As I sit down to write this piece on authenticity and my future self, I feel that credit is due to a friend of mine, Vincent. For sharing his time and his truth, for all the deep dive phone calls that created a space for these ideas to emerge into our consciousness. There is something both refreshing and familiar about friends that can connect at the level of soul and shadow work. Everyone needs friends of this caliber.
I’m starting to wonder if we only need friends that can see us so well. Perhaps we can let go of those who do not. I’ll save that for a future article, as the relationships we maintain are a significant reflection of how authentic our lives are. But let’s not dive into that deep water just yet.
I just spent some time on google trying to figure out how to insert the nerd emoji here. I’m on a Chromebook and there are multiple ways of inserting emojis. But it appears, at least to me, that there’s no nerd emoji. I use it all the time on my iphone and fondly think of it as the emoji which most accurately represents me and much of what I say or write. I feel somewhat canceled. Nevertheless, I’m going to continue in my nerdy way here, without a silly emoji to make light of it. Perhaps I need to learn to not mock my own character. So let’s begin with a definition, something concrete and technical.
What is the meaning of authenticity?
The Merriam Webster dictionary has several definitions of authenticity. The two that apply to how I’m using the concept here are:
- Not false or imitation, real.
- true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character
Both of these definitions can be simplified to: Truth.
Living an authentic life is about living our truth.
Truth, however, is not necessarily simple. It can be complex, nuanced, elusive, even contradictory. And part of authenticity means learning how to hear our own truth despite all the social conditioning and expectations and “shoulds” that life tends to shovel our way.
One way I’ve found of honing in on authenticity is to pay attention to desire. There is power in knowing what you want. Sometimes it’s just a hunch, some thought that feels juicy and more vibrant than the other thoughts I’m having. Sometimes an idea gets me really excited. It has a specific quality to it, it’s buzzing. It lights me up.
The flip side is knowing when something is out of alignment.
There’s a specific feeling to this too, like the cells in my body are screaming eek! This is not for us! Don’t go this way! Danger! This is not my path. I don’t want this.
This doesn’t mean that every stressful situation is out of alignment. Challenges are certainly part of the soul’s evolution. Whether an experience is pleasant or unpleasant doesn’t indicate whether it is in alignment for our journey. There are plenty of people who have experienced extreme suffering and found meaning and evolution in that darkness.
What I’m pointing at here is a quality that each challenging moment of life holds, and sometimes it is subtle. Sometimes there’s just a sense that something is off. Other times it’s more obvious, as if you’re driving your car on a paved road and suddenly the road becomes dirt. And then there’s a lot of rocks and potholes. At this point odds are you ought to turn around before you puncture a tire and get stranded out of cell range and die of exposure.
Truth begins with being honest with myself about what I want and what I don’t want.
Living that truth is the practice of saying Yes to what I want and saying No to what I don’t want. Not just in words (words are powerful) but also in my choices and actions. It sounds so simple here whittled down into a blog post, yet I’m often amazed at how much courage it takes to honor our own truth. It’s as if there’s something dangerous about truth. Perhaps because it can be a catalyst for great change. There’s often resistance to truth (and to change, for that matter), internally or externally.
And then there’s the issue that life isn’t always black or white, There’s a lot of gray area. So I’m also learning to be patient with myself when I’m navigating gray areas and trying to remain neutral in their vague and frustrating mucky terrain. I found a trick for navigating that gray area, but first here’s a pretty photo of it:
Fortunately, there’s a simple conscious growth hack to help reveal truth and create an authentic life.
Through my conversations with Vincent, we discovered this wormhole for personal growth that yields amazing results. It’s a thought exercise, where you ask your future self what you would do or not do in a given situation. It’s a bit like that idea of What would Jesus do. But instead of asking an archetype outside yourself, you’re checking in with your own personal unique archetypal self.
I use the phrase “future self” to reflect the evolution that conscious growth embraces. You can use whatever concept works for you that reflects the amazing version of yourself that you know you’re capable of being/becoming. For me, that’s the version of myself that makes all the wisest and most badass choices in life. She gets me to where I want to be in the most graceful and efficient way possible while honoring my core values, such as integrity and, ahem, authenticity. Sometimes the snake eats its tail, and there’s a wholeness to that.
I applied this concept recently with profound results. I was debating taking a certain trip, and I made a list of reasons for and against the idea. That was fine for seeing where my hesitation was coming from, but it still didn’t solve the puzzle for me, I still was on the fence about going. Then I asked myself:
What would my future self do?
My future self pointed out that my hesitations were based in fear. My future self doesn’t let fear stop her from doing things. She doesn’t ignore fear, but she doesn’t let it dictate her agenda. This insight deflated most of my reasons for not going, and I chose to go and had an amazing time.
Since then, I’ve applied this lens to other puzzles in my life, and so far the answers are consistently clear. They don’t always reveal how I get to that next stage, but at the very least they reveal what my true preferences are for myself. And then it’s up to me to make choices that align with that self knowledge.
What happens as a result is fascinating. By using the lens of the self that I am aspiring to be to navigate the present moment decisions in my life, I become that woman. I embody her more and more often, I transform into her. She’s here all along, that version of me that knows how to do this thing called life with style, grace, and authenticity. And there’s something profound in that experience. It suggests that there isn’t actually anywhere to get to, that we are here and home always. If we just listen to ourselves.