Authenticity is the Straight(est) Path to Fulfillment: The Monkey and The Leopard

Mina Samuels
Sep 27, 2018 · 4 min read
Willy Aractingi

I’m giving a talk in Nashville this weekend at HT Live! The topic is authenticity and identity alignment, so that has been much on my mind these last days. A topic like authenticity forces the speaker to confront her own inconsistencies (okay, even hypocrisies). Am I my power point slides? How do I polish the presentation, without polishing away the grit of my imperfections?

We live in an age of bright leopard outfits. Social media is a never-ending exercise of honing our personal brand. Our personas are oh-so-shiny, but thin and brittle, too. A discerning person can see through the razzle. We know this is true, because we often see through someone else’s Facebook life of fabulous vacations and best days ever.

Our authentic identity is robust, flexible and seamless. Our monkey spirit has density and complexity. Sounds excellent. Why wouldn’t we all be monkeys?

Because it’s hard and scary as crap. Social media increases the pressure to repress the bits of us that don’t match our personal brand. The velocity of the gossip cycle is so extreme that the least misunderstanding poses enormous risks. Even if a person isn’t on social media much (like me), the demand for spots, inlays, striations and speckles is enormous. Differentiation and messiness (aka complexity) obstruct a tight brand message.

Lately, I wake up with this thought: I could get up to talk about this knotty problem of authenticity and my own efforts toward aligned identity and just cry for 20 minutes. I’m working on a book and I’m in the worst-book-ever stage of the process. The part when I wonder why I write.

Then I’ll come across something like this Hunter S. Thompson quote a friend sent the other day, “…to put our faith in tangible goals would seem to be, at best, unwise. So we do not strive to be firemen, we do not strive to be bankers, nor policemen, nor doctors. WE STRIVE TO BE OURSELVES.” And I stop wondering why I write.

Instead of crying, here’s a highlight reel of what I’m going to say:

1. If we don’t know who we are, then we cannot live our fullest life.

2. The process of aligning with our true identity requires that we know what we value and what our values are.

3. Values are what we care about when no one is looking.

4. Values allow us to step off the treadmill of constant comparison, of do-I-have-more-or-less-than-the-other-person.

5. To arrive at: I am enough

I don’t always arrive at #5. So who am I to recommend this monkey business?

I am visibly messy and imperfect. And I am enough. The King may not want my fancy pelt, but I’ve got some dance moves.

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Mina Samuels

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Writer. Performer. Citizen. Traveler. Enthusiast. Author of Run Like a Girl 365 Days A Year and other books.