Photo credit: The Guibord Center
“The more of me I be, the clearer I can see.” —Rachel Archelaus
“Rediscover Your Authentic Self”, “5 Easy Steps to Becoming Your Authentic Self Today”, “How to Love Your Authentic Self”, “Define Your True Self and Live Your Best Life Now” blare the self-help headlines in a world of superficial illusion. From talk shows and self-help books to blog posts, yoga classes, and “find yourself” online programs (oh, the irony), it’s everywhere – “To thine own self be true. Be yourself, everyone else is taken”. This begs the questions: why must we promote, blog, advertise, author, and discuss what should be perfectly natural? If we aren’t being our selves, who are we? Before I delve into my philosophical musings about why authenticity eludes the world of species homo sapien sapien, I feel the importance of defining authenticity through my model of the world.
When asked the question, “Who are you?”, most people respond with labels; “I’m a writer”, “I’m an athlete”, I’m a mom”, “I’m a teacher”…replies sourced from externally accepted social functions rather than internally sourced truth…unconscious evasion for what we truly don’t know.
This is not who we are.
Our authentic self is our true nature, our essence. Our essence is the pure, unconditional, unchanging nature of who we are, the purest fibre of our Being. It is more fundamental and intrinsic than our personality. It is the truth within the feelings and experiences of our lives. It is always present and rising within us.
In the words of transpersonal psychologist Karen Malik:
• Essence isn’t alive; it is aliveness.
• Essence isn’t aware; it is awareness.
• Essence isn’t loving; it is love.
• Essence isn’t joyful; it is joy.
• Essence isn’t compassionate; it is compassion.
• Essence isn’t true; it is truth.
Our essential/authentic self is not defined by our labels, personality, or what we do, it is defined by who we are.
It is our pain, our peace, our fear and our courage. It is our grief, our love, our anger and our joy. It is all of who we are. Our authentic self is the expression of spirit through flesh.
In my life, I endeavor to be my best. I strive to live consciously, presently, lovingly. Some days are easier than others. Some days I fall flat. Some days I’m the queen of compassion, other days I’m a pissed-off asshole. But you see, it’s all ok because all of it is who I am. I accept me for me and nobody else but me. I know that I matter. I know that you matter. I know that we all matter.
When asked who I am, my response is as follows; “I’m a no b.s., critical thinking truth seeker with a passion for life and a deep love for all living beings.” This is my core essence. I feel, I think, I love, I act. I feel peace with who I am – moment by moment, day by day. This is the “me” that remains unchanged. This is my authentic self. I know I’m in my essence when I feel a congruent sense of ease – an energetic resonance from within that affirms that my choices, behaviors, and actions are aligned with my core values of compassion, love and truth.
When we live from a place of profound authenticity, we’re rooted in our core beliefs, values, and inner truth. It means living a life where the opinions of others (or the stories we create about the perceived opinions from others) don’t matter. It means living a life that reflects what lives inside rather than what is conditioned from outside. It means thoughts, behaviors, choices and actions align to create congruent feelings of peace within. It means saying no when we mean no and yes when we mean yes – with grace. It means embodiment – if it feels right, it is. If it feels wrong, it is. End of story.
Living authentically is about self trust and self acceptance. It comes from the heart. It feels good. It feels safe. It feels right. It is right!
So if this is who we are, why do we live in a fragmented world of confusion, fear, and lies?
The answer can be found in one ugly word – judgment. The most widespread, pervasive form of violence to poison the collective mindset on planet earth today.
Judgement comes from the separate sense of self – the ego. We judge when we feel separate from ourselves and others. We judge ourselves when we’ve separated from our hearts. We judge others when we’ve separated from theirs. Judgement is a violation of the true self. It is a violation of love.
We’re caught in judgement when we bump up against a story about ourselves that we’ve attached to; stories of, “I’m better than” (arrogance) or “I’m lesser than” (self-loathing). These stories come from the same place – insecurity – a short-circuit from inner truth.
We live in a culture where we’re taught to judge. From early on, parents, relatives, teachers, religion, and culture infect us with the poison of judgment. Mainstream media inculcates judgment through beliefs that we are superficial, selfish, greedy, ugly, and worthless. Media has mastered the art of celebrating arrogance and self-loathing with creative flair. Television shows (“reality” tv anyone?!), magazines (People, US, National Enquirer and other grocery check-out mind-benders) and websites (too many to mention) are wholly created to spread the poison of judgement. Entire industries (the “beauty”, fashion, and fitness-meets-porn industries), glorify judgement, narcissism, and low self worth. A cursory glance at the online world, such as YouTube comments or news articles, reveals an epidemic of mental illness – a toxic wasteland rife with the poison of judgment. We are a collective culture of “haters” trapped in the self-created hell of judgment.
Judgement on a personal scale squelches authentic expression; shrouds essence; silences the soul. Judgement on a collective scale promotes conformity, fear, compliance, and indifference. It perpetuates the consumptive machine that ensures that we never know who we are. Ignorance reigns supreme in the paradigm of judgment.
There is little that hurts more than judgement. Its long-term effects often cause more harm than any other form of violent attack. Judgement sticks to our psyche and affects us on all levels – emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually.
In a world of superficial energy, we protect ourselves from the sticks, the stones, and the names that may hurt us. We fear the stories we create about what “they” make think or say, thus creating a mental uncertainty that removes us from truth.
I’ve discovered six ways in which judgment typically shows up in our lives:
- Externalized self judgment – (“I’m stupid/lazy/fat/ugly/_____ fill in the blank”.) Self-loathing spoken out loud.
- Internalized self judgment – Same inner dialogue as above – ad nauseum – acidic self-beating.
- Fear of judgment – The stories we create about what we think “they” are thinking or saying about us – as if “they” have nothing better to do (note the arrogance in this absurd fear).
- External “other” judgment – (“You’re stupid/lazy/fat/ugly/_____ fill in the blank”.) Spoken out loud. Passive aggressive, arrogant, critical, mean-spirited.
- Internalized “other” judgement – (“What a stupid/lazy/fat/ugly/_____ fill in the blank, person”.) Internalized demeaning thoughts of someone else. Feelings of insecure superiority.
Racism, bigotry, homophobia, misogyny, sexism, speciesism, etc. – Judgement on steroids; the mental illness of hate.
Whether we internalize or externalize our judgment, it infects our behaviors, attitudes, choices, and actions. It shows up in our facial expressions, posture, and body language. It projects through our energy with a venomous sting.
Judgment polarizes. Labeling, stereotyping, categorizing, criticizing, comparing, and segregating creates distrust and fear – within ourselves and the world. We only feel fear when we don’t feel safe.
We’ve been conditioned to become everything that we’re not. We conform to the belief systems, prejudices, fears, and expectations that highlight that we’re never enough. We’re set up for failure in a culture that is not designed for authenticity. Is it any wonder that we don’t feel safe when we don’t even know who we are? We unconsciously judge who we don’t allow ourselves to be. We unconsciously judge others for who they don’t allow themselves to be.
“The deepest fear we have, ‘the fear beneath all fears,’ is the fear of not measuring up, the fear of judgment. It’s this fear that creates the stress and depression of everyday life.” —Tullian Tchividjian
Fearing the judgement of others – whether fact or fiction – is one of the greatest suppressors of authenticity in today’s world. We violate ourselves with our fear of judgement. We violate everyone with all other judgment.
With judgement lurking behind every corner, it takes courage to realize who we are. The world is starving for authenticity. Authenticity inspires connection, truth, compassion, and love.
Must we aspire to be “all love and light” all of the time? The answer is no. Boundaries preserve our integrity and sense of self-worth. Without healthy boundaries we become lost in a sea of unconscious negativity. (Spoiler alert: boundaries are the topic of an upcoming podcast).
One of the most powerful reframes I learned many years ago is to choose discernment over judgment. Here’s how they differ:
Judgment implies a power differential. It is reactive and feeds the ego’s deception of being better or lesser than. Judgement is sourced from stories, perceptions, thoughts, behaviours, words, and actions that have been conditioned from outside of ourselves.
Discernment on the other hand, is a conscious choice that distinguishes between what’s appropriate and what’s not. Discernment sets healthy boundaries for authentic relationships – with ourselves and with others. Discernment comes from within. It’s a wisdom that stems from our authentic selves. Discernment brings clarity without condemnation. It comes from a place of self worth and self trust. Discernment knows when and how to stop inappropriate words, behavior, or actions while maintaining personal integrity without the venom of judgment. Discernment is kind.
What if we evolved into a discerning world of respect and acceptance? By acceptance, I mean everything truthful and real; that which supports what lives in our hearts. Acceptance of others, by default, would mean acceptance of our authentic Selves. Acceptance is what renders judgement obsolete. I believe that this would be a magnificent world. The only thing stopping us from having it now…is ourselves.
“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.” —Dalai Lama