Why It Can Be Hard to Be Authentic

Why is it hard to be authentic?  More important, why is it hard for you to be authentic?

This isn’t an accusation or a judgment, it’s an important question.  If we can ask and answer this question honestly, without judging ourselves, we’re well on our way to becoming more of who we really are and ultimately more authentic.

For me, being honest, real, and authentic in a vulnerable way is what I aspire to be in my life, all the time.  However, this is also something I find quite difficult and challenging to do in the day-by-day, moment-by-moment aspects of my life, my work, and my relationships.

I’m often more interested (at least on the surface) in being liked, impressing people, and wanting to look good, than I am in being real.  I worry that if I really speak my truth, go for what I want, and let it all hang out – people won’t like me, I will upset or offend them, or I won’t be able to get what I truly want.

Can you relate to this in your own life?

Many of us, myself included, get quite upset, in a self-righteous way, when we see, hear about, or experience other people being dishonest, phony, or simply withholding the truth.  However, how often do we do that ourselves?  We can be quite hypocritical when it comes to authenticity – expecting it from others all the time, but not doing, saying, and being totally authentic ourselves.

This doesn’t make us “bad” or “wrong,” it simply makes us human.  Authenticity is challenging for most everyone I know, talk to, and work with.  The more we can get in touch with our own personal difficulty with being authentic, the more able and willing we’ll be to move past whatever stops us from being real.  But first, we have to notice our own difficulty or resistance to authenticity, with compassion, and tell the truth about it.

There are many factors that play into this – family upbringing, cultural training, long-held beliefs about what’s “appropriate,” and our own personal fears.  When it comes to being authentic, the bottom line for most of us is that we’re scared.  We don’t want to deal with what we imagine to be the consequences of authenticity – people’s judgments or reactions, our own fears and doubts, possible failure or rejection, and more – so we just shut up and try to fit in.

Shutting up and trying to fit in, as we all know from experience, doesn’t really work, feel good, or lead us to anything meaningful or fulfilling in life.  Doing this leads to resentment, frustration, and a lack of power in our lives, but is often easier for us to do than it is to confront our fear, speak our truth, and be fully authentic.

Getting in touch with what makes authenticity hard for us can give us access to a deeper place of truth within us and is the first step in becoming more real.

Here are a few questions for you to think about and answer with honesty and compassion:

  1. What specific messages have you received throughout your life about being authentic and being yourself, that stop you from expressing yourself fully?
  2. What are the main obstacles that get in your way of being real?
  3. What are some of the biggest fears you have about being fully yourself, speaking your truth, and going for what you want in life?

Allow yourself to sit with these questions, ponder them, and see what comes out of this inquiry.  Talk to others about this with empathy and openness.  Engaging in this inquiry can and will open up some new ideas, insights, and possibilities for you.  Have fun with it and be kind to yourself in the process!