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Dec 29, 2023

Embracing Authenticity: Being True to You

Sheila Tucker

Photography By

Society has a way of boxing us into neat little categories, urging us to don masks that fit the narrative. The unfortunate truth about being wholeheartedly you is that you don’t always fit into a little box with an expertly coiffed bow.

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In a world that often feels like a never-ending masquerade ball, authenticity is the unicorn we all secretly desire. It’s the glittering treasure buried beneath layers of societal expectations, Instagram filters, and well-rehearsed small talk. 

Why all the talk about authenticity and unicorns? Well, according to Merriam-Webster, the 2023 word of the year is “authentic.” Ah, my therapist’s heart is so full. 

According to Merriam-Webster, authentic is defined as “not false or imitation; true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character; worthy of acceptance or belief; made or done the same way as an original.”

Picture this: You’re scrolling through social media, and everyone seems to be living their best life. Perfectly poised avocado toast, flawlessly executed yoga poses on mountain tops, and the perennial hashtag #Blessed. It’s like a modern fairy tale in which everyone is a protagonist, and the script is an endless loop of curated perfection. But is that real life, or are we all just playing our parts in a grand performance?

You’re also more likely to navigate life’s challenges with emotional resilience. Rather than suppressing emotions or adopting a façade, authentic individuals confront and work through their feelings, contributing to a healthier emotional state.

Authenticity, my friends, is the antidote to this epidemic of superficiality. It’s the rebel yell in a world that often demands a polite golf clap. It’s the raw, unfiltered truth that refuses to be Photoshopped into submission. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time and place for golf claps and Photoshop. But this isn’t it. And just like any elusive creature (such as deer on the beach, wink wink), authenticity can be a bit tricky to pin down. 

There’s a paradox to authenticity: the more you chase it, the further it seems to slip away. It’s like trying to catch a soap bubble with your bare hands–the harder you try, the more likely it is to burst in your face. 

I’m going to sound “therapist-y” here because, well, I’m a therapist: Authenticity is not a destination; it’s a journey, a perpetual exploration of the self. 

Think about it: When was the last time you felt genuinely authentic? Was it when you were sipping on peppermint tea while eating butter cookies? Or perhaps while you were giving a TEDx-worthy presentation to your colleagues? Authenticity isn’t limited to moments of grandeur; it thrives in the ordinary, the messy (especially the messy), and the unfiltered. 

You know, like including a Billy Idol song title in a magazine article. Ah, but what about what everyone thinks, you say? Yes, not everyone will pick up on the Billy Idol or deer reference. Admittedly, the pressure to conform is real. 

Society has a way of boxing us into neat little categories, urging us to don masks that fit the narrative. The unfortunate truth about being wholeheartedly you is that you don’t always fit into a little box with an expertly coiffed bow.  

Being genuine means living your life according to your values and goals rather than those of others. The downside is that being authentic can sometimes mean going against the crowd or your family. It feels vulnerable, allowing people to see the real you. What if you’re judged? What if they don’t like you? 

For those of you who flew under the familial radar and learned you needed to become someone else to be loved, the thought of standing on your own can be frightening. 

I often toe the line of playing it safe when I write for others to read. There’s usually a noticeable pull to censor my voice so I don’t offend anyone, or to make sure I’m liked. The truth is, being authentic requires courage. 

Authenticity means you’re true to your personality, values, and spirit, regardless of the pressure to act otherwise. You’re honest with yourself and others and take responsibility for your mistakes. You’re aligned with your values, ideals, and actions. As a result, your genuineness shines through.

Authenticity is the ultimate rebel, the non-conformist that flips the script. It’s about ripping off the mask and letting your true self shine, imperfections and all.

In the age of filters and Photoshop, authenticity is the unapologetic celebration of imperfection. It’s the acceptance of the fact that life is gloriously messy, and that’s what makes it beautiful. So, the next time you find yourself hesitating to post a comment, selfie, or anything, remember–authenticity wears its flaws like a badge of honor. 

Authenticity is not a destination to reach or a persona to adopt; it’s an ongoing, dynamic process. It’s about embracing the messy, imperfect, wonderfully chaotic reality of who you are. 

So, how do you embrace being unfiltered, unedited, and authentically fabulous? 

Full disclosure, although inspiring: It’s not necessarily easy. Also, being true to yourself takes time and is different for everyone. Nonetheless, here are a few suggestions to help you get started. 

Engage

Engage in regular self-reflection to understand your values, beliefs, and desires. This process allows you to connect with your authentic self and identify areas where alignment with your values may be lacking. You can do this through journaling (written or spoken) or discussing with a friend, family member, partner, or therapist. 

Accept

Accepting yourself, including imperfections and vulnerabilities, is a powerful step toward mental well-being. Acceptance doesn’t mean giving in or giving up. It’s not helpless. You can accept yourself where you are while striving to make changes that are more aligned and helpful to your cause. 

Notice

Notice that everyone has unique strengths and challenges. Just because you don’t have the same strengths as your Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok friends doesn’t mean you’re less than. It means you’re an original. 

When you’re true to yourself, you’re more likely to attract other people who want to get to know you–the real you, not some copy-paste version of other people you think you should be. 

You’re also more likely to navigate life’s challenges with emotional resilience. Rather than suppressing emotions or adopting a façade, authentic individuals confront and work through their feelings, contributing to a healthier emotional state.

Go ahead. Give it a try. Celebrate the word of the year by letting the world see the real you–unfiltered, unedited, and authentically fabulous. If the thought of undertaking authenticity alone makes you queasy, reach out to a therapist or a coach. They can help you navigate the twists and turns while minimizing motion sickness. After all, in a world full of copies, an original will always stand true.   

Sheila Tucker is a licensed marriage and family therapist and founder of Heart Mind & Soul Counseling. She empowers clients who overthink, worry, and experience their fair share of anxiety to become more rooted in peace, ease, and confidence. When not in the office, you’ll find her walking her pups or planning her next mountain getaway with her husband. 

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