To Become Who You Are
Updated: Jan 11
Human beings deceive themselves more than they deceive others. Often they try to summon a piquant experience based on a falsified sense of life. They make themselves feel macho, winsome, cool, or a hundred other things, all half-consciously contrived to fill what they incorrectly feel to be a primal emptiness, donning emotional sunglasses to tint the world to their needs. We must seek an alternative to such pretending, one that allows the real fullness within us all to blossom. That alternative is authenticity. Authenticity means not putting on a falsified sense of life or a falsified anything—it means acting from a physically, mentally and spiritually centered position, letting life enter in an earnest way. It means adopting only beliefs that make deep sense to us and letting ourselves feel things naturally.
A very good example of an authentic character from literature would be Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird, although he is a bit too stoical for what I have in mind. Let me try to sketch the type in a more general way:
The authentic person is reasonable, purposeful and compassionate. He is not hyped or bored. He is present and self-contained, as crisp as an autumn day. He takes responsibility for the things that go on in his head and does not project his feelings onto the world. He may or may not be tempestuously passionate, but his emotions and convictions run deep and true. He raises the Sanity Quotient in every room he enters. His sense of humor is playful and a little mischievous, never inappropriate or mean. Most of all, to the authentic person the world and other people exist in their own right and are not props for his fantasies.
Being present, as an authentic person is, involves an active practice of wonder. You should, when appropriate, see each flower and each person as if they were the first you have ever encountered. And presence does not mean passive sentience, it means asserting a wholly-realized self into existence by deciding to be fully aware and self-aware, concentrating all the diffuse molecules of yourself into a solid, self-directed person. As you do so, you will see and feel yourself occupy the bright three-dimensional space you are in, with its reliably solid objects, and you and they will affirm one another. This is the ultimate meaning of authenticity: to choose be fully present in the world, which is fully present to you.
I am convinced that for many people, reality is an undiscovered country, full of wonders. Green valleys and rugged mountains, cathedrals and skyscrapers, heroes and wise people are just waiting to be found and engaged. But to see them, to feel them, to let them lift us up, we must abandon the pretense that stands between us and reality. Fortunately, we all have the power to cast aside the sunglasses, to see the world for what it is—and to become who we are.