Recently, I had an aha moment during my conversation with a newly connected friend who is also passionate about mental health. An aha moment about how depressing authenticity can cause depression and a setback in personal development. Growing in Asian culture, most of our families are conservative. We have many hidden rules and stigmas. Most of the time, we hear, “you shouldn’t do this…”; “you shouldn’t do that…”, “No one does this or that…” at home, at work or even among friends. We depressed our real personalities and characteristics to blend ourselves into the cultured society or to save other people’s faces. We lost ourselves in the process and lost our meaningful identities. I sighed at what happened to her and me. The enormous sigh is to the automatic system and close-minded culture. There is no appreciation for authenticity. We grow up with others’ expectations and react to societal norms but not our understanding and willingness. So, what exactly is authenticity?
What is Authenticity?
Authenticity is defined as “the degree to which one is true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character, despite external pressures” (Schrage, 2015). The main key point of the definition is “true to one’s own”. It is about being true to ourselves but not a forefront sincerity to other people. We could perform as a high emotional intellect in front of others by showing our sincerity in treating others. Yet, during the process, we might be hiding our true personalities and beliefs in our actions. To have a clearer illustration, let’s take the closest example around us: our relationship with our parents.
What do you do when your parents ask you not to do this or that? Do you listen to them obediently, or you are the ones that against their will and follow what you want to do? In my case, I obliged to their will many times even though I disagreed with their point of view and beliefs. I compromised and sacrificed for peace. I did not realise that compressing my characteristics and personalities for “peace” negatively impacted my emotions and mind. I surrendered to my depression and began to learn to be authentic to myself, even when conflicts happen.
The Importance of Authenticity
Learn to be authentic is not easy. There are many external pressures to overcome. In my opinion, culture is the biggest challenge, whether it is family culture, work culture, or societal culture. Everyone around us might not favour us by being authentic. Only small groups of people embrace the value of authenticity. However, being authentic will bring us many positive values. A person who practices authenticity portraits many characteristics that could assist them in mental wellbeing and managing our life. Some of the traits are that the person has a growth mindset that is open to learning from mistakes; they are thoughtful people. Also, they have realistic perceptions of reality, helping them in rational thinking.
It takes time to learn to be authentic as it requires us to learn and know who we are, which is the hardest thing on earth. Meanwhile, the outcomes are always fruitful where we can accept who we are and express our emotions and feelings freely. Only by then, we have the capacity for other things that we care about. Significantly, be authentic is the pathway to true happiness. It is the advice I received the most – be true to yourself!
- Schrage, M. (2015). When Authenticity Does More Harm than Good. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2015/10/when-authenticity-does-more-harm-than-good
- Joseph, S. (2016). 7 Core Qualities of Authentic People. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-doesnt-kill-us/201608/7-core-qualities-authentic-people
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