Say your friend gives you a gift, and their lips and cheeks are curled into a smile, but their eyes lay flat—how does taking their gift make you feel? Even for the people with little knowledge of body language can discern something off about a person’s countenance when two different muscle groups are not agreeing with each other on the same emotion; we can tell when others give something because they feel obligated to give, or when their generosity is genuine and unconditional.
Authenticity is our second greatest gift to ourselves, penultimate to loving ourselves the way Jesus loves us. The truest way we see ourselves authentically is without any facades, masks, or obscurations. How hard can it be?
The way we know when we are being authentic is whether the version of ourselves we are around people is the same version we aren’t afraid to be behind closed doors. Frankly, that is the best ‘self’ we can manage to embrace because, alternatively, with so many layers of secrets, all authenticity gets lost in the enormous black abyss of duplicity.
If who you are when others can’t hear or see you is different than the way you are with people, then perhaps one of the best questions to ask yourself is what you have to hide? There is no reason why you can’t be you. The only person stopping you from being your most organically natural self is you, and one of the only reasons you can conjure up to excuse that truth is by being too fearful of the world’s prejudice. What is it about the world’s censure that makes you so afraid to be the best you can be? Are you afraid of being unaccepted? Are you less afraid of the world morphing your character into one massive lie so that the false version of you can fit in; while the authentic you waits until you’re alone again? Which one of these fears takes priority for you?
As every day ends, what matters most is that you are honest with yourself. Being honest with yourself enables you to show others the most honest version of you, and that is pivotal to accepting yourself, as well as the enabling of others to be able to accept the real you, and not the false pretense version of you as influenced by the world.
One truth that I love to refer back to is the authenticity of Jesus Christ. Even as the Pharisees would try to trap Him in a political or theological lie, He always had a valid rebuttal that minimized their redundant religious quarrels. Jesus’ authenticity drew crowds around Him, and His character was genuinely loving, compassionate, confident, knowledgeable; obstinate, and never unfair. His words were used for the amelioration of others, and His rebukes were always righteous. As the opposite—an unauthentic person draws hypocrisy into their soul, dividing their ratiocination between self-deprecation and extrapolation of self-worth by worldly judgment.
Various situations call for different aspects of ourselves. Politics, for instance, request that we expose our intentions and clearly communicate what they are. Of course, politics are a microcosm of their own, having been misconducted through generations past—damaging the retention of authenticity with the interjection of duplicity. What is hard about retaining our authenticity in politics is allowing humility to transcend selfishness in attaining our pursuits, engulfing our spirit of humility in deceitfulness. We congratulate our proactivity, confidence, and bold pertinacity, but end up dismissing the questionable method we “must” undergo to achieve its results, undermining the importance of the retention of truth, and the underrated necessity of transparency—both the underscoring floorboards of authenticity itself.
Authenticity in relationships require us to be aware of who we are, what we want, how we feel, and that we have a matured degree of selflessness about us; spacial enough to extend our greatest and most distinguishing human ability: to love another person. These human facets are obscured and made confusing, even to ourselves—and are therefore impossible to embrace and imbue into our being—if we are not the truest version of ourselves with others.
These examples of authenticity are not to be confused with the dangerous perspectives of transparency which express we should expose who we are in ways we would consider intrusive and unnecessary. We can’t afford, for the sake of retaining our most genuine selves–letting the world convince us that we need to sound a certain way, dress a certain way, or prove our worth using any method outside the natural expressions of our public behavior, the way we respond to people on a regular basis, and what we believe in based on our own experiences. Authenticity demands of others that they see us for us regardless of judgment.
No, we can’t stop others from judging us, this is absolutely true. But what we can do, what we do, in fact, have control over– is the way we deal with others’ judgment. The weight we put on the opinion of the people we feel judged by reveals a lot about our dependency on their approval for our self-validation. The world is transformed day by day, just as we are. But transformation can mean improving oneself, or deteriorating and falling apart. Amelioration is the betterment of something. The amelioration of a person means to better oneself; straightening out your priorities, and choosing to love rather than being hollow or selfish. Deterioration of character is the choice to allow the world and all its criticism to conquer our minds, our choices, and lastly our actions. Letting this happen is the picture of giving back to the world what we receive from it: pain, bitterness, judgment, anger, and resentment. These feelings are all valid, but they are not the effective constituents of building the road to the improvement of our best selves. Our best selves would not ridicule, vindicate, or even the score with those who have caused us turmoil and hardship; Jesus taught that by example by dying on the cross when He’d done nothing wrong.
I challenge you to see for yourself what your own authenticity looks like, and to burrow through what may be causing you to procrastinate, or to altogether be afraid of what the best version of you looks like to you. Genuineness comes with accepting who we are, which means liking who we are—flaws and all. Whether you have a lisp, curly hair, or you have a dancing style that others may give strange looks to–none of these should stop you from being you, always! These are merely examples, but the point is that of all the multifarious ways people are unique, different, and stand out, may very well not always be welcomed by the world. That is just a truth we have to accept while living in a world corrupted with sin, a heavy cesspool of judgment, and poorly developed faith in a God who we are designed to find our purpose, worth, and validation in anyways; not the world. This doesn’t make you any less worth who you are, and this can’t stop you from being more like you every day. Whether you sing loud in the shower, or you listen to one song every day for hours back-to-back, there is nothing wrong with you having parts of your character which others simply don’t understand or appreciate. These are still parts of you which do not change your worth! In fact, these define you more because they come from within. They make you smile, they inspire you to think and be what others aren’t. And others could never be you.
There is nothing quite more extraordinary than being who you are, all the time. Being anyone else is robbing the world of something magnificent, treasurable, and worthy of being seen, noticed, and experienced. If you find several who can’t notice that, just keep on being you. Someone will see you and love what they witness. You are a sight and a character to behold, and everything about you is screaming that. Let those who have ears to hear and eyes to see appreciate the parts of you which no one else can replicate or copy, and witness the parts of you that can inspire, motivate, and bring others to their best authentic self as well. We are all inspirations. We are all role models—if we bring out our most authentic selves and allow them to bloom in all their likeness.
In closing this post, I want to mention how I love the concept of a flower being an exemplar of authenticity, as inanimate as a flower is. This example is an illustration that, like a flower, we need to be exactly the way we were made to be. A flower can’t really be anything but a flower, and we can’t be anything but human, but a flower won’t try to be a different kind of flower, so we should we try to pretend we are like someone else? A flower is a flower, or it’s nothing at all. What does that say about you? What does that say about us as a society?
You were meant to be seen. You have much to show the world. And they have much to see and learn from you. We all have something to learn from each other. And when we finally get through to someone, we can point them towards the Source of all authenticity: Christ Himself.
Take your first step and show them what you’re made of. The world needs the real you.