“Just be yourself.”
Not as easy as it sounds, is it?
We live in a world where we’re constantly bombarded with social media highlights, advertisements, and a never-ending flow of information, not to mention fashion trends that change every few months.
When you think about all the external influences piling on top of each other every day, it becomes increasingly difficult to untangle which parts are the authentic you.
But it is possible – otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this article.
If you want to be truly authentic, say goodbye to these 9 behaviors.
1) Going with the flow
Ever heard of crowd psychology? It’s a branch of psychology that looks at how people act in crowds as opposed to when they’re alone.
And the findings are kind of insane.
When you’re part of a crowd, it becomes quite easy to lose a sense of personal responsibility and experience deindividuation. This is also why mobs of people are so scary – they’re so willing to go with the flow that things can quickly escalate.
Obviously, this means that crowds are the worst possible breeding ground for authenticity.
“Right. So I shouldn’t be in crowds? What kind of silly advice is that?”
Well, it’s not really about that.
You can get swayed by others even if you’re in a small group – one experiment, for example, showed that people quite literally doubt what they see right in front of them if everyone else in the room lies about their perception of reality.
The lesson here isn’t to avoid crowds and groups; it’s to trust your own judgment and inner voice.
Or, as my mom would say when I was younger, “If everyone jumped out the window, would you jump out, too?”
2) Taking in information without filtering through it
The online world makes it very damn difficult to keep our critical thinking skills up to shape.
Among the ad campaigns, fake news, algorithm bubbles, and anonymity, there we all are, going crazy day by day.
But if you want to be truly authentic, it’s vital to apply a filter to all information that’s coming through to you.
Take a step back and think – what has recently influenced you to want something or act in a certain way?
As an example, the new Barbie movie has spiked an avalanche of adults buying so-called “comfort Barbies” to heal their inner children and making it a trend on TikTok.
I am all for this, but I also know that I personally wouldn’t gain much from buying a Barbie. I’d probably get bored of it after one day and put it somewhere in a drawer.
Has this stopped me from wondering about buying a Barbie, feeling excited about getting one, and browsing the shops?
No. I now really want a Barbie. Even though I literally have no use for it and never considered buying it before this trend came along.
The authentic thing to do is not to buy one, so I’m not going to.
Ask yourself: Which of your desires and beliefs are influenced by social media?
3) Living your life for Instagram highlights
And while we’re talking about the traps of social media, let’s also discuss what you post on there, not just what you consume.
Let’s be honest with each other – most people post online to get some attention. I don’t mean this in a judgmental way. I think it’s a natural thing to do; if you’re reading a book you really like, you post about it and receive attention from people who love it too.
It’s an exchange of energy. I make it obvious that I’m paying attention by liking or commenting, and you reply to me or like my own stuff.
And it’s not always bad. I love connecting with people who share the same hobbies, travel to the same destinations, or inspire me in ways that are beneficial to my well-being.
But it’s a tightrope to walk. I’ve met people who go to certain locations or eat certain food just to post about it and look cool.
You’re not on this Earth to live your life for scraps of attention from strangers. Do what feels fulfilling, not what makes you look desirable.
4) People pleasing
Another inauthentic behavior to let go of is always putting someone else’s needs and wants above yours. It’s molding yourself into someone you’re not just to avoid conflict and receive love.
Look, there are eight billion people in the world.
I guarantee you there are plenty of us who will accept and love the authentic you. Who will respect your boundaries if you’re brave enough to state them. Who will reciprocate your effort and value what you bring into their lives.
Sometimes, the best way to be truly authentic is to be just a little bit more selfish.
5) Letting your fears hold you back
Fear is one of the strongest emotions there are. It’s your body’s way of keeping you safe in the best way it knows how.
Sadly, it’s also something that can often get in the way of reaching your full potential and living your life authentically.
It’s okay to feel scared. It’s what you choose to do with that fear that matters.
A musician who’s scared of being the center of attention will never get up on the stage.
A writer who’s terrified of critique will never share their work.
Their authentic selves will suffer as a result; their dreams will never take on a real-life form; they won’t feel fulfilled or satisfied, and as they grow older, they will have forgotten the one thing that once set their soul on fire.
I know you’re scared. Do it anyway.
6) Living in denial
Of course, you can’t face your fears if you refuse to admit that they exist.
Denial happens far more often than we’d like, be it when you pretend you’re okay after a breakup, when you hide your grief behind a wall of anger, when you ignore your relationship problems because it’s easier in the short-term, or when you choose to tiptoe around your fears and pretend they’re irrelevant.
7) Surrounding yourself with people who aren’t right for you
I think there are three kinds of connections as far as “vibe” is concerned.
One, you immediately click and feel like you’ve known each other for ages. Two, you get along really well and find that the relationship fulfills its function. Three, something’s off.
The third kind is what can bring you down.
When you hang out with someone and feel like you have to sift your personality through a strainer and give the other person only the crumb-free bits, it means you don’t feel safe enough to be truly authentic.
This drains your energy and distracts you from forming genuine and deep connections with people who are on the same wavelength as you.
Befriend people who inspire you to be fully yourself.
8) Thinking in black-and-white categories
And what does “fully yourself” mean?
It means you’re complex and happy to let that complexity shine through. It means you let go of black-and-white categories that fail to describe you in depth.
Some people love labels. And while labels are extremely useful to a degree – for example, they help you find like-minded people, such as when introverts bond over the pros and cons of introversion – they ought to be a tool, not your whole identity.
Authenticity encompasses everything you are, including oxymorons, absurdities, and irrational thoughts.
I don’t much like cinnamon, but I enjoy it in my chai latte. I love snow, but I hate the cold. I have amazing willpower when it comes to work, but I give up super quickly when physical exercise increases in difficulty.
These are just examples of very minor things, of course, but you get the point.
As Aristotle said, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
9) Falling prey to laziness
The last pitfall on your journey to full authenticity is laziness.
We all get lazy from time to time, especially when it comes to building habits, but this is exactly why many of us get stuck in unfulfilling lifestyles.
I’m very environmentally minded, but when I lived at my previous apartment, I didn’t recycle much. The bin situation made it inconvenient, and I didn’t want to put in the extra effort to do what was right.
Now that I recycle again, I feel like a weight I didn’t know I carried has lifted off my shoulders.
It’s a small thing, but it goes to show that inauthentic behavior does take its toll – it just sneaks up on you in very small increments, so it’s hard to notice.
Building authentic habits is hard, but living inauthentically is harder still. It just takes longer to feel the impact.
If you want to be truly authentic… do what feels right, not what is convenient.