Authenticity seems to be the new Holy Grail of self-development.
Those who pursue it have a very obvious reason: authentic self-expression is attractive.
Authentic artists are the most popular on stages.
Authentic leaders are the most successful in business.
Authentic actors are the most appreciated by the audiences.
It takes courage to be genuine and different and it feels good to be yourself unapologetically.
But how is it possible, that for most people, the harder they try to be authentic, the more fake they feel?
Why is it so difficult to "just stop trying"?
How do you become more authentic if right now, you feel anxious and fake by doing nothing at all?
To answer the question, let's have a look at childhood development first.
Kids were designed to lose
Long before a child learns social behaviors in order to fit in, it has 2 instincts that are in mutual conflict.
The instinctual need to express itself.
The instinctual need for love.
Let's have a look at the first instinct.
For a child, the freedom of self-expression is absolute.
When it feels like yelling, it yells. When it feels like crying, it cries. When it feels like laughing, it laughs.
It's simple: the child doesn't give a fuck.
The second instinct is the child craving the feeling of love.
It craves love instinctively - the nurturing feeling of love - being seen as beautiful, perfect, valued, and taken care of. It feels exquisitely good so it seeks to experience it.
For a long time, it doesn't even know how to describe it, because it starts happening long before it knows how to speak.
The child also can't just decide to create love from the inside, because it does not really have the ability to exercise willpower either.
Therefore, when it comes to love, it's completely dependent on love from its external environment.
You might call this state an addiction.
And just like any addict would do - it feels so good, that the child will do whatever it takes to get love.
Now, here's the catch:
The child's instinctual craving for self-expression is in direct conflict with its instinctual need for love.
(If you're pessimistic enough, you might conclude that the fact that all this is designed this way is completely f*cked up.)
"If I am who I really am as I am, I will be judged and rejected.
But if I'm not who I really am, I will not express the way that feels natural."
The Birth of Anger
"Judgment and rejection SUCKS! (lack of love) But fake also SUCKS! (lack of self-expression) It all SUCKS. I HATE THAT!"
And the anger is born.
Anger, attempting to change what is happening by rejecting it as much as possible.
"I don't like this. I don't like this. I don't like this."
(the kid doesn't know that it's a waste of time, yet it's doing the best it can with its resources available)
"If I want to avoid judgment (and get approval), I have to adapt.
I have to control who I am in order to be accepted and feel loved."
In order for this to happen, it must temporarily accept self-judgment, just to "survive the childhood".
"I am not okay the way I am."
Why else would the child be motivated to form behaviors that are not natural to it? Why else would the child fake anything?
If its instinct is a threat to receiving love, it HAS TO sacrifice a bit of its self-expression in order to get its love dope.
(btw. every child goes through that. Some more, some less. That's why we're all imperfect human beings.)
So it will create new self-expression: A fake one.
"If I become what other people want me to become, I will be safe and loved."
It'll become really good at faking the new behavior, and pour massive energy into trying to adapt to whatever is necessary in order to "fit in": socialization.
Fit in the family. School peer group. Work, culture...the world.
But the reality is, that the harder you try to "fit in", the more exhausting it gets.
Because the whole game was set up in a way that seems like a dead-end:
The more you try to fit in, the more fake you will feel. But the less you try to fit in, the more you risk rejection and losing love and approval from your social groups.
So eventually, even though you do everything you thought will give you social approval (cars, status, money, women, etc.) and you should be absolutely loved, accepted, and happy, it still sucks. Because the more you sacrificed your real self, the more feeling of dissatisfaction and failure there is.
The more fake you are, the more it sucks.
Now here's the funny thing - of course, people hate other people being fake: it shows to them how much they hate their own fakeness.
So what they'll try to do initially is that they start trying to resolve their fakeness. What's funny, though, is that they'll start doing literally the exact opposite of what would work: By trying not to be fake and trying to be authentic.
But here's the catch: The harder they try, the more fake they feel.
It's a paradox.
If you don't know how to work with this, the paradox will lead to frustration - the same one like a child feels:
"If I keep trying to be authentic, it will suck. If I stop trying to be authentic it will suck."
So what will be another logical reaction?
"FUCK THIS SHIT, THIS MAKES NO SENSE I AM DESTINED FOR ETERNAL SUFFERING!"
More anger and frustration.
If you keep trying to figure it out with logic, you'll get anxiety.
If you put enough effort in, you'll generate for yourself a panic attack.
This can't be understood logically, because paradox means that both contradictory statements are true simultaneously.
So if you push the logic hard enough, you might end up in an existential crisis.
(There's no coincidence that Zen Buddhism uses koanic paradoxical statements as a means to spiritual growth.)
If you know how to meditate, and ideally release your stuck emotions and let go of the overthinking, it's ideal. But if you do know that, you'd probably weren't reading this.
How to Get Out of the Authenticity Trap
There is another way out of this loophole:
Reversing the paradox.
If both sides are equally true despite being mutually contradictory, then the opposites of the statements must also be equally true.
This is the Law of Polarity in action.
It's one of my favorite coaching tools.
What happens is that you realize this:
"If you can't be authentic by trying to be authentic, then you also can't be fake by trying to be fake."
Just read it again a few times and notice what it does with your brain.
And see if you can really get it until you feel it.
Life on the Other Side?
Feeling fake is painful because it feels like we're not doing it on purpose.
We're feeling fake despite just being, just living, just existing.
The impostors of the world.
But what would happen if you were fake on purpose?
The moment you're trying to fake anything, you're doing it at will. Whatever you decide to do consciously cannot be fake. If you're fake on purpose, you aren't fake.
Just see what your mind will do if you put it in the practical world. What if you could just try to go to the supermarket, ask where the bananas are located, and try to be as fake as possible?
You probably won't do it because it's an idea too absurd to process, so your ego will reject it right away.
But just wonder, what would happen if you really did that?
If you would really mean it, the situation will get bizarre and absurd, therefore funny, therefore joyful, and therefore enjoyable.
Now, where is the pain of being fake?
It has been released.
So many men pursue the goal of being authentic in dating, relationships, and leadership and they are trying really hard.
Yet, with that, they're running 180° opposite direction.
They're having poor to no results and they're angry - the same anger and frustration of helplessness over their poor confidence, anxiety, and numbness over and over again.
They don't see these paradoxes, because they are stuck in their head:
"I have to figure this out logically and then I'll do it right."
When you're trying to come to an understanding of something that is of paradoxical nature, you will either go crazy, or you will let go (release) and create ALL those experiences you seek.
Yes, another paradox.
So once you let go, you can start enjoying the journey and experience all that you previously tried to figure out.
So right now, make a decision to get the hell out of your comfort zone and be fake on purpose. Do it just a little bit.
And watch what happens!
I am running a program for men called Natural Masculine Confidence. If you're interested in getting rid of your repressed baggage from your past while reaching more confidence, joy, and freedom in your business and love life - just let me know. We'll chat and see if I can help.