There is a word that I have been thinking about a lot lately. It pops up in the articles I read, message boards where I post and the conversations I have. The word is authenticity.
As a member of multiple spiritual communities, it seems that there is something to be read every single day on this topic. These articles are often titled “How to be Happy in Life” and end with a go-get ’em message that states some variation of, “be authentic: and everything in life will be awesome!” A lovely ideal, but my personal Work as of late has plummeted me into what it means to be truly authentic.
For me, what seems to be missing in these conversations is the full dimension of what authenticity really looks like. Of course this can mean (as stated in this rhetoric) quitting a day job to pursue a dream or getting the tattoo that expresses who we feel that we are.
“Oh, this bird flying out of it’s cage on my arm? It symbolizes how I refuse to be held back in life. Don’t like it? Take it or leave it! It’s who I am.”
I see it described as what we aspire to be: our best Selves. However, that’s only one part of owning our realness as human beings. As I Work the magic of The Unflinching Gaze, I have realized that the act of being authentic (or genuine) can be messy, ugly and downright nasty. It might mean screaming at a loved one who has upset me, crying during a work meeting or telling someone how their actions are impacting me… knowing that they probably aren’t going to like what I have to say.
Authenticity is about being true to oneself and owning one’s narrative. I have found this practice to be vital in honing intuition: doubting or numbing the signals of the body only causes them to become distorted and less prevalent. It is also one of the most important ways I can express love for my Self: it proves to my Soul that I value what is happening within me and I am willing to let it be seen by the outside world.
This can be an excruciating practice, especially since (by nature) we are all completely unique beings and our variations of Truth collide all the time. To be real here: I find authenticity to be one of the most terrifying parts of being a witch. I sometimes fail at showing up truthfully when it will hurt other people or when it could lead to me not being liked by others. It’s a very human thing to do, but it’s frustrating to know that I could just say what I’m really feeling while witnessing myself choosing not to.
This poem by Nayyirah Waheed from the book “Salt” really sums it up. (Find more of her amazing work here)
Pack-mentality is strong in our species and it’s very normal to cling to the desire to be accepted. But I was recently reminded by my mentors that not being liked is a common price to pay for being authentic. Historically speaking: “the witch doesn’t live in town with everyone else,” they say. This statement reflects the heavy Duty of the witch, which leads to power and great responsibility: We must reveal Truth, even if it is difficult and the way that we do that is by being our most-authentic selves. Our unique flavor is needed in the world today and this act is the only way that necessary change is going to be created.
Now I write this post with the caveat that it’s probably worth considering the delivery of this Truth. Taking a minute to experience genuine feeling and embracing it exactly as it is can sometimes be enough. Especially if (in the moment) authenticity is the desire to walk up to a stranger and tell them their haircut is the worst or punch someone in the face for being a jerk.
WARNING: pleading a case of “authenticity” will not hold up in a court of law.
We can still be real, while also considering the consequences of our actions. Figuring out when and how to do this is an undertaking and I can’t say that I have a universal failure-proof technique for such a task. The best I can do is a quote from the late, great Kurt Vonnegut:
“There’s only one rule that I know of, babies-
God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”
A witch leads by example, and this one is committed to bumbling through it for my community as well as myself…. Striving to be real, but kind. How do you express your authentic self?