Authenticity is quickly becoming one of those buzzwordy concepts that’s getting thrown around in women’s magazines and on daytime talk shows because everyone is suddenly over it with mindfulness and meditation talk and wants something new. We just love new ideas that promise to solve our problems overnight if we just buy the right product or do the right workout or drink the right green juice. We are addicted to an endless barrage of half-baked ideas and advertising that assures us we are one tiny, effortless step away from the answers to everything we dislike about our lives. If we just buy this book, or download this app. Just read this one TLDR article and you won’t really actually have to do anything of substance. We want a solution to our deepening fatigue, our exhaustion, our loneliness, our sadness, our quiet desperation, and our ill health, and we want it to be magical and immediate and permanent and take two minutes or less.
Authenticity, however lauded by the happiness-in-a-can set, is not a gimmick. Whatever Don Draper-in-a-hoodie-and-shorts Buzzfeed intern decided this was the next big thing was right. Except…Well, it’s always been there, just like our trusty friends mindfulness and meditation. If you want to get real deep into the rabbit hole of existential authenticity in philosophy, by all means, but the gist is this: Authenticity is “the degree to which one is true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character, despite external pressures.”
It’s no wonder, in an age of ever increasing force in every facet of modern life, that we are desperate to move inward, to discover some ancient, inherent, vital part of ourselves that speaks an unalterable, undeniable truth. We need so much help. We know it. Every one of us. And we have been socialized to look outside ourselves. Through capitalism and religion and mass media and advertising, we are taught to ignore the body. We turn off all our instincts in favor of this: Pray, drink, eat, shop, buy, consume, drug, fuck, sleep, repeat. We are designed to stuff stimulants and sedatives into every orifice until we no longer know what it means to be ourselves, because we cannot feel or hear what we need and who we are underneath anymore.
And yet, all is not lost. We can unravel the cocoon of conditioning and learn to hear and feel and see ourselves in our true state again. We can choose the greater life. But how? When you finally wake up, what does it mean to recognize and honor your authentic self?