done it, how did you feel?
Note: The picture at the top of the post is one I took while at Meow Wolf, an immersive art experience in Santa Fe that is out of this world. Inspiring stuff for those who value authenticity!