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Why Authenticity Matters

As we make our way through early life, each of us develops a ‘survival personality’ that adapts to our environment by creating defence mechanisms and compensation strategies that ensure our needs get met by those around us. The thing is, these adaptations often cause us to come out of relationship with ourselves - we deny or suppress our desires in our efforts to gain acceptance and approval in the group. 

Brene Brown pointed out this enduring tension through the simple sentence - ‘the opposite of belonging is fitting in’.


Too often, fitting in requires an act of contortion that pulls us out of our centre, and belonging only happens when we inhabit our authentic selves.


Psychosynthesis offers us a very helpful framework through which to understand this - it is the distinction between neurotic and existential concerns. Neurotic concerns are related to our place within the tribe/ culture, whereas existential concerns are related to our alignment with our deeper self. 


As we grow and develop, the ‘rules’ of how to behave are transmitted to us through the systems we participate in. The internalisation of these rules is referred to as the superego. The superego becomes the arbiter of our neurotic concerns - directing our behaviour according to what we have learnt will win us acceptance and approval within the groups we are part of.


In the unfolding of a life, each of us face moments in which being faithful to ourselves will demand that we betray the group and risk (real or imagined) excommunication from it. Or visa versa - remaining faithful to the group norms will lead us to betray ourselves…


What happens when people’s identities are formed around the expectation of a culture is the development of ‘status quo bias’. When people invest in conforming to a cultural norm (at the loss of their deeper truth/ desire), they become attached to that status quo being upheld, and experience challenges to it as direct challenges to their identity.


The problem with status quo bias is that it can lead us to abdicate personal responsibility/ critical thinking and moral discernment to notions such as, ‘everyone else is doing it/ it’s just the way things are…’


As Jaqueline Novogratz says in Manifesto for a Moral Revolution, ‘mustering the moral courage to do what’s right, not what’s easy, requires knowing when conformity is a force for good and when it instead muffles our conscience.’ 


This is how the crisis of conformity and the crisis of morality are linked. Conforming to established norms insulates you from confronting the questions at the core of your existence - Who are you? Why are you here? What do you stand for? And from undertaking all the research - experiential, intellectual, psychological and spiritual - necessary to establish in yourself an internal moral compass - ie. conscience... So long as our will is caught in neurotic concerns (what will they think of me?) it is not free to explore existential ones (what is the highest contribution I can make?).


Conformity is a crisis because when we don’t inhabit our true nature, we rob the world of our gifts. And, when we don’t know who we are, we are much more likely to invest in false notions of self; to feed hungry ghosts; to get hooked into addictions and ideologies in our desire to find our place...


When we lack an anchor to our deep self or soul - which is the wellspring of our lifeforce and the place from which we are connected to the soul of the world - we are much more vulnerable to the coercion of external authorities and the seduction of seeking sanctuary in the status quo.


Ultimately, when we conform to norms that are inhospitable to our deeper truth - when we flatten ourselves and undermine our instincts and feelings - we collude with the deadening of the world.  And, conversely, when we choose to fully inhabit our uniqueness, we contribute to the flourishing of life because mutual enrichment happens naturally when each of us embodies the gifts of our essence. 


Authenticity is more than saying what you want or wearing what you want or kissing who you want; it's about fully inhabiting your true nature, fully participating in life, bringing all of yourself forward in service of a more beautiful world... This is why I devote myself to the cultivation of authenticity in myself and others, and why I see it as one of the hallmarks of Soulful Leadership (alongside humility, devotion and moral courage).


If you’re curious to learn more about how I work and how working with me could impact your life, feel free to book a call or join one of my upcoming events


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