I’ve been struggling with the idea of authentic for some time. What does it mean? I encounter it in phrases like “Live an authentic life!”
I couldn’t understand what that meant. How do I know and how does anyone else know about authentic selves, authentic art and authentic lives?
So. I looked it up. Here is what Dictionary.com said:
not false or copied; genuine; real: an authentic antique. having the origin supported by unquestionable evidence;
Now, that makes sense. One source, not copied or stolen. Real. Really you, not somebody else. The art could be considered authentic if achieves what I really intended.
That would be called true art. Not something made to a specification, that someone else decided should be created. I’ve heard the phrase “writing what is true” even if it’s fiction.
So. Here is my judgement blocking the way again. What is true art? Do I get to be the judge of that, determining whether the artist has achieved an expression of their true self?
Now I have to start to wonder about what is true. Because art is messy. Even if someone demands “Artist! Draw me a picture so I can sell soap!” and the artist draws to a spec…he may spill himself all over it and be authentic in spite of what the patron of his art demanded.
Happens all the time.
So the question remains, what is true? We know that some things are easy to prove as factual truth and others are not going to be so easy. The question of truth in art may never be settled. But we can know things like science.
Water boils at 100 degrees Celsius. That is true.
unless…you have a high altitude. Or you have salt in the water. Then, it’s not really true. Even science isn’t true, not all the time.
So we have to just allow that for all intents and purposes science is true. 100 degrees is boiling, okay? Stop being difficult. We have to move ahead already!
Now back to my authentic self. In a podcast this week, I heard a smart but uncolleged man talk about being an autodidact. “Do I have a chip on shoulder? Of course! Whenever someone brings up something that sounds smart or difficult to me, I have to react immediately with “Oh yeah, I know that. I read all those books. I am no dummy!”
Oh my lord. Guilty as charged. Since when is every conversation a challenge to my worthiness and intelligence? That is some kind of game in my head, reacting to some ephemeral person’s standard of what I should be, that I have unwittingly decided I have to meet.
I would rather be interested than interesting. I want to hear what others have to tell me. I already know what I have to say, let me learn something new. And once I trust people I can be receptive. But I wish it came sooner, and I could get to the real authentic conversation sooner.
I realized this was happening in another area too. As I was honing my resume for the next leap in my career, I was stuggling to make it look as proffessional and more professional than possible.
Because I am still shocked to my bones that these places give me a badge. Yes, I’ve worked at those campuses and those impressive institution. But I’m a scruffy homeschooled Alaskan who took more than a decade to get an irrelevant degree from night classes at a state school.
shh. Dont’ tell on me. In fact, forget I told you. I have to go. I need to make my resume look as professional as I can so nobody will ever guess.
And my very professional resume was soaring like a lead brick.
See? they could tell.
Then I found a friend who had all the credentials I envied. And she said “Of course you can! Try again.”
And with this tweak and that rethinking, I realized I was missing the point. Professionalism was not the point. It wasn’t even the question. It was the paper the ink rested on.
The ink? the REAL message? that was how I am fantastic. I am all the things that an employer would wish for. And I was spending all this time trying to be EXACTLY 8.5 x 11. The perfect professionalism wasn’t getting me anywhere.
It’s like this. What is true? 100 degrees Celsius is true. We are in the lab getting ready to boil water to perform an experiment. And we know that the boiling point is a close approximation, but it’s good enough to start doing some discoveries.
You know what we don’t need to be doing? proving that the water is water.
And my reactive inauthentic creation in the form of a resume was wasting everyone’s time.
My new resume that told who I was and what I was about? Tons of interviews. Even for jobs I really wasn’t qualified for, but they interviewed me because they recognized my energy and intelligence.
My true self. My authentic self. At least enough of my truth to start making more discoveries.