The only “authentic self” that exists is the one who is present today – right this very second. Your actions and reactions reflect your entire lifetime of programming. Much of our programming is less than ideal but it is what exists. The search for your “authentic self” is futile, consumes a lot of mental energy, and detracts from your capacity to create the reality you desire. Connecting with who you are today, frees you up to move forward.
A representative definition of “Authentic Self”
This is a piece from “A to Zen” from the Internet that represents a common line of thinking about the term, “authentic self.”1 The problem is that in the human experience, our powerful behavioral patterns win out and these enviable traits are buried. Then it becomes even more frustrating when we can’t live up to our “standards.” The cycle continues in that we may actually engage in destructive behaviors even though we know better.
In general, when talking about someone who is authentic, we mean that they are genuine, honest, and real.
An authentic person is someone who is comfortable in their skin and doesn’t feel the need to put on a front to fit in and be accepted by others. They know who they are, and they don’t hide it.
They understand their purpose and follow their life’s passion. They don’t chase after money, status, and possessions and are not immorally competitive, for they are not fearful of anyone.
However, this doesn’t mean they don’t live a wealthy life and enjoy nice things, but they define and strive for success to their own standard.
7 SIGNS YOU ARE AN AUTHENTIC PERSON
1. YOU ARE ACCEPTING OF YOURSELF AND OTHERS
2. YOU HAVE A HEALTHY EGO
3. YOU HAVE A REALISTIC PERCEPTION OF REALITY
4. YOU ACCEPT MISTAKES (AND LEARN FROM THEM)
5. YOU ARE EMOTIONALLY MATURE
6. YOU ARE CONSIDERATE TOWARDS OTHERS
7. YOU DON’T FEEL THREATENED BY OTHERS
What if you don’t have these traits? The problem is that few of us consistently exhibit many of these admirable qualities. Where would you have learned them if you were raised in a chaotic environment? Even if we possess some of them, how often do they get sabotaged, and how many of us have all of them. If the authentic self becomes an “internal standard” of being, then our self-critical voices will chime in to remind us how often we don’t (can’t) live up to these ideals, we are less accepting of ourselves, more frustrated, inflamed, and will experience more mental and physical pain.
Your ”authentic self”
Your authentic self is right here in front of you. It is the summation of your life programming from your parents, siblings, peers, teachers, employers, societal norms, and the marketing world. In other words, you are the product of who everyone else has told you to be. These messages are internalized and become your own inner voice telling you how you should be. The outcome is a lot of noise in your brain of self-judgement and that of others. We call it “self-esteem.” It is a mismatch of your powerful unconscious brain versus your conscious one. It is endless and wears you down.
David Eagleman in his brilliant book, Livewired, points out that humans are uniquely dependent on their parents for physical survival compared to most mammals. A baby is completely helpless and cannot survive on its own for many years.2
The emotional brain is even more complex in that we have language with an infinite number of possibilities. We are programmed by every moment of our lives, which means none of us are the same. Humans give meaning to everything, and no two people can look at a physical object in the same way. Thoughts and concepts are much more complex, and we are downloaded first with concrete concepts, then abstract ideas, and we don’t develop deep philosophical thinking for many years.
We are completely at the mercy of our environment as to what is inputted into our brains. What becomes more problematic is that thoughts and ideals are perceived as real to a given person as a car or table.3 They become our version of reality or life filter. Once this life lens is set, it becomes reinforced over a lifetime – unless you choose to become aware of it and change it.
Who are you?
So, we are who the world has told us we should be. We have programmed behavioral patterns that are the foundation of our existence. Most of them result from the basic need to survive. Few of us are taught how to nurture joy. Who are we?
You are who you are today. You can see yourself by becoming aware of what you react to, what makes you anxious and angry, what are your behaviors and attitudes towards yourself and others, how much personal responsibility you take for your actions, and what level of compassion and empathy you FEEL for others.
For example, most of us know that compassion is a good idea. But what happens when you are upset. You may say or do things that you are not proud of, and compassion goes right out the window. It is because compassion is a conscious construct and anger automatically arises from your unconscious brain. It is a million to one mismatch. It is that reaction in the moment is who you are because something in the present connected you to something threatening (or perceived as such) in the past. You are there and not here. It is also who you are.
“Love Your Enemies”
Anthony DeMello in his book, The Way to Love, has a chapter called, “Love Your Enemies.” He points out that if someone angers you, you should thank them. The problem is not them, but in you. Their words or actions triggered a response in you that allows you to have more awareness of what is inside of you.4 It is challenging in that it still feels like the other person causing the problem, but it is you that is being triggered. The exception, of course, is physical or emotional abuse. Anger is a necessary protective reaction.
Your real “Authentic Self”
This all sounds a bit hopeless but there is a lot of hope once you realize the depth of your programming and how it is playing out today. The key word is, “awareness.” Once you are aware of how your past is continually playing out in the present, you can direct where you want your brain to develop going forward. It continues to change every second and the term is called, “neuroplasticity.” The sequence is 1) awareness 2) separation 3) reprogramming. Without awareness, you’ll continue to be mired in the past.
As you learn to take full responsibility for every one of your actions without judgement, you can create any reality you want by consistently making better choices, and the above-mentioned traits can be nurtured daily.
This new evolving person is still your authentic self. You just don’t have to keep searching for it.
- By Marissa on” A to Zen Life,” June 11, 2022. https://atozenlife.com/authentic-person/
- Eagleman, David. Livewired. Cannongate Books, Edinburgh, UK, 2020.
- Feldman Barret, Lisa. How Emotions are Made. Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, New York, NY, 2018.
- DeMello, Anthony. The Way to Love. Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group. New York, NY, 1995.