Let’s face it, it’s that time of year again. As we inch toward the holidays with good cheer in the air, there’s always something gnawing at us to be better, more generous, to work harder, start meditating. It’s enough to drive us crazy.
t Everywhere we turn there are books, consultants and psychologists reaching out to help us learn how to live authentically. The self-help industry has become a giant entity of its own, but unfortunately the majority of these works and methods offer only shallow solutions to deeper problems.
t “The main issue is that getting in touch with one’s true self, the authentic you, has no visible side effects or expression,” says Matias Dalsgaard, Ph.D. in Philosophy and author of Don’t Despair. “But, in order to sell a book or method, writers and therapists have to promise visible results. Thus, in the current state of self-help tools, we are continuously facing core questions that are only supplying answers that scratch the surface. As a result, those who use these tools to reach authenticity are often becoming more inauthentic.”
t Inauthenticity comes across in many forms. Dalsgaard lists six of the common modern pitfalls he has noticed: six ways where you might think you are becoming a better and truer you, when you aren’t.
1. When everybody applauds your resume
t One major methodology used in modern therapy is narrative therapy. It focuses on developing positive stories about yourself, so if you are dissatisfied with your current life, you should simply create a new story of your life, a positive story. With narrative therapy, you are creating a resume that you can be proud to present to others. To be authentic in the here and now, to dare to be who you really are, is entirely different than storytelling.
2. When you started volunteering to become a better person
t Many begin volunteering in order to achieve a more fulfilled life. There’s no doubt that charity work is a positive thing; we should all do our best to help our neighbors. The problem here is that you need to evaluate your justifications for volunteering. Could it be for vanity’s sake, simply acting as an impressive addition to your resume?
3. When you spent years with a therapist
t Much of your time with a therapist is spent trying to find out what it is that made you who you are today. With this insight, you can understand and explain your own journey up to your present life. However, this knowledge doesn’t necessarily make you authentic. Authenticity concerns you in the here and now, how you interact with others in the present. It is not dependent on the knowledge and explanations of who you have been and become.
4. When you started meditating to find your “true self”
t Meditation can help you find peace, but be careful not to fall into the trap that the truth can only be found in meditation. If you do, you will live parallel lives: your practical life, and your meditative life. The key to authenticity, and your truth, is to experience it in your practical life, not to establish a safer life outside your own.
5. When you quit your job and sailed around the world
t If you feel that your life is dull now, it will also be dull as you sail around the planet. The creativity and joys of life have to do with how you’re positioned in your life and how you interact with yourself and your peers. Sometimes we all need to travel afar to obtain a new life view, but you always return home. Take note of how the majority of the stories told by those who dropped everything to sail the oceans, or climb the highest mountains, all sound eerily similar. The journeys themselves are usually stereotypes. If you can’t find your authenticity here, then you won’t find it out there.
6. When you denied everything ordinary in order to become extraordinary
t We all have a fear of staying ordinary. We don’t want to blend in with everyone else, we want to be unique and we think that being visibly unique also makes us authentic. When we strive for the unique or extraordinary we often forget that our lives are 99 percent the same as the lives of others. Attempting to differentiate yourself is yet another act of adding something extraordinary to your resume. Ironically, trying to put something extraordinary on your resume is in itself an ordinary action, as everyone wishes to be outstanding. The better method is to find joy and creativity in the ordinary things in life. This is, after all, the place where you exist here and now, together with other ordinary people.