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)

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  1. Pam says:

    Just LOVE this.  Oh to be able to fast forward…….

  2. [...] is part two in a series on authenticity. The first piece describes the power of authenticity. The third piece outlines some practical steps to recover your [...]

  3. [...] all want to live more authentically. So far this series on authenticity has looked at the power of authenticity.  The second piece looked at the payoff for being authentic. But how do you get there? The path to [...]

  4. [...] is the fourth part in a series on taking the masks off and living authentically. The first article is about the power of authenticity. The second is about authenticity’s payoff. The third [...]

  5. Keith says:

    I love the ‘idea’ that I am more than who I am today.  I can connect with the divine presence within and listen for the bits of inner wisdom that counsels me to be all that ‘I am.’  
    Commiting to the discipline of this practice is not a matter of a one time, highly inspired, fully determined ‘decision.’  It is more like going on a diet to lose weight.  The decision to do it doesn’t last.  I make the same decision/choices every day.  By continuing this practice faithfully for 3 to 4 weeks it can result in a change of life-style so that I can ‘claim’ the new dimension of my ‘self’ that is being born.  The ‘power’ in your writing is fuel for me to keep making the hard decisions to ‘become all that I am!’   Thank You!   

  6. This is exactly what I spoke about this morning at the Kiwanis Club in Tracy, Ca.  How to listen to the inner voice, your intuition that will guide you in the direction of all that is good.  I told the story of how I didnt listen to my instincts and invested all my life savings and pension with a man that my friends told me was a great investor.  He turned out to be a Ponzi Scam Atrtist, and stold my entire life savings…all $500,000. dollars that I worked very hard for, for half of my life.  This horrible event turned out to be the lesson that changed my life.  I am now not working for corp America, I am doing what I love, speaking and coaching people to overcome challenges and step into the bigger vision of themselves to bring more light to the planet.  I am being my authentic Self.

  7. Bryan Reeves says:

    Thanks Ian. Simply writing about authenticity gives more people permission (that they certainly don’t need, yet it still serves to hear) to be who they were born to be … and it’s amazing how that’s the easiest thing in the world any of us can do. Just be who we were born to be. In fact, it’s happening right this second anyway; just most of us aren’t paying attention to that fact. : ) Love you work.

  8. Seeking says:

    thank you guys … I’m not Afraid but I need help. I know u r near me. This is very overwhelming Help me help you

  9. Seeking says:


  10. Morten says:

    Great article! I’m glad I pressed the link on twitter (which I rarely do), and that I took the time to read the whole blog post (which I don’t think I’ve done before, after clicking links on Twitter).
    It’s so true what you say. It really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, who they want you to be or what they want you to do. The most important thing is what YOU think, who YOU want to be and what YOU want to do.
    I’ve retweeted you and will share this blog post on my facebook page! Have a fantastic day! ;)

  11. [...] to please others, and you can’t possibly please everybody. (the authenticity test) Read more here about [...]

  12. Bridgit says:

    Love this post!! I removed my mask a few years ago and have battled to keep it off. However, many more days it is off than one now!!
    Yesterday, my boss called to tell me one of our tenants had called him and complained about me. Thankfully, my boss knows this man well enough to dismiss it.  This individual said the board I work for needed to get a “grip on me” because I was a pain in the ass! At first I was completely offended, did just but a few minutes for me to  ended up laughing hysterically!!!  I thought to myself, he needs to visit with my husband….no one can get a grip on me! I am a random, occasionally outspoken, secure  independently woman.  Guess now that I am living who I truly am some people are not comfortable with me….but you know what……It is his problem, not mine!
    Thanks for your encouragement to be true to ME!

  13. It’s delicious to be comfortable in my own skin, and to care so deeply for others but not give a rip what they think of me or my choices. Finding this article made all the dots connect for me about twitter :). I’m so glad you posted this there, and I’m delighted that I found you :).

  14. ian says:

    Awesome Wendy- nicely said

  15. Israel says:

    Reading all this articles., it has giving me so much power of intention to stand up, and believe the has not been over yet., the there is more to walk through this life.. and so on.. Thanks so much for giving me such a great hopes.. 

  16. […] to please others, and you can’t possibly please everybody. (the authenticity test) Read more here about […]

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