As a man, who is the authentic you?
These are questions which few men ask themselves: “Who am I?” “Who is the authentic me?”. As men, we are inclined to take on ‘roles’. We are sons, brothers, fathers. We identify with our skills and our employment, our teams, our cultures. But who are you? What is it that makes you a unique human being? What is your essence, the essential you? Is there something unchanging in you that you were born with and you will die with? Are there parts of you that will develop as you get older? What is the authentic you?
Of course these questions are lifelong questions. And, sometimes we never find the answers. But it is essential that we do our best to try and answer them. Because, until you find the authentic you, it will be difficult to know precisely where to establish your boundaries.
You can say that you have certain needs and wants. You can defend your territory, not letting someone else step over the line. But boundaries are about so much more than this. They’re also about opinions and beliefs. When you speak, whose beliefs do you profess? Whose voice are you using? Are you just repeating something that has been fed to you from friends, politicians, the mass media, your parents, your religious leaders or something you read on social media?
Stop for a moment. Have you really thought about this subject? Have you truly thought through both sides of the argument. Have you discussed it with others and listened to them? Have you conducted some research into it? Or are you just agreeing with somebody else? Because that’s not being authentic. It’s not necessary to have an opinion about everything. But, when you do express an opinion, just be clear that it’s your opinion. This applies whether we’re talking about some of the weightier subjects like euthanasia, capital punishment, abortion, same-sex marriage, or refugees. It also applies to areas like sex and drugs. Where do you stand? And, even if you’re simply discussing music and arts, don’t simply follow the rest of the herd, be true to yourself.
It’s also important to never lie to yourself. Even if you find yourself pretending to others (lying by omission or commission), at the very least, own your truth to yourself. Be clear inside yourself what is real and what is not real.
How well do you know yourself? Can you be truly honest with yourself? If so, are you aware when you’re being ‘real’ and when you’re not? And, more to the point, are you aware when you’re being fake or just shallow? Of course, to an extent, being ‘real’ is highly subjective. There’s often a cultural template that overlays and rules all ‘acceptable’ behaviour. So, for example, in some cultures it’s necessary for men to behave in a macho way. These men are pure bravado. Other ways of describing that way of being are arrogance, bluster, or braggadocio. In other words, these are acts that are assumed; they are behaviours that do not reflect how the man is actually feeling, but how he is pretending to feel. He may, in fact, not be being who he is, and is therefore not being true to who he is. He is probably doing this to prove something to other people, and, in many cases, he is overcompensating for feelings of inferiority. Because, if he was comfortable in himself, he wouldn’t need to pretend to be something that he isn’t.
This is also often coupled with the fact that many men are not comfortable with their emotions. Either they’ve been brought up to believe that a true ‘man’ doesn’t feel (let alone show) his emotions, or he actually becomes overwhelmed by his emotions. He might have the subconscious belief that if he were to allow himself to feel his emotions he might fall apart. And, of course, he must never allow this to happen! So he puts on an act.
Do you find yourself doing this? Do you need to pretend to be something that you’re not in order to feel comfortable? If so, you might like to ask yourself why you do this. And, likewise, you might like to consider that you’re not being true to yourself – being authentic – when you do it.
On the other hand, you might feel that if others really knew you, that they wouldn’t like you. So you keep your emotional life hidden from others. But whatever you hide from others, you are also likely to hide from yourself. And whatever you hide from yourself can control you without your being aware of it.
Learn to check in with your emotions from time to time. What emotion(s) are you experiencing? Do you acknowledge that emotion? You don’t have to understand it or even accept it right now. You can work on that later. But – again – be honest with yourself, and at least acknowledge it.
Authenticity comes also with knowing yourself better; what motivates you, what drives you. Once you start to see, for example, “Oh, I’m reacting to this situation because of something that happened to me in the past”. You can not only get in touch with who you are, you can actually modify your responses.
Being authentic is also about how you interact with others. Many of us are actually taught as children to put on those masks. To pretend to be and behave in different ways to how we actually are. For example, many boys were told not to cry and to ‘toughen up’. Even today I hear advice to men to ‘man-up’, which basically means not to feel your emotions and certainly not to ever show your feelings. It seems that many people are afraid and even ashamed of being vulnerable. They equate vulnerability with weakness. In fact it’s completely the other way around. A god acknowledges his vulnerability and THAT MAKES HIM STRONGER. A god knows that he doesn’t have to wear a mask; to pretend to others something that is not true. By feeling and expressing all of his emotions not only is a god being authentic and true to himself, he is also growing into a fully-rounded human being, rather than a mannequin in a shop window.
So let others see your true face. Sometimes that might be very difficult. Sometimes it might be painful. You might have to confront a number of fears to do that. But I promise you that, ultimately, it will be worth it.
Extract from “The god that you are”: