We all struggle with being more authentic. It comes from a deep desire to express ourselves more fully and have others do the same. But, at the same time, it’s often easier to not step out, speak up, or to behave in less authentic ways rather than risk letting others see and experience who we really are.

There are many reasons why we don’t reveal who we really are. They include…

  • Getting stuck in the roles we play.
  • Feeling insecure about expressing our true selves – especially our faults or failings.
  • Becoming so caught up in living out our lives that our actions and behaviors become ‘robotic’ and lose sight of our individuality.
  • Fear of what others might think or how they might judge us.
  • Not feeling comfortable or a sense of trust with the other person.

At a recent Personal Growth Meetup discussion on Authenticity, we talked a lot about discernment and knowing when it’s appropriate to open up. And needing certainty that our gift of vulnerability would be honored.

We all agreed that our ability to move past the fears and hesitations is a continual process, not a one-time occurrence.

The Waterline

The iceberg is a great metaphor for exploring the concept of authenticity. The Tip of the iceberg shows above the water’s surface, while the bulk of it lies hidden beneath the water.

We often go about life in a similar fashion, showing only a small part of our true identity and hiding everything else.

To become more authentic would require us to make an effort at lowing our waterline and sharing more of who we really are.

Here is a short self-discovery activity we did. Take a few minutes to answer these questions. Writing down your answers will help you gain more insights.

Question: What’s down below your waterline that you don’t want to share with others?

After you’ve listed several things, notice if they fell into one or more of these categories:

  • Failures and disappointments
  • Guilt and shame
  • Fears and insecurities
  • Weaknesses and embarrassments
  • Resentments and jealousies
  • Other?

Most of these things are considered “bad,” and it’s understandable why we wouldn’t want them revealed.

Think again at the iceberg analogy and answer the next two questions:

  • Thinking more deeply, what positive traits can be found below your waterline?
  • What do you think keeps these positive qualities from being revealed or expressed?

We often become hesitant about sharing these positive traits as well. Did your list include any of these?

  • Hopes and dreams
  • Our vision of what would make us truly happy
  • Our accomplishments or future goals
  • What we love and appreciate
  • What excites us or gives us childlike curiosity
  • Our creative impulses

Revealing these hidden strengths, desires, and aspirations can make us feel vulnerable. These qualities could be judged critically by others so there is risk associated opening up to others in positive ways.

Key Points to Ponder

Being authentic means being willing to openly and honestly share all of ourselves with others – both good and bad.

If you look up the definition of authenticity in the dictionary, you see the concept described as “the quality of being genuine.”

Fundamentally, being more authentic is more fully expressing ALL of who you really are.

When we are more authentic, we are also more vulnerable; there’s no denying this fact. Still, isn’t risking a little vulnerability worth the potential gain of becoming:

  • More confident in yourself?
  • More willing to pursue your passions?
  • More free of other people’s opinions?
  • More connected with yourself and others?
  • More in a state of peace of mind?
  • More accepting and appreciative of your true self?

What do you think? I’d love to hear your insights.