Word of the Month: Authenticity

One of my favorite quotes about authenticity is from Sarah Ban Breathnach, who in the 1990s wrote a best seller called Simple Abundance: “The authentic self is the Soul made visible.” When you are being authentic, you are being true to your deepest self.

Of course, in order to have the possibility of being true to yourself, you have to know yourself. You need to know your values, talents and preferences. We can learn about ourselves in lots of different ways, including meditation, reading, writing in journals, conversation, watching movies, trying new activities and traveling. One of the tricky things about authenticity is that our values, talents and preferences can evolve over time. That type of evolution is part of our growth as individuals, but it can be disconcerting. Perhaps this helps to explain what happens in a “midlife crisis.” When you realize that choices you made decades ago no longer fit who you are today, it’s understandable that you might feel a sudden need to make major changes in your life.

A well-known quote about authenticity is from Shakespeare: “To thine own self be true.” It sounds simple, but it can be very hard to follow that advice when we feel pushed and pulled in many directions by friends, relatives, bosses, co-workers, mass media and social media. If we know what our personal priorities are and we try to make choices consistent with them, we’re more likely to feel that we are making our way through life on an authentic path.

See more features from the April 2014 issue