“Look, every day, at the choices you are making, and when you ask yourself why you are making them, find this answer: for me, for me. Because they are who and what I am, and mean to be.” – Anna Quindlen
There are many approaches to and definitions of authenticity, but this may be one of the clearest. It has a lot of other names, too: being genuine, speaking up, being yourself and many more. At times, the complaint has been made that authenticity is one of the buzzwords that seem ubiquitous around campus – right up there with “reflection group” and “lookaway” – but the almost commonplace way in which it is used does not change how important it is to our lives here and outside of Boston College.
In her encouragement to be authentic, author Anna Quindlen is not saying we should be out for ourselves and ignoring others. She is saying that we should allow ourselves to be guided by our passions, our values and our knowledge of ourselves. We should let those direct our actions more than what others think or do. This is an important goal for all of us, both as individuals and as members of the BC community. Authenticity is necessary for productive conversations, supportive relationships and the simple joy of being comfortable with yourself.
In being authentic, you will find fulfillment in what you do. You’ll grow. You will find out more about who you are and be able to share that knowledge with other people. In time, they may come to be authentic and honest back. It is a gift to the people around you to share the person that you really are, because it invites them to share their true selves, too. Authenticity can be a risk, but that’s part of what it makes it such a valuable gift.
So, admit it if you’re homesick or if you’re really struggling to get above a C in that class. Decide how to spend a Friday night based on what you feel like doing, not what you think you’re supposed to be doing. Respectfully disagree. Don’t say it’s fine if it’s not. Laugh loudly. Tell someone how you feel. Act on the basis of who you actually are, what you really feel and what you truly value. Practice it in small or big ways and let it become a habit. Receive others’ authentic selves with acceptance and support.
And, in the midst of all this authenticity, own it and be okay when you fall short of being your truest self. Authenticity does not require that you be able to practice it 100% of the time. It just requires trying. Authentic also does not mean perfect. It means recognizing that you, in all of your nervousness, joy, indignation, talent and imperfection, are someone whose character, feelings and truth are worth sharing.