'Authenticity'- I'm sure you've heard it mentioned before in 'spiritual' and 'self-help' circles. I fully understand that people such as Brené Brown who love this authenticity malarky are coming from a good place and well meaning. Just is it beneficial? I am going to question that, as did this great blog post on 'How to Offend Authentic People'.
It may be a good start to try and understand what people mean by 'authenticity'. I think they mean to be close to what in yoga we would call 'Self'- satchitānanda (there are a variety of translations of this, but my teacher Kaya Mindlin uses 'limitless consciousness being'). You'll hear people saying things like 'living in alignment', or 'higher-self' and various other new-age terminology. It's the same thing, just different labels. Sounds 'good' right? So where's the harm?
Firstly, there is an implication that it is something to strive for. In order to be 'authentic' we need to do 'this and that'. I'm going to ask you, 'how can you be anything other than authentic?' You really REALLY can't. That 'mask' you may wear is still authentically part of you. It is there for a reason, be it societal, protection from hurt, trauma, or what-have-you. As soon as we are striving for more- to be more authentic- we may not be accepting of who we are right now. In other words we are denying our current authenticity. Do you think there's a sudden end to this 'being authentic'? Let me suggest you will not reach an end point and go 'ah yes, I'm finally authentic'. There will always be another layer until you might get to a point of realisation that you were already authentic. The realisation that there actually wasn't anything to strive for, and all you really had to 'do' was realise that realisation. All that is happening here is that people are 'teaching' their own perspective, so if someone is striving for this 'authenticity' they are going to tell others to do the same. I am not saying that 'I am right' and the 'authenticity brigade' are 'wrong', but I have been on that 'striving' journey, and it really didn’t bloody ‘work’ for me. You're welcome to keep trying it of course, and maybe, maybe, it works for you. It's just going to be a pretty insecure journey in my opinion. It is also another layer of bs, that in the end you may find needs removing.
This is completely reflective of the society we are in- you need this, you need that, you are not already perfect and this will help you become that. You can come to your own conclusions why we receive these messages. They run DEEP into our psyche, which is why well intended self-help and 'spiritual' ‘teachers’ more often than not inadvertently perpetuate these same messages. This is why I see them long-term as not actually being beneficial.
YOU ARE ALREADY YOUR AUTHENTIC SELF. YOU ARE ALREADY SATCHITĀNANDA. YOU CANNOT EVER BE ANYTHING OTHER THAN THAT.
Ok, a different route to the same conclusion. I'll share some Kashmir Śaivist teachings as they are what I've delved into, but I'm not saying they are the only truth. In Śaivist philosophy this 'authenticity' would be realisation that we are Śiva and living in accordance with that (to mix in the new-age terminology). Now, Śiva (or whatever name you care to give the 'divine') creates (sṛiṣṭi), conceals (tirodhaña), protects (sṫihiti), destroys (samhāra) and reveals (anugraha). Let's say that being 'inauthentic' as the 'authenticiy brigade' would say is a form of concealing. We can see that it's still an energy of Śiva, and so is actually what they are aiming for with this 'authenticity'. In other words- in 'their' language- 'inauthentic' is still 'authentic', so actually you've nothing to change other than the thought you are not already that.
Maybe this 'authenticity' means being true to your feelings, thoughts, emotions etc. Another good message right? Let's exaggerate a point made in the blog post I mentioned at the start. Say this 'authenticiy' sh!t makes me want to punch them in the face. So I do that because I'm being sooooooooo authentic. Is that ok? In my view no, but maybe you think yes. What if I don't punch them in the face- am I being inauthentic? No. I'm trying to do that which is of benefit/least amount of harm (and maybe sometimes that does involve punching them in the face). I’m going to offer that being true to our feelings/thoughts is simply having an awareness of them and being with that. This awareness, or consciousness is once again actually Śiva, so it is all that is 'necessary' to be our 'true nature' or 'authentic'. As Swami Lakshamnjoo says 'When a yogi is aware that his nature of self has become less, then, because he is aware, it has not become less'. We may then try and use the rational parts of the brain to decide upon the most beneficial/dharmic action. I'm going to suggest to act upon our feelings/thoughts without considering what is of greatest benefit may be a selfish act. Of course, acting in accordance with our feelings/thoughts may actually be what is of greatest benefit, but it is not always going to be the case.
I think I understand where this whole 'authenticity' thing has sprung from, and it's probably because so many have been suppressing their thoughts, feelings, emotions for various reasons. I get that, and I've led a privileged life where I've probably not done that as much as others. Nothing is ever straight forward, right or wrong and it might actually be the case for you right now that following the self-help world's words on this topic is going to be of most benefit. If that feels right, don't deny it, as you may need that journey. It might give you glimpses of what you are possibly looking for, it might not. I just ask that you consider openly what is written and come to your own balanced conclusions. We can spend our whole lives looking, and maybe missing what was already there all along.
To end I will paraphrase and offer what yoga teaches us:
1) You are already ’authentic’, no matter what you do, but just may not realise that.
2) You are already 'aligned', no mater what you do, but just may not realise that.
3) Simply giving full awareness to them is honouring your thoughts/feelings/emotions.
4) Using our discernment to decide what is going to be best for the greater good instead of acting out on them is going to be of greater benefit to one another/society/the planet.
5) These thoughts/feelings/emotions are not your 'true Self' anyway; they are ever changing so how can they be? [And that is not denying their existence].