Authenticity: The quality of being genuine or real. Openness and transparency may very well be a part of being genuine or real if being private is a tool used to enhance a façade. But what is real about us? It is all a matter of perspective. As the layers of unconscious are shed one by one, we discover that the things that were true about us yesterday are not true of us today. The masks we once confused for ourselves come off one by one to reveal entirely new faces underneath. We can only be authentic to the degree that we currently know ourselves. We can only be as authentic as we are conscious of ourselves.
And we are multi dimensional. The truth of ourselves exists on all levels simultaneously. The aspect of me that is identified with the individual identity that I call Teal may say, “I hate this other person for what they did to me”. The aspect of me that is not identified with my individual identity called Teal may say, “This other person is me so regardless of how they treat me, I wish them well.” And both are true. Both are authentic. They are authentic simultaneously.
When it comes to authenticity, the thing to steer clear of is covering up what is real in the moment with words or actions designed to do one thing: Project an image of how you want to be perceived by the world. Inauthenticity rides on the back of caring how you look to the world. And guess what? All of us care. That caring about how we look more than we care about what is true for us is our undoing.
Depending on your particular spiritual discipline, you have an externally imposed idea of how spiritual perfection should look. You work hard to give this impression to the world. It is the mask you wear. Even “authenticity” itself as a spiritual identity can be a mask that is inauthentic. And if you fall short of that ideal, you think you’re failing. For example, if you are in some Buddhist circles, if you’re not at total peace in a state of non-reactivity, free from attachment and living as a minimalist in brown robes, there’s something wrong with you. Or if you’re in the positive focus law of attraction community, if you’re not a millionaire by now, with the perfect partner and the best possible career and wonderful friends and perfect health and a Ferrari, and a positive forward thinking attitude, there’s something wrong with you.
It is tempting to look at people you think are succeeding at actually being the spiritually perfected image you have in your head and making that the new standard you compare yourself to. I am around a multitude of spiritual teachers in the position I am in today. So much of our lives on the world stage are rich with pretense.
I will never forget a talk that I had with a fellow spiritual teacher. In this talk, my colleague said to me that he chooses deliberately not to expose any aspect of himself that might take away from the core message he has come to convey to the world or diminish people’s capacity to accept that message from him. It makes perfect sense. I may even agree with him. But this pretense in the spiritual world exists for a reason. The reason is wanting the world to take what would benefit it instead of discard it on the basis that the package the information is coming in, isn’t perfect. Perfection is the expectation the world holds of us. If we come clean about what is real about us, people use it against us. They us it against our message. Messages that are often critical to get across to the world. They use it as a reason to disqualify us as credible or worth listening to. We can’t then get our message across because it isn’t received. I have seen it myself. When you present something real to the world, it is used against you later. The reason for this pretense is job security or more accurately said… purpose security. But what if the very thing you feel you came here to teach was authenticity?
I do not feel like I made this career for myself. I feel like it has unfolded through me like a creature of its own accord. My spiritual career naturally came out of its chrysalis and when it did, on its wings I could clearly see that the overwhelmingly dominant pattern inherent there, was authenticity.
The gifts of authenticity are manifold. Here are some to name a few… You develop a deeper and real connection with people. The many horrors that are covered by privacy and secrecy cannot occur. Your life becomes one that reflects your true desires and so you want to wake up for it in the morning. The pressure of having to hide what is real behind what is false is released and in its wake there is freedom. You can be loved for your actual self. You become relatable. Verticality (one person being better than and the other less than) cannot exist. We integrate our humanity with our divinity. Our Ego no longer rules the world. And so much more.
But in today’s world, a world where pretense and façade is so commonplace that we can’t even recognize it for falsity, there are drawbacks to authenticity. Being the teacher of authenticity, I am experiencing every one of them. People do not appreciate being named in association with your authenticity. To them, it feels like exposure. How is it possible to be open and authentic about your life when your life is comprised of people and when those people that comprise your life have no desire to be open or authentic to the world themselves because of the potential consequences?
People in today’s world will use your vulnerabilities against you later. In a world where the Ego rules and so there is much more care about winning, being right, feeling justified and feeling superior, our truth will become ammunition. Years ago, in alignment with my authenticity movement, I was transparent with the world about the fact that I used to be a cutter. At the time, this decision was healing not only for me but also for other people who suffered from the same addiction. But it was used against me years later in a court case. And I would be lying if I said that at that moment, all of me felt good about having made that choice years ago. In the heat of the moment in fact, when people use my vulnerabilities as ammunition against me, I regret it completely.
Today, I am left with several questions. Is authenticity wise in a world run by the ego? Perhaps so, perhaps not. I suppose it depends on how dedicated you are to creating a world where the ego no longer rules. Is it possible to stop caring about the drawbacks to authenticity because the benefits outweigh them? There is a difference between cruelty (which is a function of ego) and authenticity. But is authenticity beneficial, if it hurts someone?
I do not want to live in a world of war. And so, I lay my ammunition down on the ground before other people’s feet. I give away my vulnerabilities and my Achilles heels. Is it possible that war will end if all people give up their ammunition and expose their “unacceptable” aspects and vulnerabilities to the world? If so, it takes one person to start this trend and hope it catches on. But at what point does this become nothing more than martyrdom? At what point is it obvious that the world is not ready and will simply pick up the ammunition you have laid before them and kill you with it? It is not a satisfying kill. It is like eating a chicken that has climbed into your pot voluntarily. But what if my own authenticity is the very thing that prevents people from adopting the practice of authenticity because my authenticity diminishes their opinion of me and all I teach?
I want to live in a world where what is real or genuine about someone is not seen as just cause for rejecting them. I want to live in a world where we can lay down our need to be right long enough to discuss our often completely opposing perspectives; so as to arrive at a greater perspective than either. I want to live in a world where it is safe to be authentic. Will being authentic create a world that is safe?
I wish to open up the idea of authenticity for discussion. Reflect back over your life. Reflect back over the benefits and drawbacks to authenticity that you have seen in your own life. Look over these questions that have been posed in this piece and see what answers arise through you in response to them. Today, I am curious about your perspective.