15 votes

How do you practice authenticity?

I'm a big believer in the theme system proposed by CGP Grey (discussed in much more detail on the Cortex podcast), and have been thinking about what I would like my theme for 2022 to be. After realigning my financial situation this year through the (imaginitively named) Year of Finance, I want to spend some time focusing on myself as a person and my existence in the world.

Enter the Year of Authenticity. Recent circumstances and some serious meta-cognition have led me to the conclusion that I am not sufficiently honest enough about my values, beliefs, expression, and well, myself. I find myself bending to the various social situations I find myself in, and it feels very dishonest at times. So I plan to spend 2022 thinking more about the person that I want to be, being more true to that desire, and trying to align my various "selves" into an individual who I am confident being in any situation.

I already have a few things in mind that I expect to work on, including my public gender expression and my fear of expressing opinions in unfamiliar groups and situations. But I find myself wondering, how do other people experience the desire to be more authentic? Is this something any of my fellow Tilderen have ever spent time working on? What are your approaches to practicing authenticty? Do you have an idealised version of yourself which you work towards? Do you find yourself acting differently with different groups of people? Is this even something I should be worried about? Lets have a talk about it :)

Edit: The nice thing about a theme (watch the video if you haven't, it gives a good explanation) is that it's fuzzy, and it can mean a lot of things, or even change meaning when necessary.

A few have mentioned the idea of consistency, which is not really what I'm shooting for. I don't believe that there is a core, unchanging, self that I have inside me that I am wanting to unleash on an unsuspecting world. I know and embrace that as humans we are emotional, multi-faceted beings, and that changing social situations necessitate changing mannerisms. I don't expect to behave in the same with with my university professors as I do with my best friends of multiple decades. I haven't yet nailed down exactly what I do mean by authenticity, but I do know that it doesn't mean trying to be the same logical, consistent character to all people.

There's a reason I've started thinking about this journey for 2022 now, even before December: there's a lot of introspection and metacognition required for something like this. Being an intronaut can be scary and difficult, but I'm excited to see where it takes me! This whole process is just beginning, and I'm looking to gain insight into others' experiences to help frame my own view of what this year can/might/should mean for me. Thanks for everyone's responses so far <3

19 comments

  1. [3]
    Gaywallet
    Link
    I'd like to start by mentioning that it sounds like you already know that the way for you to practice authenticity is to simply stop bending yourself to the various social situations you find...
    • Exemplary

    I'd like to start by mentioning that it sounds like you already know that the way for you to practice authenticity is to simply stop bending yourself to the various social situations you find yourself in. That you need to be more authentic with your gender expression and fear of expressing opinions in unfamiliar groups and situations. This has been my experience as well - that we all need to navigate and learn how to be true to ourselves and ignore the urges to placate or please others for the various reasons we choose to do that. This is the entirety of authenticity, it's simply a choice that people make, to be themselves despite of what others think. It's natural, to an extent, to mirror others and to shape ourselves based on our surroundings. I used to be an extreme social chameleon, as a defense mechanism, but even when it is not defensive there's plenty of scientific literature to show that part of being social is adapting yourself to the environment you find yourself in. The extent to which you adapt yourself is personal, based on some combination of your genetic makeup, your upbringing, and what kind of consequences you'll face by not conforming to society or by sticking out.

    Honestly you shouldn't worry too much about any of this, but I would recommend taking small steps - tell yourself that for a week or a month that you'll dress how you want to, your first urge in the morning, and not change your thoughts based on any second thoughts you have. Practice being mindful of when you censor your opinion and then when you are able to recognize it as it is happening, take action to prevent the censorship or correct yourself and share the opinion you wanted to originally. Ramp this up over time and reflect upon how it makes you feel. Chances are, like most people, you'll feel much better being authentic. However, there are times in which we still need to conform to societal expectations such as work. In these realms it can be good to start small to understand precisely what you can share and in what capacities. Your work environment sadly may not be willing to let you express your gender in all the ways you wish without risking your career and taking small steps can help you figure out where you wish that line in the sand to be and how you wish to censor yourself for your own safety and security.


    This inspired me to share a brief story on this topic from my own personal history. This history is one I've repeated to many close people in my life, but not something that I've ever shared openly. It's not something that I guard, but it's a fairly long story and it's related to my own personal trauma, so it's merely something that doesn't get shared until I want people to know a bit more about who I am; what makes my clock tick, what shaped my childhood, and why I have some of the ideals I have. If you have the time and are interested, feel free to read on - it's related to my own struggle with authenticity, but it doesn't add anything new to the message above the line so feel free to skip if you're short on time.

    When I entered the 3rd grade my parents took me out of public school and placed me into a charter school which was structured in a slightly modified Montessori style. If you're unfamiliar with what a Montessori school is, the general principle is that you don't really have grades, but rather groups of kids placed based on where they are in their studies. Teachers don't give many lectures so much as they are staff on hand to help kids through their studies. Students are encouraged to teach and learn from each other and work their way through schoolwork by investing time filling out packets of exercises. In essence, it's much more self-taught learning than it is structured. At this school there were groups put together based on 'grades' and packets which resembled what should be learned during that grade. So, the 3rd-5th graders were together in one class and the 6th-8th graders in another. This roughly correlated with age, but if you filled out your packets, you progressed to the next group.

    My parents were workaholics. Well, my Dad definitely still is, working into his 70s with no clear intent to stop. My mom has since moved on to other hobbies, devoting herself and keeping busy. What this meant when I was a child is that they dropped me off before they went to work and picked me up after. At a public school this meant that I started school with everyone else and then spent another 2-4 hours at some after school area until I was picked up sometime 530-6pm. This new school was a bit further away, so I was there even longer. This timeframe, combined with my natural penchant for absorbing information and learning, an unquenchable desire to understand the world, meant that over the course of a year and two summers (with the extra several hours to work on my packets) I was able to finish the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade packets. Coming into the next school year I was ready to move to the 6th-8th grade group. I found the school a fantastic fit for my own desired work speed and the free time I found myself with.

    Unfortunately, however, the school had some funding issues and had to move to a new location. This new location was further away. I want to say it was something like another half hour or driving, but at this point it's frankly lost to memory. Perhaps it was an hour, maybe even longer. Whatever the cost, however, I was willing to make the journey and I spent some time reaching out to friends at the school to find out where they lived (if I didn’t already know) and to see whether they would be continuing the next year. My plan, you see, was to attend school by carpooling with them. When I had secured such an arrangement, I went to my parents and let them know that I wished to continue this school for another year - I was convinced that I would be able to keep up my speed of learning and be out and into high school very shortly. I dreamed of attending and finishing college as a child - who doesn't have high aspirations?

    My parents disagreed. They said that such a long commute would be too hard on me. It's almost as in if they forgot the long hours I spent after school waiting on them to pick me up. Worse yet, they were telling me how I felt about this, without letting me provide my own input. They pulled me from the school and plopped me back into the public school system. I fought as best I could, but as a child I had no sway. When the public school system took me back, they had no idea what to do with the education I had received. You see, even though the packets resembled the 4th and 5th grades, it wasn't transferrable because they didn't follow the same curriculum.

    I tried protesting; I didn't want to repeat ‘learning’ the same information I had just acquired for the next two years of my life. Administration did not care and would not make any accommodations. I asked to test out of these grades, and in no uncertain terms they told me no. I was devastated. I searched for allies… I made my pleas to every new teacher I had, any students I was friends with from 2nd grade and their parents. No one would listen. I asked my parents to step up to bat, to fight for my right to test out - to do something, anything to get a cold calculating system to listen to a child. They wouldn't. They told me, in more age-appropriate terms, that life sometimes serves you up a plate of shit and the only thing you can do is to consign yourself to eating it.

    I was abandoned. The system wouldn't help me. My friends couldn't help me. Their parents didn't care. My teachers were apathetic. Worst of all, my own parents were too absorbed in their own lives, too unwilling to start a fuss, or otherwise just unwilling to protect me - to center my life instead of theirs; a long conversation, a hug, tutors, a plan to make use of my time… any concerted effort would have helped me to feel supported and loved. Either none of this was offered, or what was offered never stuck with me, because I distinctly remember this as the point in time where I realized that the world is cold and cruel and that when it comes down to it, no one cares about anyone but themselves.

    If you've interacted with me on this website, I would hope you'd be struck by the last half of that last sentence. That it would stick out to you as a contradiction to how some of us spend our time on this website and in our lives. It's absolutely a false statement, but you see, I was in 4th grade at the time. I hadn't the depth of experience I have today to realize that there are wonderful, emotionally deep, compassionate, amazing people in the world who would jump in front of a bullet for a fellow human because they truly believe that this mindset is more important than their own life. They live to serve, because they wish to see a world in which others do the same. It took me a long time to get here, but as you can imagine this formative experience is a huge reason behind why I take a similar mindset to a fault - I don't want anyone to ever experience the abandonment I felt, to ever think the world is cold and calculating and that you can't be compassionate or center others. I don't want this so strongly that I've ran into situations where I centered others when I should have centered myself and my mental health, my safety, my ability to help others has been hampered because I gave myself away when I was already broken or in need of help myself.

    The 4th grade is when I was diagnosed with chronic depression. You see, I immediately started acting out in class. I was upset about being abandoned by the system. Upset about having to waste my time in a classroom being taught that which I already knew. Upset that I started to resent the act of learning. I lashed out at teachers and swore at them. I got into fights with other children. I walked off campus in the middle of the day because I would rather spend my time doing literally anything else. So, they sent me to a psychiatrist to have me evaluated. Of course I was depressed - look what the system did to me.

    However, two incredibly important driving forces in my life began in the 4th grade. The first driving force, which is less important to the context of this post was that of vastly increasing the diversity in which I was exposed to. You see, I became a delinquent, which means that my friend circle started out with other delinquents. I was exposed to people of a much more diverse background as I came from one of white middle-upper class in an extremely privileged area. Ideas which I despise today were drilled into my head when I was younger - don't go to that part of town, it's dangerous there. Those kids are just more prone to violence. Sexism is overblown - look at all the successful women in your life! These ideas broke down very quickly when I started to make friends and visit the ‘dangerous’ parts of town. When I listened to the stories the women told, their mothers told, their sisters told. When I saw how the system actually treated these people and heard what they had to say, it helped me to learn that what I was being taught was actually a lie.

    The second driving force was the acceptance and the learning that came from fully understanding that people would not listen to a child. This really solidified in my brain when I was talking with my psychiatrist about this experience and how they ignored everything I said and listened only how my parents reported my behavior, my struggles, and what was happening in class. I learned that if I wanted things to happen, I would need an adult to do them and because of this I started to learn how to get adults to do the things I wanted. I learned to shape myself to fit what the adults wanted to see in a kid. I found out quickly that if they saw themselves in me, they would spontaneously want to protect me and could be an ally which fought on my behalf. If I did small things for them, to show them that I enjoyed or cared for their presence or remembered their birthday, remembered what they liked and offered them small offerings within my means, that I would grow in their hearts and that they could advocate on my behalf. I learned to play this same game with my peers for social points - how I could win their hearts and become social, become cool, or become feared. In many ways this was incredibly sociopathic - I approached social dynamics as an extreme social chameleon. Who I was changed drastically throughout the day and I learned to shape it to be exactly who I needed to be at any one point in time to accomplish whatever goals I had.

    Have you ever taken a Meyers-Brigs personality test? I have. I've taken lots of them. I've been administered them too, by therapists and psychologists throughout my lifetime. What's your type? Really?! Me too! You see, I've received all 16 personality types in my life. When I say I was an extreme social chameleon, I mean it to the point at which that I struggled understanding who I truly was. The narrative I told myself is one which fit how I interacted in social dynamics. You see, each question asks you about how you would act or react, but it doesn't set boundaries on context - you're supposed to just create a context in my mind and answer appropriately. Instantaneously in my mind, I'm able to create two contexts in which I am on both sides of the answer - extremely agree and extremely disagree. So how am I supposed to answer? I just put down however I'm feeling that day, or perhaps whatever most resembles a recent experience I've had. This is why I've received every possible personality type. This is the hole I dug myself into - I struggled for years with the idea of an immutable self. There were things about myself which I knew, like my sense of humor and an innate drive to tell jokes even at the expense of myself, but I also knew that I could censor it and would censor it in many situations. I wasn’t sure that there was any immutable self underneath it all as I could always think of situations in which I would modify my behavior.

    In my late 20s after I ended a decade long relationship with the only major monogamous relationship I've ever had I realized that I needed to find what would make me happy absent the input of others. Yes, I was extremely social, and derived great pleasure from this extroversion, but I needed something sustainable for when I wasn't social. I needed something sustainable without the presence of a partner. More so, I needed to come away from every interaction happy… not just happy that I had won someone's favor, but happy with myself. It took many years of concerted effort to reflect upon interactions and become conscious of when I was simply doing what someone else wanted me to do to begin to change my behavior or to even understand what I wanted to do. What I wanted seemed so frivolous that in many cases I wasn't even aware that I had any desires. In some cases, I had to simply try reacting in different ways to see how those ways even made me feel to understand my own desires. I had a serious web to untangle, because I had taught myself to be out of touch with my subconscious self.

    In my early 30s I also began a journey of becoming more visible. As I spent more and more time in circles which represented some of the identities which I knew I had (bi/pan, gender nonconforming of some sort) and wished to participate in (POC and other minorities which reflected many of my friend’s identities), I began to realize the power and privilege which I had and reflected upon how seeing diversity helped me to recognize who I was. You see, I didn't realize all the ways in which I could be non-binary until I saw other people pursuing the same path and people forging different ones altogether. I vowed that I could use my privilege to make these identities more visible - to show others what one path might look like so they might better understand what is right for them. I also decided that I could do a better job advocating on behalf of others, especially those who may not have the mental bandwidth or emotional capacity to do so themselves, given how the system already oppresses them. This journey helped me immensely in continuing to unravel and stop my social chameleon tendencies. Seeing how others struggled with how they presented themselves to the world helped me realize the ways in which I wanted to present to the world and helped me on my own journey of self-reflection and authenticity.

    Today, I think I’ve done a good job uncovering who that person I suppressed as a child truly was. I have rediscovered my love for learning. I’ve accepted and embraced my extroversion. I wear colorful, bright clothing that gets me noticed and leads to some discrimination. I do not shy away from centering the emotions of others even when it conflicts with the needs or wants of an organization or a group of people. I laugh and joke freely, and I spend my time reminding others to live the life that they want to see in the world. Work is fake. Time is fake. Happiness and getting along with other humans are all that really matters in this world, and I will absolutely remind you of this if you dare send me a work email after 5pm. There are better and more important things in your life to be doing, do yourself a favor and unplug and spend that time with your loved ones instead. Is there an even more authentic self still below the surface? Probably, and I wish to uncover them with time, but I’m also compassionate to the struggles I’ve had to overcome to let them out. There’s beauty in a late blooming flower and chastising the flower for taking so long to bloom seems a pointless endeavor – I’d rather appreciate it for what it is, when it gets there, because that’s the kind of person I want to be. Life is too short to not appreciate it.

    If you made it this far, I hope the read was pleasing enough. When I started writing this, I didn't realize it would be thousands of words or how deep I wanted to dive into my past, but it is my sincere hope that someone else who reads this gets something out of it - perhaps a little more emotional intelligence, perhaps a little more compassion, a bit more understanding or simply just access to a life experience they've never heard. If I'm lucky, maybe it'll inspire someone else to share a similar story in the future or will touch somebody in a way they didn't know they needed and help them on their own journey. Authenticity is about sharing yourself with the world through your actions and your words, and if you feel inspired, I'd love to hear your story as well.

    11 votes
    1. [2]
      bilbodwyer
      Link Parent
      Thank you for sharing this, it was a really insightful read, not to mention inspiring. Several parts of it resonated with me, not least your ticking all the different boxes on the Meyers-Brigs...

      Thank you for sharing this, it was a really insightful read, not to mention inspiring. Several parts of it resonated with me, not least your ticking all the different boxes on the 21st-century horoscope Meyers-Brigs test. Those sorts of contextless questionaires are next to useless for me, because like you I can always imagine scenarios in which I strongly agree, and those in which I strongly disagree.

      The desire to come away from every interaction happy with yourself is one I would like to emulate as a part of my journey for 2022: I think it's a valuable goal, and one that speaks to me. I have definitely come away from conversations and/or interactions and known that I have not been the best version of myself that I could be.

      I too feel the desire to use my privilege to advocate for those with less than me, or to be a beacon to those without the same level of emotional bandwidth that things can get better. I have often considered a career in counseling for this very reason, though I think perhaps I am too logically driven to be an effective counselor. But I'm glad to know that there are others in the world who feel this as well.

      There’s beauty in a late blooming flower and chastising the flower for taking so long to bloom seems a pointless endeavor – I’d rather appreciate it for what it is, when it gets there, because that’s the kind of person I want to be.

      I have written this down in my notebook, because it feels like such a powerful idea. It's easy to forget in this world of instant gratification that meaningful change takes time, and sometimes a lot of it.

      4 votes
      1. Gaywallet
        Link Parent
        I would challenge this assumption. Everyone can learn emotional intelligence - it's simply a skill. Remember when I talked about having to unlearn some of the nonsense I was taught as a kid that...

        though I think perhaps I am too logically driven to be an effective counselor

        I would challenge this assumption. Everyone can learn emotional intelligence - it's simply a skill. Remember when I talked about having to unlearn some of the nonsense I was taught as a kid that was racist, sexist, etc.? Well I also had to unlearn some of how I taught myself to cope with the world. A logical framework helped me to approach the world and understand how best to get people to advocate on my behalf. This same logical framework I became enamored with and well into my late teenage years I was the insufferable internet pedantic logician. My interactions with others, namely those who loathed this kind of behavior and started to expose to me how centering a human, rather than cold logic, helped me to gradually shift my viewpoint away from this. I truly think anyone can learn to center emotions over logic, so long as they have access to both - it's just about re-framing and re-prioritizing what's important to you.

        It's easy to forget in this world of instant gratification that meaningful change takes time, and sometimes a lot of it.

        I would say there's more to it than that - it's about appreciating everything in the world for what it is and what it brings. What would a world be without artists? Without chefs? Without musicians? Without hard workers? Without Mothers? None of these can truly be compared to each other - they all enrich our lives in different ways. To me it's about centering the beauty in all the diversity there is in life. Have you ever looked out the window and thought "that's nice"? What contributed to it being nice? Have you taken the time to appreciate each detail individually? Is it possible for you to better respect these parts or let them know you appreciate them?

        I often spend a lot of time thinking about what I don't like in the world and that can be useful to understand how to make it better, but I'm trying to shift that balance to spend more time thinking about what I do like in the world and what I can do to keep it around. Sometimes a small compliment is all it takes to encourage someone else to keep doing what they love, and how easy is that to offer when they took your mind off something difficult or sparked even the smallest amount of joy? Thank you for this post and this opportunity to express myself and think more deeply on an important topic. 😄

        I have written this down in my notebook, because it feels like such a powerful idea.

        I teared up a little at this. Thank you 💜

        3 votes
  2. scissortail
    Link
    Really loving the responses to this thread so far! Mine will doubtless rhyme a bit with some of them. This thread came at a good time for me; I have lately been introspecting something fierce and...
    • Exemplary

    Really loving the responses to this thread so far! Mine will doubtless rhyme a bit with some of them. This thread came at a good time for me; I have lately been introspecting something fierce and am on the cusp of some major life changes. I have quite a few thoughts that I can hopefully use to craft something resembling a coherent response. Warning: embryonic philosophizing below:

    Like @mtset, I find the common conception of the "self" to be of dubious usefulness--particularly as a platform from which one interacts with others. I don't think each of us possesses a set of qualities, immutable or otherwise, that we must be authentic to in order to live well. When it comes to interacting with others, I think we all have a collection of Masks that we don, each one tailored to different people and situations in our lives. It seems to me that many folks do not realize that they are doing this. A little self-awareness, though, allows us to more carefully carve and decorate our Masks to better fit specific contexts. A degree of consistency between these Masks is desirable, in my opinion; it helps minimize cognitive dissonance and prevents the extremely undesirable perception of being untrustworthy or "two-faced". However, allowing for degrees of friction between these Masks can be extremely helpful. At first, each Mask is an exaggeration of practiced and comfortable qualities. Through practice we can add new qualities to each Mask, even those qualities that are more raw and less comfortable for us.

    Critically, and perhaps obviously, our Masks are only known to others by the actions we take that affect them. While aligning one's thoughts with one's current Mask is often helpful, it's not strictly necessary--more on this later.

    This model, I think, works pretty well to describe how we relate to others. Where it seems to fall apart a bit, though, is when we are alone with ourselves: who are we when there is no
    one around to wear a Mask for?

    I think, ultimately, we wear a Mask for ourselves as well--and, like the Masks we wear for others, self-awareness allows us to tweak it and tailor it. Just as others only know us by the actions we take, we only "know ourselves" (that is, see our Inner Mask) by the actions we take when no one else is watching. This Inner Mask is what we, without introspecting, tend to think of as the "Self". It seems to be uncommonly realized that this Mask is also quite plastic, if to a lesser degree than the Outer Masks.

    As I alluded to earlier in this comment, recent events in my life have given me the opportunity for intense reflection. I have apprehended my Inner Mask more completely than I ever had before (except possibly while under the influence of a certain fungus), and I have found it wanting, badly. My urgent life's project, now, is to whittle at that Inner Mask, add both new and long-discarded materials, and re-shape it into something more to my liking. We tell ourselves stories about our Inner Masks often (usually some sort of self-concept or life narrative), but these are often, bluntly, bunkum. Our Inner Masks are only the sum of our actions taken when no one else is watching.

    And no, old scissortail hasn't missed the obvious: whatever part of you that is adjusting the Inner Mask is not the Inner Mask, and has its own values and preferences! What could this be, if not the self?

    And yes, I do think this is the Self, or as I like to think of it, our Awareness, or The Decider (see also Stirner's Unique or certain views of Atman). I see this as a cluster of qualities possessing low mutability, wrapped around the same identical spark of consciousness that each of us possess. The low mutability of our Awareness is due to the nature of its construction: it is comprised of our genetic predilections and our deep-seated social imprinting, usually acquired early in our lives. It usually takes a very serious system shock to rapidly change the shape and composition of our Awareness.

    However, our Awareness is molded slowly by the Masks it wears; so while one's inner thoughts do not have to line up with one's Mask, as stated previously, Masks change the
    Awareness as they are used. This is why one's choice of long-term Masks should be taken with great care. While we should absolutely be playful and improvisatory with the Masks we don in the short term, any we break out more than a handful of times should be crafted with great care. As Vonnegut said, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

    Our Awareness is not really our traditional conception of "Self" though; its nearly hardwired nature makes it is almost impossible to contravene its values and desires (or, more accurately, its "ways of choosing"), and thereby live "inauthentically". Our Awareness is simply the slow-changing root of everything we are, from which all of our Masks are formed.

    Our Awareness, moreover, is known only to us, and can only be guessed at by others through their relationship with their own Awareness. It cannot be communicated in any meaningful way, while some conceptions of the Self can be made known to others. For all of our interactions with the world and its people, we have our Masks. Our Awareness does little but choose the adjustments to make in those masks--a process we become more cognizant of as we learn to become aware of our own Awareness.


    @bilbodwyer, to answer your prompt more directly:

    Because of the above harebrained ideas, I don't really experience the desire to be more authentic. The desire to lead a more admirable life? Absolutely. The desire to work harder to leave a meaningful legacy behind me? Sure. The desire to live a life closer to some aspirational values? Yep. But I don't really have a "true self" that I feel the need to achieve congruence with. My actions reveal my impact on this world, and I judge and adjust them according to the context and my own Awareness. I will be spending quite a bit of time on that judgment and adjustment in the near future, especially on my Inner Mask.

    Now, if you find yourself feeling discomforted by a feeling of inauthenticity in social situations, I think there's a calculation to be made: is your discomfort worth the benefit of the bending that you're doing? Further, if it is worth it, are you bending in such a way that you can avoid duplicity, or at least the perception of the same? If the answer to either question is no, it may be time to stop bending.

    After that initial response, though, I'd encourage you to look at it more deeply. What is the root of that feeling of inauthenticity? Which layer of your desires (Outer Mask, Inner Mask, Awareness) was contravened? Would it be worth the effort for you to adjust your desires here? Would it be better to adjust the situation? Is the situation itself one you want to be in?

    I hope that made even an ounce of sense. Thanks for starting such a great discussion! I enjoyed writing this out so much that I'll probably flesh it out some more and throw it on my blog.

    7 votes
  3. [2]
    nacho
    Link
    One of my first assignments as a freshman in high school was to record my values in the form of a manifesto. I took the task seriously and did the best I could with a long list of almost 50 values...

    One of my first assignments as a freshman in high school was to record my values in the form of a manifesto. I took the task seriously and did the best I could with a long list of almost 50 values I have written out as single sentences.

    The second section of this manifesto were a number of aims for how I wanted to turn my values into practice for my life. That was much harder, and my operationalization of my values was naive (putting it very kindly).

    As I developed through high school with lessons in ethics, epistemology, history, literature, science, I tried to reconcile how my values changed through updating my personal manifesto every winter break.

    Putting things down in words helps me confront, consolidate and develop my beliefs: Language is a way of knowing.


    Through college having and reevaluating clear and concise values gave me a framework to structure new experiences and concepts around, a clear way to test what I think about something new.

    Now I'm nowhere near as structured. As an adult, and in working life I've been much more focused on explicitly developing how I aim to interact with others. My values change and readjust; I don't record exactly when and how; It's often hard to pin down when my opinion changes as the new belief generally feels "obvious" and it's difficult to explain why one previously believed something different.


    Being true to my values does not mean that I will say things the exact same way for different audiences. I couch my beliefs in different terminology when I speak to someone who's 80, 60, 40, or 20 years old, to someone I meet in a professional setting, to someone based on their interests and views.

    I often highlight different reasons for why I believe something depending on the audience, not what to me is THE most important reason for believing or saying what I do. That's part of being an effective communicator and reaching one's audience.


    I strongly recommend taking time with your own thoughts, without music or other sensory input than say driving or walking or working out or laying on the beach.

    Introspection helps me understand me. Why do I think what I do? Why do I feel what I feel? I recognize that as an animal, I'm irrational in many ways. How can I live with that. When is an emotional reason more important than a rational one for making a choice, even though I can't quite put my finger on why I feel the way I feel? When should I try to be as rational as possible?


    And possibly the most important for me: When is an argument I write down or a phrase I think of not the easy solution it might seem to balance different values of mine? I spend a lot of time thinking about that.

    I hope that makes me a nicer and more predictable person to be around. As other life choices, attempting to be "nice", "helpful", "honest" and all these other positive traits we all strive to is a continual process, the sum of all my actions and little choices every day.

    6 votes
    1. bilbodwyer
      Link Parent
      This sounds like a cool exercise to have kids do! Or at least, kids with the right sort of temperament. I can imagine when I was at high school a lot of my peers not really bothering with it. It's...

      One of my first assignments as a freshman in high school was to record my values in the form of a manifesto. I took the task seriously and did the best I could with a long list of almost 50 values I have written out as single sentences.

      This sounds like a cool exercise to have kids do! Or at least, kids with the right sort of temperament. I can imagine when I was at high school a lot of my peers not really bothering with it. It's a shame, I think I'd have gotten a lot out of it. I might give it a go once the semester finishes and I have a bit of time for such introspection.

      I strongly recommend taking time with your own thoughts, without music or other sensory input than say driving or walking or working out or laying on the beach.

      This is excellent advice, and it's something I recommend to a lot of people. I used to fill every spare moment with music or podcasts or audiobooks or whatever other kind of media, and I never realised that it was stressing me out, not having any spare time to just think. I tried meditation for a month or two last year, and while the guided stuff wasn't really doing much for me, I found just spending a bit of time with my own thoughts, watching them go by, or sitting with them for a while so valuable.

      Edit: Thank you for taking the time to write such a considered answer :)

      3 votes
  4. [2]
    lou
    (edited )
    Link
    By reading the post and the answer by @nacho, I wonder if what is being discussed here would be more aptly described as "consistency" than "authenticity".

    By reading the post and the answer by @nacho, I wonder if what is being discussed here would be more aptly described as "consistency" than "authenticity".

    5 votes
    1. [2]
      Comment deleted by author
      Link Parent
      1. bilbodwyer
        Link Parent
        Oh for sure! As @nacho points out, you interact differently with different groups of people, and I'm not shooting to talk to my mother like I do with my best mates. I think it's the idea that I...

        For example - why wouldn't you act differently with your mom versus someone else? What would be the argument for interacting with her the same as you do others? And if that's not something OP is arguing for, then some clarification would help as to what they mean by authenticity - and what they hope to achieve for themselves with it.

        Oh for sure! As @nacho points out, you interact differently with different groups of people, and I'm not shooting to talk to my mother like I do with my best mates. I think it's the idea that I feel like I behave like a completely different person for my different social circles: I am one way to my friends, another to my family, another to my bandmates, another at work, etc. Not a one of them feels like me, though. I guess what I'm aiming for is to feel more comfortable in my own skin, and to not feel like I'm playing a part when spending time with others.

        Basically the core issue I see with the idea of wanting consistency is that it means you're probably going to be suppressing spontaneous emotional reactions, which is not what I imagine is meant by authenticity.

        Outwardly I'm quite a repressed, emotionless person, and it's something that I have come to not really like about myself, as I do feel emotions quite strongly. So perhaps what I mean by authentic is to be more comfortable in feeling emotions and expressing those to more people around me. An exercise in trusting others to accept me for who I am, maybe.

        3 votes
  5. [3]
    post_below
    Link
    For me, authenticity starts with self awareness, which is a constantly moving target. We're wired to delude ourselves in all sorts of ways, and for all sorts of reasons. We react, think and feel...

    For me, authenticity starts with self awareness, which is a constantly moving target.

    We're wired to delude ourselves in all sorts of ways, and for all sorts of reasons.

    We react, think and feel differently when fight or flight has us coming from our hindbrain, when we're defending some aspect of our identity, when past trauma has been evoked, and so on. Even when we're not reacting, our brains rewrite the narrative for myriad reasons without consulting the thin layer of conscious self.

    All of that detracts from authenticity, at least as I define it: being in the world in a way that's consistent with my higher level ideals, priorities and genuine feelings. Genuine meaning emotions that don't come from defensiveness, pain, fear or are in other ways unhealthy.

    The only way to do that, from my perspective, is through a constant practice of metacognition. There's no way to avoid some level of self delusion, it's baked in. We need coping mechanisms as stop gaps, there are two many situations that are impossible to fully process in the moment. So I think we need tools and habits to unpack the baggage as we go along. Otherwise it builds up and pushes us ever farther from authenticity.

    I don't think authenticity has to mean consistently being the same person in all situations, or with all people. I don't think it even necessarily requires absolute honesty at all times. Instead it's about maintaining a relatively clear view of who you are, and being true to that. For me personally, it's also about having a clear picture of my impact on the people around me, and always working to make it as empowering as possible.

    5 votes
    1. [2]
      bilbodwyer
      Link Parent
      This idea intrigues me greatly. I can imagine it takes a lot of introspection and self-awareness to get to the point of knowing that one isn't acting out of these things, which must often be a...

      Genuine meaning emotions that don't come from defensiveness, pain, fear or are in other ways unhealthy.

      This idea intrigues me greatly. I can imagine it takes a lot of introspection and self-awareness to get to the point of knowing that one isn't acting out of these things, which must often be a painful experience? But it seems like a solid place to start.

      I don't think authenticity has to mean consistently being the same person in all situations, or with all people. I don't think it even necessarily requires absolute honesty at all times. Instead it's about maintaining a relatively clear view of who you are, and being true to that.

      I think this is the clearest definition of authenticity I've read yet, thank you! It gets close to what I feel like I'm shooting for, but part of the process is as you say, metacognition. Do you have any particular approaches to thinking about thinking?

      2 votes
      1. post_below
        Link Parent
        Sure, but it's pain that has release and strength on the other side. A lot depends on how much trauma there is of course. Some people probably shouldn't go digging around without professional...

        which must often be a painful experience

        Sure, but it's pain that has release and strength on the other side. A lot depends on how much trauma there is of course. Some people probably shouldn't go digging around without professional supervision.

        Do you have any particular approaches to thinking about thinking?

        I used metacognition a little loosely to refer to thinking about feeling as well.

        Such a big subject. Without more context, I'm not sure I'm up for distilling it for a post at the moment :)

        I think geniunely wanting to explore is 90% of it. After that it's just a matter of time and experience. As with most things, curiousity is key. Celebrate wins, ways it improves your life, you want to teach your brain there are rewards to be found there. Dopamine makes everything easier.

        1 vote
  6. UniquelyGeneric
    Link
    This may not be what you were looking for, but rather than try to address the consistency issue many posts seem to be addressing, I’ll give it my initial read: identifying “who am I?” and sticking...

    This may not be what you were looking for, but rather than try to address the consistency issue many posts seem to be addressing, I’ll give it my initial read: identifying “who am I?” and sticking to it.

    My general guidance for anyone I’m giving career/life advice is an analogy of stepping stones across a river. While many are concerned about where the end up on the other side (spoiler: everyone ends up on the “other side” one way or another), you can’t easily predict the path your life will take. In fact, you usually don’t have many options at your disposal aside from the stones immediately surrounding you.

    The best heuristic for navigating a path forward will be to look into your past decisions, and seeing the general direction you’ve been headed. While this biases towards the actions you have (or have not) taken, I subscribe to the idea that your actions define you much more than any words or thoughts you may have had. I’m damn glad I’m not living the ascetic life my moody/depressed teen years longed for, and that I kept a rational head to guide me through heavy emotional periods.

    That being said, just because you made a mistake in the past, it doesn’t need to define you forever, either. As long as you learn from mistakes, you can continue to strive for a better life and grow from experience rather than be trapped by it. Your authentic self can still shine through as long as you’re true to your personal morals/ethics.

    Lastly, while the options you have may be your immediate stepping stones, that includes the stones both to the side and behind you. You don’t always need to be advancing the same narrative if it no longer fits your current perspective. Sometimes taking a step back (or making a lateral shift) can open up new pathways that enable future growth unaccessible before.

    To give some tangible examples:

    • Applying to college I didn’t know what I wanted to major in, looking back on all my hobbies I realized I had more experience with computers than anything else despite not considering myself “nerdy” enough to be a programmer. My career is in IT these days.
    • After a near death experience this year (which I swear I’ll get around to sharing), I reevaluated what I wanted out of life. I recognized that despite playing piano and writing songs for the past 20+ years, I never considered myself a real musician. I since doubled down on music and have written/produced more music in the past year than all 20 combined.

    Had I not listened to myself (through the form of identifying consistent actions/interests throughout the years), I would have been more inclined to do what was expected of me rather than who I was. I could have easily been a doctor who forgot how to play piano, but instead I feel like I’m much closer to reaching Maslow’s self-actualization: doing what I want and being all I can be.

    While my analogy probably doesn’t hold up in every individual scenario, it’s also not so rigid as to hold you accountable to every decision you’ve ever made. The only person who can truly define your authentic you is you. I don’t have great advice for how to be yourself despite adversity, but I’m sure it’s even harder if you don’t know who you are to begin with.

    5 votes
  7. skybrian
    Link
    I’m not sure I know what “authenticity” is or whether this will help, but one thing I sometimes do is refuse to give an answer without thinking it over. Some people think that the answer you give...

    I’m not sure I know what “authenticity” is or whether this will help, but one thing I sometimes do is refuse to give an answer without thinking it over. Some people think that the answer you give without thinking too hard is somehow more honest than the one you give after giving it more thought. I tend to believe the opposite. I distrust immediate impulses.

    5 votes
  8. [2]
    mtset
    Link
    I am deeply skeptical of the utility of the concept of a "self" that is continuous in any meaningful way through time. I am not who I was ten years ago, certainly, but I'm almost as sure that I'm...

    I am deeply skeptical of the utility of the concept of a "self" that is continuous in any meaningful way through time. I am not who I was ten years ago, certainly, but I'm almost as sure that I'm not who I was an hour ago, having done many things in that time.

    If there is no self to be authentic to, then as @nacho, suggests, building a set of values, which you can translate into action consciously and by building habits of practice, might be the way to go.

    4 votes
    1. bilbodwyer
      Link Parent
      I think this is where I plan to begin, it seems a strong starting point to build from. I agree with you that we are changing beings, and forever in flux. Perhaps not to the level that I'm not sure...

      then as @nacho, suggests, building a set of values, which you can translate into action consciously and by building habits of practice, might be the way to go.

      I think this is where I plan to begin, it seems a strong starting point to build from.

      I agree with you that we are changing beings, and forever in flux. Perhaps not to the level that I'm not sure I am who I was hours ago, I think that (as adults) change is slower. And core beliefs and values change even slower. We are but the sum of our past.

      3 votes
  9. lou
    (edited )
    Link
    So here's my take: something authentic must be authentic in relation to something else. If you go to a Mexican restaurant, and say "this food is authentic", it roughly means that it contains...

    So here's my take: something authentic must be authentic in relation to something else. If you go to a Mexican restaurant, and say "this food is authentic", it roughly means that it contains certain properties which you identify as representative of the true Mexican cuisine.

    However, if you go to Mexico, and travel around the country, you will likely realize that there are many "authentic" Mexican cuisines. Dishes can vary wildly from region to region, with each cook arguing that their version is the original, the best, the most relevant. Even if you limit yourself to a single region or city, you will find different tacos, tamales, and quesadillas. At that point, you might ask yourself: is there such a thing as THE authentic Mexican cuisine? Maybe not. Maybe what makes authentic Mexican cuisine is a certain kind of plurality.

    Why should you be any different? Why should you be one, when you're clearly many? There's nothing you must be authentic to. Authentic is whatever you sincerely chooses to be. Your persona is the outcome of a desire. Where does desire come from? Who knows! Leave that to scientists and philosophers. Only the dead are truly consistent. Don't be "authentic", don't be true to "yourself". It's the other way around! The self is something you make. Make one that you're proud of.

    4 votes
  10. beanie
    Link
    In my past experiences, I found that I was most frustrated with my authenticity when I was surrounded by a culture that didn't align with mine/ didn't accept me for who I am. I felt like I was...

    how do other people experience the desire to be more authentic?

    In my past experiences, I found that I was most frustrated with my authenticity when I was surrounded by a culture that didn't align with mine/ didn't accept me for who I am. I felt like I was accepting others for who they were, but didn't feel like it was being reciprocated and that was exhausting.

    Is this something any of my fellow Tilderen have ever spent time working on? What are your approaches to practicing authenticity?

    Instead of working on my authenticity, I worked on surrounding myself with people who accepted me for who I am/ had similar hobbies and interests as I do. And for those who weren't able to accept me for who I am, yet still needed to be in my life (work relationships, family relationships, etc.), I created boundaries so that I could spend more of my energy on the things that I want to (rather than using the energy to get people to accept/understand my authenticity). I tend to have the approach "agree to disagree" with those who don't accept me for who I am. This way, I can compartmentalization my responsibilities and how I interact with them without compromising my entire authenticity.

    Do you have an idealized version of yourself which you work towards?

    I allow myself to evolve and grow, so pin-pointing an "idealized" version of myself feels a bit confining. I feel my most self when I am most comfortable (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually). Being comfortable includes challenging myself, growing, and moving towards my goals. This way, I give myself permission for this "idealized" version of myself to change.

    Do you find yourself acting differently with different groups of people?

    Yes and no. I do like to compromise and make room for others or "know my audience" so I can express myself in a way that could be understood (especially if there is a work-goal: I'm going to talk to a contractor/field worker differently than an engineer given that they interact with a project differently. Our collective goal is to rehabilitate the wastewater collection system. My ego/authenticity has nothing to do with flowing poop soup, but I do care about environmental impacts, so, I don't have a problem with changing how I express myself/speak to get the job done).

    There is a limit to this though: reciprocation. The reciprocation doesn't necessarily have to be 50/50 for me in every-single-situation. Efforts from others look differently, how could I demand 50/50 from a toddler or perhaps a person my age struggling with suicide. 50/50 or effort in general looks differently for everyone depending on their upbringing and situation they are experiencing at the present.

    As long as I feel like I am being heard, I am happy. And if I'm not being heard, I promised myself I will not exhaust myself to be heard. I'd rather focus my energy on those who are open to hearing me (and me hearing them). That way I have more energy to use on my goals/ hobbies/ interests (or my version of "self").

    Is this even something I should be worried about?

    Yes? Well, you aren't crazy for focusing on this. Maybe you're surrounded by people who don't appreciate who (capital Y) YOU are. But that doesn't mean you don't have any value to bring to the table (it just means that THEY don't see that value: that's a reflection of THEIR reality/ upbringing/ experience). Or maybe you're going through a transition within yourself. Maybe your values are shifting. Whatever it is, it's okay. And yet, doing is being too. A tree doesn't ask if it's a tree, it just is a tree. Accept yourself for all that you are and see where it goes. There is a balance. You needn't hyper-focus on questioning what the authentic self is, but you don't need to throw out self-reflection either.

    Listen to your body and mind. They have a clue. But, like a parent, be responsible with yourself. For example, if I want sugar I don't have to eat a dozen donuts, but I can eat one donut. We can give ourselves permission to obtain what we desire in a responsible way that won't hurt others or ourselves.

    3 votes
  11. [2]
    bilbodwyer
    Link
    I have definitely felt this way on occasions, and it certainly was exhausting. It can be hard to extricate yourself from those situations, and sometimes harder to even realise that you're in them!...

    In my past experiences, I found that I was most frustrated with my authenticity when I was surrounded by a culture that didn't align with mine/ didn't accept me for who I am. I felt like I was accepting others for who they were, but didn't feel like it was being reciprocated and that was exhausting.

    I have definitely felt this way on occasions, and it certainly was exhausting. It can be hard to extricate yourself from those situations, and sometimes harder to even realise that you're in them! Part of my mission for 2022 is to be aware of what feels like it fits for me, and to excise that which doesn't, but it's a deliberate, considered process I think.

    And for those who weren't able to accept me for who I am, yet still needed to be in my life (work relationships, family relationships, etc.), I created boundaries so that I could spend more of my energy on the things that I want to.

    How did you balance this with feeling selfish, if at all? I can often become quite self-indulgent with my me-time, and I wonder if it's something that other people struggle with as well. Or do you find that surrounding yourself with more aligned folks combats that entirely?

    This way, I give myself permission for this "idealized" version of myself to change.

    This is something I feel I have struggled with in the past: feeling loyal to various past mes' ideas of what future me should be like (wrap your head around that!). I have since shifted focus to the idea of giving future me the best possible shots at being happy, which seems to be working better for me right now.

    Accept yourself for all that you are and see where it goes. There is a balance. You needn't hyper-focus on questioning what the authentic self is

    As quite a goal-oriented person, this is a good reminder to have!

    2 votes
    1. beanie
      Link Parent
      Hmm... this reminds me of the original ending of Shel Silverstein's "The Giving Tree" vs the alternative ending proposed by Topher Payne in "The Tree Who Set Healthy Boundaries". To be completely...

      How did you balance this with feeling selfish, if at all? I can often become quite self-indulgent with my me-time, and I wonder if it's something that other people struggle with as well. Or do you find that surrounding yourself with more aligned folks combats that entirely?

      Hmm... this reminds me of the original ending of Shel Silverstein's "The Giving Tree" vs the alternative ending proposed by Topher Payne in "The Tree Who Set Healthy Boundaries".

      To be completely honest, I've found that the people who have labeled me as "selfish" when taking time for myself didn't value the time/ energy I was willing to spend with them in the first place. Instead, they wanted more from me (and a form of me that wasn't authentically me (I see your head wrapping and raise you a head wrapping =P)). In reality, if I gave more, I wouldn't have enough of me for myself, or, to reference "The Tree Who Set Healthy Boundaries", setting healthy boundaries would assure that I have something more to give.

      I can't control how someone else will respond to my boundaries as that is entirely their choice. Another party could always request more of my time/ energy, and it will be up to me to approve that request. I've seen that this helps people empathize with the fact that my time/ energy is precious, can be respected, and isn't a perpetual resource for them to take/ demand. Additionally, it has the effect of encouraging others to depend on themselves for their needs (they end up seeing themselves out of situations and that can, in turn, build their confidence levels/ have other positive effects. In other words, it can break the codependent cycle some relationships finds themselves in).

      Lastly, yes, I find myself choosing relationships which respect the fact that I need my "me" time and see me as a separate individual from them. I wouldn't necessarily label my "me" time as self-indulgent though. Let me give some examples: my "me" time sometimes consists of spending quiet time with the cats at the cat shelter (instead of actually cleaning/ tending to responsibilities). This still helps the cats get acclimated to humans and gets them comfortable trusting them, yet I'm not technically tending to my responsibilities. Another example, I love watching BTS videos (please feel free to watch/ obtain your content of choice - hooray content!). I've found that the little spurts of BTS content I watch jolts me with a lot of excitement/ energy. And I use that as motivation to get my responsibilities done. It's an encouraging force for me. Things, for me, always seem to get done better/ quicker/ more enjoyably when I'm happy (or content - aha... get it... content? content? okay, no more dad jokes) rather than frustrated/ burned out.

      2 votes