The idea of being authentic resonates with many people, that is the human desire to be among people we trust and appreciate.
The concept of authenticity is challenging. It can’t be forced nor can it be generated.
Describing it doesn’t work well either. It only can be felt and seen. By others. They then may mirror it.
Authenticity involves the art of being different and willing to show it. However, that willingness requires vulnerability as it implies to also be different from the ones we like. It may thus go against the desire to belong and be protected in the togetherness. The ability to share emotions or to let them appear is another element of authenticity. But it’s less the emotions one feels regarding oneself, it is the emotions one experiences relating with others. It is the ability to let others see how one has been impacted by them.
Austin Kleon recently shared Bill Callahan’s beautiful image of this. Beautiful, even if it is based on Callahan’s struggle to understand his mother.
“I never understood her,” Callahan admits. “And I didn’t ever feel like she was being honest or expressing her feelings my whole life. As she was getting older, I begged her: Show your children who you are, because we want to know before you die. She couldn’t do it. So now she’s still just an unfinished person for me.”
Showing who we are involves making the parts of us visible we don’t like. It asks us to do so without denying them. It is our inability to accept them as us that makes being authentic difficult.