The quality of being authentic.
synonyms: genuineness, originality.
In a world where people are challenged to present the ‘best version of themselves’, to be who and what they believe others are looking for, its often hard to determine who is being/keeping it ‘real’ or not. “Just be yourself!” is a phrase we hear all the time, assuming that what you see is not what actually is.
Unfortunately, it too often the case that what you see is not their authentic self.
I wrote in my bio for WordPress that I am on a journey towards authenticity (paraphrased) because I have come to realize that I have been, for the most part, playing a role that has been predetermined for me. The Caribbean/ Jamaican woman, 6th born of seven, to a nuclear family of modest means; a Caribbean woman of African descent with a few Europeans within her bloodline. A female child born to a long line of strong Walker – Cox women who ruled their households as the men were ‘weak’ and often promiscuous. The role of the dutiful, youngest daughter, who is ‘bright and promising’ was thrust upon me. It was one I was glad to take on as it afforded me the attention I craved in a household that was perpetually noisy, busy and purposeful. I became, as a part of Caribbean heritage, the woman who is Christian and spiritual, wise and experienced; the good, loyal daughter, sister and friend, who takes care of those dear to her.
These are just a few of the labels that I’ve been assigned. Some have become truth as I have grown into the personality and character that these roles have afforded me; there are others (not listed here) that I’ve tried my best to live up to. Or not.
It’s been hard. Living by the terms that society, your family, that culture and circumstances has determined are yours, sometimes causes an internal conflict as they are in direct opposition of how you define and see yourself. It places you into the confines of a box, labelled according to the expectations of others, and the sociology of your people. Though you may have developed your identity and personal philosophies, there are some fundamental truths that belie that which informs and defines your ‘you’.
When you are told ‘Just be yourself!’, what is being asked of you? Are you being told to air your innermost thoughts, act out all that you have thought of doing secretly, though it may shock and dismay others? Is it to put on display all of your strengths and your weakness, your desires, angsts, victories, failures, certainties and uncertainties, to place them out there for all and sundry to see? Would they or you be able to handle it?
If we were to let it all out, warts and all, that would take a level of audacity.
Being yourself, all of yourself, takes courage. Not all of us are able to face ourselves, who we truly are. Sometimes our truth slips out and we mentally look around to see if anyone caught a glimpse of it. One may argue, and say that they are what/who you see, all of it. But I beg to differ. We all wear masks, hide behind the labels we have allowed to be placed on ourselves, behind expectations and socialized norms and codes of conduct in order to be accepted and not be labelled deviant. We prefer to not rock the boat because the consequences may be too great. We don’t want to be ostracized and be put, literally or figuratively, ‘into a corner’.
But I wager, we lose a part of us when we don’t use it. There are sacrifices to be made in the name of self preservation but what of the eventual consequences to you or me when we deny who we are? Can one be satisfied to live as a shadow of themselves, of their truth? I understand the dictates of society, but I struggle with being starved of the inherent freedoms all were given at birth.
Yes, I am female, born into a particular family, at a particular time in history, to a country and culture. That in itself means so much and at once comes with many expectations and responsibilities. But we each have a responsibility to ourselves first.
There comes a time when we all have to break loose. The so called contentment we have found through living as a mere reflection of our truth can only last so long. So many have lost sight of who they are a long time ago, and will have a difficult journey back to their truth. It has been buried, hidden, layered upon for many years; peeling it all away will take some doing. But it can be done, one just has to be willing.
You are who you are. Whether or not anyone else truly knows you is beside the point. The important question is, who are you? Do you know?