October 21, 2014

What “Be Authentic” Actually Means.


“Be your authentic and real self!”

What does that mean, and does it really matter?

This thought has occurred to me many times over the years, and what does it really mean anyway? This all came up over the discussion of getting a tattoo, and no, not because of the general idea of a tattoo. It was about the meaning the artwork has for me, and why I want it so desperately, knowing that this will be permanently part of my body.

“My body is my journal, and my tattoos are my story.” ~ Johnny Depp

The idea for the tattoo came from the desire to find a way to honor and memorialize our stillborn daughter.

You see, we were only 16 and 17 years old, respectively, when she was born and died, and we never had the opportunity to hold her, name her or give her a proper burial. Of course, we have moved on and have created a beautiful family and life, but I have never truly felt real and complete closure with this loss and situation.

Feeling the need to do something to provide catharsis, I started considering this body art.

The various designs for this began several years ago (I can think everything through to the point of ad nauseam), and I know that I seriously want to do this to honor her memory. At this point, waiting any longer to do this just feels to be putting off something that I decided is important for my personal healing.

This, along with many other things in my life, will probably just stay on my wish list. I tend to not place a great deal of importance on the material, but like most everyone, I have things I’d love to have or do in my life. Not acquiring all or any of these things is fine with me, but it did lead to a discussion about, and to me thinking of, who I am or better put, who I am authentically.

As I look over my life, I can’t see anything externally that indicates who I might actually be. My clothes, shoes and jewelry tend to be what is given to me as gifts, although I have shopped for my blue jeans and an occasional shirt or pair of boots, but very few. I have always been incredibly grateful for everything I have been given, but as I walked in my closet this morning, I wondered how many of those items I would have actually picked out for myself.

This introspection continued as I looked around at most everything…my house, furniture, vehicles and the list goes on and on, and I wondered how much of it is me. Part of me says it really doesn’t matter because it is all external and material, but I do wonder how many people think they have me figured out based on these things.

Then, I thought about what I share in terms of my genuine, unfiltered raw thoughts and feelings. Again, the same idea occurred to me, how many people really see and hear the real and authentic me. I believe many think they know me, but do they?

Do I not share my beliefs and feelings in order to not deal with condemnation? Have I done this so long that I don’t even know any longer what I feel or believe?

But, as with material possessions, I don’t know if these beliefs, longings or feelings matter.
Me, the real me, is beneath all these external trappings, even beneath the feelings which can all be too misleading. Many of our feelings and beliefs in life operate out of the conditioning provided by our environments, cultural and generational, and these can color our way of looking at ourselves, our lives and the world.

Memes have an incredible influence on so much of our lives in terms of what we choose to wear, how we style our hair, decorate our homes, the purchases we make, the beliefs we hold such as religious and philosophical and the list goes on and on. All of these things tend to change with time, new styles and beliefs tend to evolve and take hold with each new generation.

What does all this mean, or what have I figured out?

I’m not really sure, but I do know that what makes me really me, the genuine me, isn’t anything on the outside, these are just decorations and as useful, aesthetically pleasing or cathartic as they can be, they can only externally represent me to some degree and perhaps as in the case of some things and beliefs, only for a time.

I plan to spend some time in mediation and contemplation in the hopes of figuring out what it means to me to be my “authentic and real” self.


“He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.”

~ Lao Tzu

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Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Author’s Own

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