What does authenticity mean to me:
I personally struggle to really define authenticity. It’s difficult to express this into words, as authenticy feels more like an experience to me. But I’m going to put my feelings aside and try to dig deep into my mind. To me, I think authenticity means that you can be true to yourself and to others. You don’t get influenced by what society wants from you. You acknowledge that you are in charge to show the world your true self. That doesn’t mean that you can’t filter out the parts you don’t want to show to the outer world. Remember that you still control that. But the parts that you do show, are not changed because of opinions of other people.
What does philosophy tell us about authenticity:
Once in a lifetime there were five old men, they called themselves existentialists. Existentialists are philosophers who believe that philosophical thinking should be part of a human experience. For them science and morality on their own can’t explain the meaning of human life and they believe that authenticity plays an important role in finding that meaning. They were all sitting on a bench by the willow tree, pondering over life. There was a little boy who passed by and looked at them with a strange look on his face. ‘What are you guys doing”: He asked. “Well”: said Kierkegaard: “We’re having a discussion about authenticity and the discovery of your true self”. The boy was interested and asked if they could explain it to him. They all agreed. Kierkegaard, the father of the group started the conversation.
Boy, you have three stages in life that you have to go through in order to find your true authentic self. The first stage is the aesthetic stage. It’s the stage where you’re only concerned about satisfying your sensory pleasures and giving yourself immediate pleasure. That can mean drinking a lot of booze, going to strips clubs and other extravagant behaviour. After that stage you will find yourself into the ethical stage. You understand that you’re a part of the commnity and that you carry responsibilities. In that community you have to get a job, save some pennies and do some volunteering work. You’re now officialy a part of the community. The third stage is the final one. It’s the religious stage. By religion I don’t mean you have to believe in an institutionalised religion. No, you have to be aware of the knowledge and power that transcends your own knowledge. Accepting that there is no such thing as an objective truth will give you a passion/ drive to become your true self . Pure objective knowlegde leads to immobilisation. It’s passion that moves people to act on their dreams.
Authenticity has nothing to do with religion but rather with your instincts and passions. They are the innner forms of knowledge you have been born with. Intellect can only reach so far. In order to live an authentic life we have to balance out our intellects by our passions. In order to reach your full potential you have to keep that inner flame of passion burning. Don’t believe what society will tell you. They will tell you that your intellect is everything. Follow your passion deep inside you and let your mind control your actions. So you can start to become your true self, kid. Be an artist and art at the same time.
You know kid, haven’t we all forgotten to be alive. Haven’t we forgotten that all human life is connected. We’re too much drawn into our own drama that we’re not considering that there are people living around us. Live with respect for other people. The last thing I wanted to say, is that we have forgotten to be free and to be truly ourselves. When we are born, we are thrown in a particular narrow, social and professional milieu. You need to understand this concept and rise above it to form a more universal perspective. This is the route you should be taking from inauthenticity to authenticity. Most of the time during socializing you will fail at this task and go into state of being a they-self. (as opposed to our-selves.) How can you focus more on yourself? It will sound harsh but it’s by focussing more on your own upcoming death. As soon you realise other people can’t save you from death, you will stop worrying so much about them and you will start to focus more on your own living time.
There is only one really bad habit we all have and that’s bad faith. Bad faith happens when you lie to yourself in order to spare yourself from short term pain. Some of the things kids like you constantly lie about, is that they don’t have any other options. For example that happens when you stay at a job you don’t like because you tell yourself that you don’t have any other options to make money. Don’t blame it on other people or certain circumstances if you choose to keep your job. It’s your own choice. Take full responsibility of that decision. Remember that who you are is not made up by a certain job or number on your bank account. Our being is more then who we currently are, but also about who we could become. You are in reality more free then you think you are.
You know kid, in fact life has no utter meaning. Our entire existence is futile and absurd if you look at it. We should accept that and commit more to the pleasures of life. This is your chance to just live, create and have fun. You need to be passionate to live life without the need of any permissions of others. Live out a rebellious acceptance of our absurd fate. If you live this way, you live an authentic life.
New definition after research
Authenticity can be defined by a passionate and sincere commitment and act to detach from your percieved self and to get closer to your real self. Freeing yourself of social judgements is important in that process, as other people will never be able to know your true self. Let alone, you will ever be able to know your true self. Authenticity is more about what you shouldn’t be then what you should be. You shouldn’t be a they-selves. You shouldn’t try to fit in in order to meet the so-called social standards. Also, Don’t lie to yourself in order to prevent short term suffering. Our being is not only about who we are but also about who we could become. Lastly but most importantly enjoy the absurdity of life by just being, enjoying and connecting.
Let’s get practical about authenticy
If you’re like me, you don’t really love it if stuff only exists in theory. I always love it if I can get practical with these theories. So we have figured out a new definition of authenticity that works for me. Now we have to figure out how we can start searching for more authenticity in our own lives.
1. Self discovery through writing and reflection
Authenticity basically comes down to searching after your true self. Even if that version has some ugly sides you can’t bear to see. The mirror will never lie. My personal take on how to start this discovery is by implementing the art of documenting your entire life. This can be done through journalling, writing shitty blog posts like me or vlogging. You will get into confrontation with yourself. You will discover these parts that you have always avoided. For example I have been confronted with my bad back posture and my lack of protein in my current diet. These are not really solutions that will help to find my authenticy but it does show the power of documenting your life and reflecting on it.
There is really nothing new to talk about. Meditation is an old practice that has proved its benefits through the entire history of human kind. Meditation helps you to get into that observer mindset. You become the observer of your thoughts without judging them. It sounds pretty easy. In reality it can be hard for our modern minds, who are used to be distracted all day long, to shut down. Letting your mind wander without any purpose may seem useless at first. It’s important though to get into this meta-cognition framework to leave all this superficial thinking behind.
This litteraly means : “Reflecting on your own death.” You could be asking yourself why for god sake you should be doing this. Is life not meant to be enjoyed in an attempt to run away from all pain? In my honest opinion only fools never reflect on their own death. Death is an integral part of life. It connects us all and makes life in some sense fair. The point of this exercise is to keep this limited time you have on earth in perspecitve. It also helps us to put short term suffering in perspective. Short term suffering will make you more reselient and more able to cope with the futility and finity of life. Because you only life this short amount of time through your own unique being, there is really no point in letting other people waste your time. This is the key to an authentic life.
What kind of beliefs hold you back in life?
What are you lying about to yourself? If you followed the previous steps, there is a big chance that you can be more real with yourself. Why are you doing the stuff you’re doing? Are you doing them to get social validation and power or are you really doing them for yourself? Maybe you’re not acting on your dreams and pasions because of insecurities. You’re telling yourself that you’re not good enough and that your anxiety is always going to hold you back in life. We become the narrative that we tell ourselves. You can start to tell yourself the narrative that you can be whatever you want to become. In the end the outcome doens’t really matter if we don’t compare ourselves to others. Document the lies you tell yourself. Get real about the narrative you have always been telling yourself.
Embrace some absurdity in life. Play and enjoy!
Things can get really serious if we talk about philisophy. In that matter we sometimes forget that it all doesn’t really matter that much. It doesn’t come down to having all the answers or being the smartest and funniest guy or girl in the classroom. No, it comes down to embracing that life is pretty absurd and that now is the time to just enjoy ourselves (with respect for other human beings). Why always be serious if you can also be fun to hang around with? Try to find that inner kid in you. That kid that didn’t overanalyse everything. Playing is the art of doing something without any purpose except the purpose of having fun. Our only real purpose is to have fun along the way.
This blogpost is dedicated to Herman boel, the author of https://taalfluisteraar.be/. He is one of the most inspiring people I know. I still have to meet him in person. Sadly that has been postponed because of the Corona virus. Herman had kindly asked for this blogpost. So here it is!
Now it’s your time to ask me whatever you want. Which subject should I discuss next time? Is it not great to be completely in charge of choosing the subjects I should write about. Now is your chance to make me dance like your monkey!