I dated someone once who argued that authenticity is dead. He argued that ideas, concepts, and recipes have been diluted over the years, and thus authenticity is just this thing we say to give something more value – like authentic Mexican cuisine, even though the food was cooked in New York by Nebraskans. He also argued that even our knowledge came from learning someone else’s ideas, so our own ideas are not authentic. He would say they are based on the backs of others’ work and originality. It took me 5 years to realize authenticity isn’t dead – his definition was off.
What is Authenticity?
Authentic is defined in the Oxford dictionary as “Of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine”.
One of my favorite definitions of authenticity comes from social psychologists, Kernis and Goldman: “The unobstructed operation of one’s true- or core-self in one’s daily enterprise” (Kernis & Goldman, 2006). I love that definition because it addresses authenticity as an unobstructed state (powerful!). It also addresses that authenticity is appliedto life – it is expressed, not just discovered. I’ll also share my own definition of authentic living: boldly living your best self, aligned and in full expression of your core values, unique knowledgebase, purpose, and passions – in all aspects of life.
There are many other definitions, but nowhere is authenticity described as novel or original in content as my authenticity doubting friend defined it.
When I was a kid, I would watch the International Ballet Competitions on television… and I’d watch them again several times until the VHS tape would degrade. There were times when two or three dancers would perform the same dance, even using the same choreography and music. The program would display both performances in sync and in split screen. Although there was nothing original in the music or the choreography, the dancers brought their own cadence, style, timing, affect, and gifts (incredible balance or insane extension, etc.) to the performance – it was this unique combination of style and gifts that made each of their performances authentic – of undisputed origin.
So why is this important?
Authenticity is the “essence of wellbeing” (Wood et al.,2008). That’s right – the essence – meaning without authenticity people feel distressed and unfulfilled (Leary, 2003). And that’s pretty much how I felt for most of those five years when I thought authenticity was a lost cause.
When we are living authentically, we are living in line with our values, passions, and purpose. We share our gifts more freely and are more fulfilled because of it.
One other benefit of authenticity: it gives us our own personal compass for our path in life. There is an apt quote in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland: “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there”. Living authentically highlights the path that is right for you and only you.
Because we are growing and evolving beings, it is important to reevaluate and consciously choose what authenticity is for you. Evolution can happen slowly over time or quickly after a major life event. In both cases, it can leave you feeling off as you recalibrate.
If you are interested in exploring more deeply what authenticity is for you or it is time for a recalibration, I invite you to a free workshop. I will be hosting an online 8-day, interactive workshop – Powerful Authenticity 360. If you are ready to step into the power of your authentic self, this is the workshop for you! Spots are limited and are held for those who are ready to dive deep, fully engage and slingshot into more joy and successes. If you are interested in deeply exploring and living authenticity, click here to apply before May 1st. The next workshop will start on May 6.