It’s a new day and as much of a new life as you want it to be. You can choose at any time to start over and present the new you, YOU 1.0, to the world. It is the real you, the authentic you, the one you may have hidden under layers of protection and conformity. But it has always been there and now you’re ready to step out with style as if a butler is announcing your arrival at a party.
Let’s begin with one of the great action movies of all time; Face Off. John Travolta, the goodie, is trying to catch Nicholas Cage, the baddie. These guys are sworn enemies. In a strange turn of events, they end up surgically switching faces. As you do! How have movie makers never thought of that before? Their face switch creates a world of mayhem as you can imagine. The first time they see each other, and face off, Nicholas Cage says with a sneer, “It’s like looking in a mirror. Only not.”
We tend to do our own form of face off when it comes to conformity. We spend so much time wearing the masks of who we think we’re supposed to be, or mindlessly wearing the masks that will gain us approval that pretending becomes second nature and we easily forget who we really are. The desire for approval is insatiable in any case. Once you decide you need it, you seek it out like a drug. There are so many stereotypes and expectations vying for your loyalty that it’s easy to forget that true joy in life is found in authenticity. One day you look around your workplace, school, family, church, neighborhood, species….and realize you’ve lost yourself in the crowd. It’s like looking in a mirror. Only not.
This is an awesome time to reclaim your authentic life, once and for all. Choose from this moment, to no longer measure your life according to shoulds and supposed tos, self imposed, or expectations set by other people. Boldly and gladly be a minority of one, because no one does YOU better than you, and everyone else is taken anyway. What the world needs is YOU, living with your unique style, making your unique mark on each day.
Comedian Mitch Hedberg did a piece about conformity,
If you go to the grocery store and stand in front of the lunch meat section for too long, you start to get pissed off at turkeys. You see turkey ham, turkey pastrami, turkey bologna – somebody needs to tell the turkeys, ‘Man, just be yourself.’
Not to mention turkey substitute, the worst of all turkey lies. It’s not just turkeys. I’m sure the turkeys think the same thing when they look at us. Look at those funny people running around, wearing their masks and disguises, imitating each other. Don’t be a turkey. Be yourself. Find out who you are, trust it, live it, love it and be it.
Recently I wrote about taking responsibility for who you are, staying accountable for what matters most to you, and creating the change you want to see in the world. Responsibility’s mantra is IF IT IS TO BE, IT IS UP TO ME. One of the most important things you need to take responsibility for is being authentic. When your authentic ideals and actions match up like hand and glove, personal responsibility falls into place naturally.
Then I wrote about taking too much responsibility. When you find yourself rescuing, excusing, protecting and enabling other people, you may be taking more responsibility than is healthy. In effect, when you take responsibility for someone else you are robbing them of the chance to be authentic. Healthy responsibility says that you’re off the hook for my happiness, and I’m off the hook for yours. So if you think someone else has the power or duty to make you happy, or if you feel obliged to make someone else happy, you might have tipped from responsibility to co-dependence.
There is much more to say about authenticity. Part two of the series looks at the rewards of living authentically. Part three outlines some practical steps to living more authentically. Part four looks at the relationship between each of us as individuals living authentically and how this relates to the whole planet.
But for now, let me end with the lyrics of one of my favorite Ben Fold’s songs, “The Best Imitation of Myself.” Ben Fold is one of the most authentic artists I know, and a brilliant musician. This song expresses the challenge of authenticity beautifully.
I feel like a quote out of context
Withholding the rest
So I can be for you what you want to see
I got the gesture and sound
Got the timing down
It’s uncanny, yeah, you think it was me
Do you think I should take a class
To lose my southern accent
Did I make me up, or make the face till it stuck
I do the best imitation of myself
It doesn’t have to be that way. Being authentic is as effortless as opening a window and feeling your true northerly breeze wash over you. Maybe your authenticity is painted shut by the voice of judgment. If so, gently tap it open with acceptance. Maybe your self belief is filtered by critical voices from your past, like insects buzzing in the screens of your mind. Open the window and let the nagging voices fly free. Be done with them. Enjoy the freedom. Give judgment no more power in your life. The only person you need to imitate is the best version of yourself. Authenticity transforms your experience of life and is a breath of fresh air for all of us.
(I described my personal battle with nagging self doubt and authenticity in this post)