Sunday, April 11, 2010

Will the “Authentic Self” Please Stand Up!

By Jillian Maas Backman

Some time ago the phrase “Authentic Self” began showing up in books, magazine articles, and of course, television.   My curiosity got the best of me here.  I could not resist browsing through piles of related text to see what “defining” and “discovering” and “reclaiming”  your authentic self was all about. 

As with any nebulous term, the representations and interpretations of this concept were as varied as the colors of the rainbow. However, I was able to find a common theme which connected the numerous discussions:  whatever the authentic self was, people assigned a high value to it.

I am living in my authentic truth.   I am my Authentic Self.
Authenticity arrives in your life when you can gather up all “yes” piles of experiences, all your “no” piles of not quite right experiences, sprinkle in a dash of personal, professional achievements, add a pinch of innate wisdom, shake together vigorously, and stand on top of this big heap of truth, and exclaim to the world I am this, and this is ME!

I share this whimsical description to demonstrate that the quest for living in authenticity is an ongoing process. There are no hard fast rules to follow, but rather guidelines for discovering an elevated version of you.  Your true authentic self already knows the way.  Whether you heed the calling or not is entirely up to you.

Take the first step:  Compile a list of Four Virtues that you consider to be significant and that pass your litmus test of truthfulness. 
My list is:  forgiveness, peace, love and activism.   Recognize that your list should be transitional, or change as you grow.  The list I would have complied when I was 25 years old is an entirely different set of aspirations now.
Authentic Virtues are Dynamic in Nature
We are obsessed with making lists in this country.  Every self- help book requires you to make a list and define a starting point of reference.   So why not review your “virtue list” and attempt to rank each virtue in importance from greatest to least.  I can bet, at this point, the task brings to light a whole new set of questions.  How can love be less important than forgiveness? They are of equal value on an authenticity scale of virtues.  All virtues are intermeshed with experiences.  Every experience carries a soulful lesson in each of the four categories.    I encourage you to work all four simultaneously.  Peace comes with love; love piggybacks authentic forgiveness, and so on.

I have spent countless hours with individuals who live with authentic intent.  One common thread I discovered in these people was the cultivation of a quiet mindful existence.  To nurture this trait in yourself, visualize a rushing river in your mind.  Then ask yourself the question:   what virtue do I need to work on today that will take me one step closer to knowing my authentic self?   Do you start on the river bank of forgiveness, the base of the waterfall of love, or on the stable rocks of peace?  Are you ready to jump into the rushing waters of activism with both feet and help others find their truth? 

Once you can tap into this river of peace, forgiveness, love and activism, it will become second nature to you; it will carry you for the rest of your life in truth.

How far do you go in order to live in your truth?
We live in a very competitive environment that fosters zero-sum personalities who view life as a game with clear winners and losers.  Our culture encourages natural competition.  This will never change, nor should it.  I, like many others, embrace my “inner competiveness.”   However, this does not mean it’s justifiable to run down everyone else in order to arrive at your “truth.”

Do not get the term authentic self confused with authentic selfishness! 
These terms are not interchangeable.  They are mutually exclusive of one another.  A life filled with egocentric intentions and actions is not worthy of the accolade associated with the term, genuine. No one is giving anyone permission to act as they want, do what they want, and treat others with ill-will, and then labeling this kind of behavior “authentic.”

There are ways to keep the inner seeker satisfied and stay tethered to your authentic truisms. 
Susan Murphy Milano is a shining example of this.  Susan has lived through a series of tragic events that could have separated her from her authentic self. Thankfully for the world, she chose a higher path.   Her newly released book, Time’s Up, is a culmination of hard-won life experience and truth in a raw, practical presentation that only Susan could convey.  You can sense the angelic force behind each and every placement of word, form, and detail.  This book demonstrates the last virtue on my list:  Activism.   This manifests at a time and place where your authentic self transposes to a global authentic truth.  That moment in time is today—for Susan Murphy Milano and Time’s Up, as well as for those who need this book to strive bravely toward their authentic selves!

Authentic mentorship is the path of least resistance, low cost with high rewards. 

In loving gratitude, Jillian Maas Backman
Author of Beyond the Pews (Spring 2010)

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