Everyone wants to believe themselves to be authentic. We are like the Velveteen Rabbit, who only wanted to be real, which meant to be loved. It does not seem possible that anyone would cherish the idea of being false or unreal. But are we? It seems that many who are in recovery from addictions are self-deceived. Perhaps it goes beyond that, as is believed by a great number of people, to a social construct that creates mass deception on a large scale. In an election year, there are many who believe that politicians are marketers of the snake oil of social distortion and indiscriminant dishonesty. Are we capable of being authentic in such an environment?
While truth can be variable and changing, as is the Universe we inhabit, authenticity is a principle that goes beyond truth to the core of each one of us. We can be authentic from within ourselves by knowing who we are and what we will and will not stand for. Our authentic nature will then come from the stance we take in our personal lives. Do we know ourselves? This is a process that never seems to have an ending point, but do we “walk our talk” as the saying in 12-step groups goes? Are we willing to be unpopular for not going along with the crowd when it does not feel right for us? Do we have the moral fiber to be completely honest with ourselves, the inner circle of friends and family, and let the pieces fall where they may when it does not fit with the majority opinion?
Authenticity does not mean that we fly in the face of opposition or become defensive about our beliefs. More, it means that we honor them by NOT becoming boisterous or argumentative about them. We do not need to publish them in our personal blog or on Facebook to let the world know. Authenticity is quiet and understated, as a principle. It is a quality that does not need to be broadcast. It means that we walk through the world according to the moral and ethical values that lie in our hearts, not our heads. We live what we believe and let the world around us see and watch our behaviors and attitudes become actions that are directly in line with what we believe.
If we state that we are in favor of an idea or belief, we need to behave in ways that show the world what we believe. They do not hear our words when our actions are in direct conflict with them. The old saying, “Actions speak louder than words” is quite true. The world will judge us on what we do, not what we say. So we must align our actions and behaviors with our beliefs to develop true authenticity.
We also must learn to remain honest with others in our day to day interactions with them. If we are being less than forthcoming about something, others are sure to pick up on our dishonorable words and behaviors. If you are going to tell someone that they are important to you, be sure to show them in your behaviors and actions. It will not be authentic if they know you are saying things to placate or get something over on them. An authentic person is kind enough to be honest with others, even when it is difficult. A true friend will let someone know when they are unhappy with or disinterested in them. While it may not be the best news, it will always be the truth, and therefore, authentic.
Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work, with a specialization in substance abuse treatment. Having worked in this field for over 20 years, she is currently working on her certification as an addictions’ counselor.