How to be the Authentic You
Being the “authentic you” is in vogue these days – but what does it mean, really? What exactly is the authentic you?
When I ask this question to myself, I find it very difficult to answer. I almost reached for Shrek’s answer – “onions have layers!” Does that mean I am like Ogres?
While I don’t know how many people feel similarly, given how popular Shrek was, chances are many of us found it struck a chord and agree that we also have layers, and others usually only see a particular layer of us.
Why is that? A big part of growing up is learning what the society expects of us and what we need to conform to be accepted. When we were young, we learn by copying without deeper understanding, and our elders usually also don’t have the time to teach us about the deeper meaning and it often becomes a force-feeding of lessons. So when we need to conform, we ended up internalizing that what we were was not good and must be hidden away. And overtime, we end up with many layers.
The thing about these layers are that they are created to protect that inner you, the you that was hurt through the process without real understanding why you weren’t being accepted, but grow the outer shell regardless so you can be accepted. I imagine many if not most have gone through some variation of this growth. And when we are presented with the question – what is the real you? We struggle to answer.
So – what is the real me? Is the inner-most tender layer the real me? If it is, does that mean the outer layers are not real? And if so, does that mean that I’ve been a fake person throughout the majority of my life? And if so, does that mean I should reject the person that I’ve become, in order to truly become the authentic me?
While that’s certainly an approach, I believe that’s not a healthy way of looking at this issue. When we say onions have layers, we didn’t say that only the inner-most layer is the real onion. All the layers are part of the onion, which forms the whole rich complexity and flavor that are known to us as the onion.
Same with each of us – every layer we develop, grow, and carry with us is part of us. All the hurts, the disappointments, the failures are also part of us. When we use the outer layers to protect the inner layer, in some ways we are being more like turtles instead of onions. We want the outer layer to be hard to keep us from getting hurt again.
While this is a way to protect ourselves, unfortunately it stifles our inner self and doesn’t give it a chance to breathe and grow, and until we change the approach, we will always wonder – what is the authentic me, and what can I really be?
Thus, I propose a different way to look at it – instead of using onions as the metaphor that represents us, think of each of us is a budding flower, waiting to bloom to show the world all the glory that is the authentic us. The outer parts and the inner parts complement each other to form the whole flower, and any part removed makes it less radiant.
So, don’t go on a journey to discover the real inner you by rejecting the outer you, because they are also part of the real you. Accept them is the first step that allows you to discover the whole you. Then, discover the inner you by accepting your past failures that were the causes of you growing these outer layers. When you are able to accept all of them, then you will be ready to bloom. Cheers.