Authenticity: Not Being Different or Conforming, BEING
Like all of life, there are stages in human development and self-expression. We start off learning how to fit in and belong. We learn the do's and do not's of our family and our tribes. We learn the expectations and the rules. Then comes the phase of differentiation. This started early on for me, and I have felt a sense of "otherness" for quite some time. What I have only recently become aware of is the integration that occurs beyond these two stages.
In the conformity stage, there is thinking of yourself as part of the group. Empathy can be learned here but there are also the dangers of tribalism and compartmentalization. We learn to be ourselves around others who think like we do, or we learn to express certain parts of ourselves in certain contexts. Naturally, different tribes and people will bring out different facets of our character, but we can pre-screen situations so we know what to hide.
In the individuating stage, decisions are made for yourself. Cutting ties from unhealthy attachments and breaking the molds you or others have created happens here. Being an individualistic society (in theory), we celebrate stories of otherness, the white knights, and lone rangers. So too do we awe and revere those who have the courage to do something "different," even if we are unwilling to do so. Yet this stage risks people becoming a "not that," posturing themselves as the antithesis to something rather than being themselves.
This is why integrating the wisdom of these two stages is crucial. We can think on behalf of our tribes and groups while retaining our personal power. We can create space for ourselves and others to be while working together. I am learning to focus on the present moment, on the person or situation in front of me. As I remain aware of my intuition and of my senses, I am able to simply be in the moment. My focus on being the same dissolves, as does my need to be different. After all, these divergent responses are really two sides of a coin. We transcend the dichotomy when we are being. This is authenticity.
There may still be times for creating distinctions. This doesn't mean we cannot have discussions with different opinions, it means we are no longer focused on our sameness or our differentness, we are expressing ourselves uniquely and fully, yet are unpreoccupied by trying to be different.
Authenticity isn't being different or being the same as anyone else, it's just being, being you.