Authenticity refers to our willingness and ability to operate in congruence with our evolving values, expanding field of interests, and emotional and philosophical (or spiritual) sense of Self. This need not only refer to our individual sense of Self but also our understanding of our Self-in-Community. In short, it refers to living according to our personal Truths.  To be able to live one’s Truths is not simply an obvious ideal.  There is a richness that comes from being able to enjoy authenticity, and not feeling able to do so can lead to some common difficulties including lack of confidence, loneliness, and a somewhat mechanical approach to life that can feel empty at times. However, when one is able to express who they genuinely are in their daily interactions, with all of their shortcomings, complexities, and contradictions, they find they have much to offer others and much to gain from the richness of day to day experiences.

The concept of authenticity, in and of itself, does not assume perpetual expression. Rather, it invites an ongoing and thoughtful assessment of when, how, and why we are communicating and acting according to our personal truths. This involves recognizing when and how to mask a more genuine expression of self; sometimes, we choose to limit how exposed we are to avoid inappropriately crossing certain interpersonal boundaries: that ever-uncomfortable TMI scenario. Authenticity also involves recognizing when being completely genuine might place us at risk of exploitation, emotional injury, or significant compromise of academic/professional standing.  A regrettable but undeniable reality is that there are people in our world that can’t be trusted to respect and honor who we are, and maintaining some guard reflects the wisdom of protecting something of value from harm or theft. Also, in a campus as rich in diversity as ours, it may take some time to understand differences in culture and life-styles to feel safe enough to be more completely authentic all of the time. However, to the degree that we maintain a mindfulness of who we are and whether we’re living our own lives with our genuine personhood, we are able to learn and share without the hurt and fear that comes with how lonely it can be when we do not have enough authentic living in our ongoing experience.

Allow the ideal of Authenticity to guide you, rather than have it become a mandate or just another accomplishment.  It matters less whether you have achieved authenticity and it may be more enriching to simply maintain dialogue with yourself about when and how it is expressed and what makes more difficult to be authentic at other times.

How well would you say you know yourself?

How able are you to elaborate on the question, “Who are you?”

When do you find it most difficult to be true to yourself?

How can you tell when you’re not being “real”?



How do you experience periods when there’s been an ongoing absence of authenticity?

What is the opposite of Authenticity?

What other questions can help you explore how authenticity is present or absent in your life?