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."