What it Means to Live Authentically

When I was 14, I had a Gucci T-shirt. It wasn’t a real one, but it said ‘GUCCI’ in big letters on the front, so I thought I looked pretty fancy each time I wore it. It was my ‘going out’ t-shirt.

Years later on another trip to Hong Kong, I invested in a PALYBOY belt buckle and a ROLLEX watch. Girls in nightclubs thought I was rich; I guess the strobe lighting and alcohol obscured the trademark typos. It never occurred to me I was just a hapless phoney.

Thanks, though, to my early workmates at a magazine publishing house, my early forays into fakery eventually faded, replaced by their unique brand of brutal honesty (something they frequently dispensed on this pimply little nobody).

Today though, I still see this kind of thing happening, and with grown-ups, too. Truth be known, I slipped back into douchebaggery during my early adult years too, but a major financial crisis and two divorces eventually cured me once and for all.

Nowadays, I’m very comfortable with what I have and who I am. Sadly, many others never got the memo. For them, having the appearance of being someone, doing something or having something is still more important than actually being, doing or having.

So you might be asking, what exactly does it mean to be authentic? Is it driving a 20-year-old shitter? Is it buying non-GM foods, or wearing last season’s sweater?

Maybe it is. Or maybe it’s like my latest obsession — minimalism, in that it’s different for everyone.

But one thing I know for sure is that principles don’t change. If you stick a knife in a power socket, you’ll always get electrocuted. If you jump off a tall building, you’ll always go down — never up.

I think it’s the same thing here. If you say you’re going do something and then you don’t, you’ve broken an immutable law. Likewise, if you earn $100k a year and you spend $105k, you’re going to go broke.

But the principles of authenticity reach far beyond the obvious and superficial — they live in every nook and cranny of our lives. Let me give you some examples:

  • You phone a client to say you’re running late and that you’ll be there in 10 minutes, even though you know it’ll take at least 20.
  • You’re having a shitful day, but you need to post a happy selfie of you and your epic life on Instagram by 6 pm, so you fake it…
  • Your sales colleague stumps up for a BMW X3, so you spend the following week figuring out how to get yourself into an X5.
  • You accept an invitation to a wedding even though you secretly hate the bride.
  • You bump into an old friend and tell them “We must catch up for lunch” despite having no intention of listening to them drone on about their pitiful life.
  • You try to convince yourself that it’s fun to go clubbing or pubbing, even though a night by the fire reading a good book is far more appealing.
  • You tell yourself you’re not ready to pursue your dreams even though you know deep down you’ll never be ready — you just have to begin.

I could go on forever. It would be the longest list-post on the Internet.

So to make it easier on you (I know you’re keen to get into your weekend), I’ll tell you what living authentically means to me.

  • Being honest about your intentions with everyone.
  • Owning your personal circumstances and all the baggage it entails.
  • Saying what you mean and meaning what you say.
  • Dispensing with platitudes and meaningless wishes, and replacing them with honest values and believable plans.
  • Doing what you need to do, even when you don’t feel like it.
  • Knowing you can’t do everything, so only committing to what you can do, and then delivering on your promise.
  • Never comparing your beginning to someone else’s middle or end.
  • Recognising that you don’t know everything, and being fine with that.
  • Trying something new and accepting that it might work…and it might not.
  • Knowing that the life you want will probably require a different person to the one you are now.
  • Being grateful for everything you have right now.
  • Believing that your habits create your life.
  • Seeing the good in others, even when they can’t.
  • Understanding that just being here is an incredible act of luck, and acting accordingly.

I’m sure you could add a few dozen more to this list (so could I), but you understand what I’m saying.

We waste so much time comparing ourselves to others that we fail to truly live; to enjoy this fleeting moment. Living authentically and intentionally is a decision. And once it’s made, it exposes the richness of life in all its complex splendour — in both the macro and the micro.

Ultimately, for me, it’s meant stepping out of the matrix and into reality, and living my life, my way.

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How it Feels to Live on Your Own Terms

Thanks for stopping by and I hope we get to hang out more in the future. And in the meantime, please feel free to share your own experiences. You can email me directly at peter@midlifetribe.com. I respond to all emails. If this was beneficial to you, please consider subscribing and sharing with someone you think would also benefit.