And this is rooted in that survival instinct. At our core, we have a deep, driving need to be accepted by the pack. For the tribe to take us into the fold, give us membership and all of the resources that come with it. We adapt our behavior accordingly, and in the process, can lose track of who we are at the core.
When we find ourselves in this place—deep into inauthenticity in order to meet our core needs for resources like shelter, food, connection, and so on—we find ourselves at odds with our natural inclination to live in alignment with our true self. Researchers have found that humans turn towards authenticity as a baseline over and over, comparing humans and authenticity to sunflowers and the sun. When we’re so far out of alignment, we experience the physical, emotional, and mental disconnection that comes from this.
But if we understand that there is an evolutionary benefit to inauthenticity and blending in with the herd, why do we seek authenticity so constantly? Because authenticity is key to many markers of physical and psychological well being, like self-esteem, happiness, personal growth, and even our antiviral response. Authenticity is a core tenant of eudaimonia, one of the principles we know is core to the idea of “flourishing.” Authenticity drives the way we behave, our judgement, and our self-perception. In short, the mind and the body know when we’re living inauthentically, and they constantly fight back.
If we've lost the plot, how do we find our way back to authenticity?
Tune into the body we store so much information in the body. We store shame, tension, trauma, joy, and so much more. When we tune into this (instead of ignoring or numbing), it can provide us many clues about the next right step.
Listen to the heart tugs: and as we tune into the body, we begin listening to our gut. The heart tugs that are pulling us in a direction, or away from something.
Take an honest inventory of your strengths and weaknesses: and act accordingly. When we do things that support our strengths and improve our weaknesses, we find alignment.
Get clear on your values system: and use it ruthlessly. Say “no” to the things that are not a match for your core values, and “yes” to the things that are. (Like Olivia Rodrigo’s new album is, for me.)
Practice one tiny piece of unapologetic authenticity daily: dancing to the radio at the stoplight, turning down the misaligned work project, supporting that small business you’ve wanted to visit.
Get vulnerable: an entire article in it’s own right, vulnerability (and the ability to be seen wholly that comes from it) is key for stepping towards authenticity.
Brown, B. (2015). Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. Avery.
Fredrickson, B. L., Grewen, K. M., Coffey, K. A., Algoe, S. B., Firestine, A. M., Arevalo, J. M., & Cole, S. W. (2013), A functional genomic perspective on human well-being. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(33), 13684–13689.
Huta, V. (2015). Eudaimonia and hedonia: Their complementary functions in life and how they can be pursued in practice. In S. Joseph (Ed.), Positive psychology in practice: Promoting human flourishing in work, health, education and everyday life (2nd ed.). Wiley.