What does it mean to be authentic?
According to Wikipedia, it is “the degree to which one is true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character, despite external pressures.”
I was in a relationship for a long time where I couldn’t be my authentic self for many reasons (which I won’t go into here). I felt that, to have a successful relationship, I needed to hide my true self. Whenever I’d venture into an area in my creative life that made me happy and felt true and right for me, the other person would put it down, or make it seem bad and wrong.
I made the excuse to myself that I needed to be inauthentic in order to make the other person happy.
This was a major mistake because, in the end, both of us ended up being much more unhappy than if we were true to our own spirit and character from the beginning. The relationship ended. My creativity and psyche suffered for a long time; I didn’t express myself as powerfully and as authentically as I knew I could.
I know for myself, when I acknowledge what’s authentic for me and pursue that (not always achieving it, but at least pursuing it), my writing and other creative work is clearer, stronger and reaches a wider audience.
When I try to write what I think other people want to read, it’s not as strong as when I listen to my authentic self and try to write from my vision, my way of “fracturing reality,” as David Foster Wallace said.
I think the journey to authenticity is lifelong and changes as you grow and change as a person. It’s one of the many reasons I continue to pursue a creative life. Every day I get to decide how authentic of a life I’m going to lead.
Do you remember a time when you weren’t true to your authentic self and how it affected you?
Leave a comment to tell us about it.
If you aren’t being as authentic in your life now as you’d like to, what’s stopping you?
Maybe by telling your story, you’ll find an authentic way of breaking through whatever is holding you back. I know I have.
Now it’s your turn.
Watch David Foster Wallace talk about ambition from PBS Digital Studios on YouTube.com