Finally, an idea for a full length blog and a break from these damn book reviews. That idea? Authenticity. A topic that’s popped into my head here and there but never felt that I could do it proper justice until a few weeks back when I hit a shift in perspective. That shift in perspective, you ask? We’ll get to that later. First lets break down authenticity, or at least my understanding of it.
So easy enough, right? Who doesn’t know what authenticity means? Ya know, “just be yourself” or even better yet, “be yourself because everyone else is taken.” First things first, should you ever meet someone who tells you that and actually means it, walk away immediately. There’s a fine line with all this positive shit and you need to know when to draw it. That, being the perfect time. Anyways, back to this paradoxical “just be yourself” nonsense.
Have you ever sat there and actually thought of how hard it is to truly be yourself? Like lets seriously think about this right now. I’m talking about the self that isn’t playing a role for social media, the self that isn’t manipulating your behavior to fit in with a certain crowd, or the self that isn’t all wrapped up in the identity causing you to believe that you are what ever you identify with. (Quick example: I’m a Liberal, you say in all of your glory! Someone starts shitting on Liberals and now you get pissed. Congratulations. You’ve officially identified as a Liberal. That is part of who you are, or at least the story you tell yourself. Why not, I’m down with Liberal beliefs and leave it at that. Simple. You’re not making it part of your identity, part of who you are. Anytime someone shits on something and you get pissed, you’ve officially identified with whatever that “thing” is and in return, you’ve now puts limitations on yourself.) The list goes on with this. Back in the day I always use to think that I had a good sense of self. Once upon a time when I was young and naive (obviously not now though because I’m an “adult” and all “adults” have their shit together because they’re “adults” and by “adults” I mean a grown child who has the delusion that they have it all figured out because now, now they’re an “adult”) I was able to confidently say that I knew who I was. Or so I thought. Regardless if that was a crock of shit or the real deal, with that mindset of “knowing who you are,” comes with a cloak of confidence that goes a long way in life. Welp, that all came to an abrupt stop my year leading up to the Pacific Crest Trail. Mentally the hardest year I’ve ever experienced and if you’ve read my older blogs or were hanging around me then, then this is no new news to you. Without beating around the bush, on some level or another, I think I experienced some form a psychotic break. Something that’s still with me to this day and maybe a story for another day. None the less though, with that break came a complete unraveling of who I thought I was. Let the fun begin.
Slowly all these stories that I’ve been telling myself over the years, I was now beginning to realize that they were nothing but complete bullshit. Realizing that half of the things that I was doing in my life, if not most, were all done with unconscious ulterior motives. And if I was aware of the motives, I would still lie to myself to justify them because it was easier than admitting to myself that what I was doing was wrong. How could I be so oblivious and lie to myself for all these years, I thought? Over the course of that year and still to this day, I worked on challenging every aspect of who I thought I was to see if there was true authenticity backing that part of me. And if there wasn’t, I would watch it crumble right before my eyes. With every piece that crumbled it took another portion of who I thought I was with it, leaving me on unsteady grounds in no time at all. When you start realizing how easy it is to deceive yourself for all these years, everything you’ve done or will do from here on out goes through a strict bullshit detector. Or, or you continue to lie to yourself and dig your hole even deeper. Should you get into any sort of meditation, they refer to these “lies” as the dream state. So maybe lies might not be the best word all the time. Feel free where ever you see the word “lie,” replace it with “deception.” As the cool kids would say, I was most certainly not “woke.”
Without getting too hippy dippy, I feel the need to clarify that to this day, I’m still not 100% sure that I know who I am. Are the things that I’m doing actually me doing them, or am I caught up in the dream state running on auto pilot making unconscious decisions? Because then, then those decisions aren’t coming from a place of conscious authenticity. Right? Right. It’s almost like a PTSD residue was left over after realizing that I lied to myself for so long, now that every time I start to gain the confidence that comes with “knowing who you are,” it vanishes in thin air before I even get the chance to look it in the face. Every day I’m still working on challenging different aspects of myself making sure the right intention is there to back it up, but that’s not always the case. I still find myself getting caught up in my own stories from time to time. I still have a hard time accepting the darker aspects of myself and continue to be completely and utterly shocked realizing that I’m not this perfect little spect of a human being sent from heaven. Like what? Kidding guys, obviously, but it’s 2018 and I feel the need to clarify that it’s a joke because it almost seems mandatory these days.
So now why is it so hard then to be yourself? That should be easy right? Well let’s think about how hard it is to fully embrace every aspect of yourself. The good aspects of ourselves is obviously easy. That goes without question. But I’m talking about the real deal here. The meat and potatoes, the essence, the gabbagool. Do you have unconditional love for yourself through all of your little idiosyncrasies and quirks? Do you have unconditional love for yourself through the bad and the ugly? Or how about those darker aspects of yourself that even you have a hard time accepting so you put on a mask just to make it through the day. Carl Jung talks about how within every person there is “the shadow.” Pretty much the darker parts of ourselves that we choose to repress or hide from society, let alone try to hide from our own selves from time to time.
“Unfortunately there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it. Furthermore, it is constantly in contact with other interests, so that it is continually subjected to modifications. But if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected.” (Carl Jung)
I heard in a podcast someone talk about how within every person theres is a Nelson Mandela, and a Donald Trump. And if you’re sitting here saying that there’s no way a Donald Trump is inside of you, then think again. Jung believes that to not recognize or to deny the potential evil within man will never make us whole/enlightened.
“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular.” (Carl Jung)
And this doesn’t mean you have to go act out the darker parts of ones self, but it does mean you have to consciously understand that the darkest part of man is within you and not to deny it anytime it shows its face. Since I’ve started working on this blog, this is something that’s popped up multiple times for me; learning to incorporate the ego/darker side of ones self into personality instead of denying that it exist. The denial of the ego results in you losing say in when the ego gets to show its face.
So now, are you starting to see how hard it is to be truly authentic? If I took your head for a ride, good. This is what we want.
If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably wondering, ok Justin, how do I get closer to my truest most authentic self. Well friends, I’m glad to tell you that I have no fucking clue. Sorry Charlie. But, I believe I have an idea on a few different ways to get your foot in the door. Start by getting quiet. (And this isn’t me about to preach meditation again even though you know where I stand on that. Go for nature walks. Do body scans. Do some yoga. Just get quiet.) That’s probably the best start right there. Anytime you get still, it’s extremely hard to lie to yourself. With that stillness, start stripping away the things that don’t truly lineup with you. Start asking yourself, “What do I know for certain?” An important question I picked up from The End of Your World. A book review soon to hit a social media platform near you. Holla. Start running every aspect of what you do and who you think you are through a rigorous bullshit detector. Take up the practice of radical honesty with yourself and everyone around you on a daily basis. I know none of this is easy or enjoyable, but do you really want to make it to the grave realizing you actually barely even knew who you were? That’s when the true fear of death rolls in. It doesn’t show up in someone who’s done her homework all her life. It shows up in someone who suddenly realizes that her whole life was nothing but a series of lies that barely allowed her to make it to the end.
And now now to bring this full circle with that shift in perspective and yes I meant now now. Think you’re gonna catch me on a typo? Not up in here! (I hope you read that in that dudes voice from The Hangover.) Kidding. There’s probably more typos than I can count in this blog alone. But this shift from consistently wondering if I’m lying to myself, wondering if I’m being my truest authentic self, to learning to trust that this is me, whoever that is. Trusting that the choices that I make are being done with the right intentions, headed down the right path. Learning to trust that I’m constantly doing the homework that needs to be done because to date, my biggest fear is making it to the grave realizing that I’ve lied to myself for all these years and let those lies keep me from living up to my full potential. To me, there’s nothing scarier than that shit. To be staring death in the face realizing how disconnected you’ve been from who you truly are. You are hear for a very short time in the grand scheme of things. And while you are here you are giving a body. And that body will take you from point A to point B on a smooth ride if taken care of properly. But along the way, there is work that needs to be done. Don’t make it to the grave having someone else pushing your car for you.