What does it mean to be truly authentic?

A subject that comes up time and time again at Rosemary is the topic of authenticity. What does it mean to be authentic?
A while ago we had a workshop called “Speaking from the Heart”. Yaniv told us a story about Adi, an old friend from Israel who taught him what it meant to be ‘authentic’. When he first met Adi, he asked Yaniv to tell him about himself. Yaniv launched into his life story — where he was educated, what his company did, where he lived, his successes and accomplishments. When he was done, Adi burst out laughing and said “Everything you have just said is bullsh*t. You didn’t tell me who you are, you told me what you wanted me to think of you.”

This resonated very close to home for me. It was a subject I had been thinking about for a long time. If being authentic means being our true selves, then what is our true self? For a while I had identified myself as a filmmaker. I felt that was my true self. Many people think certain pieces of their identity like their nationality, their gender, their race, their sexual orientation, etc. is their true self. My camera was always close by my side and I felt that making films was my way of interacting with the world and discussing my thoughts and feelings. A few months ago, my camera was stolen. Suddenly, I didn’t have this appendage that signified my identity. It got me thinking; if we identify ourselves with things that can be taken away, then what is our true self? What is left when we strip away layer after layer, when we remove these masks that we think of as our true self?

Countries are conquered and renamed, gender is becoming more transient than ever, professions come and go, races combine to form new races. But one thing never changes while we walk this earth; the simple fact that we are alive.

 

So when we remove all those masks, all those barriers, it means that we are intrinsically connected to every living being on this planet. When you see this, you recognise these costumes and labels as absurd fabrications. They do nothing but separate us. They cause racism, sexism, nationalism, classism, speciesism.

I recognise that in this world of forms and matter, it would be impossible to exist without having any sort of identity except one of existence. All I’m saying is that my outward identity as Dana, a South African filmmaker is not my essence. It is not my true, authentic self. It is the identity I use to exist in this world, but it isn’t me, it isn’t us.

I strongly believe that when you take away the outer barriers, everyone’s core, or soul, whatever you want to call it, consists of unconditional love and oneness. So to say that someone is truly ‘authentic’ is to say that they are in touch with their core, the recognition that all living beings are connected.

At Rosemary, we’re always encouraged to open up, let ourselves be vulnerable, just be our authentic selves. It makes so much sense when you think of authenticity in that way. When you recognise that there really isn’t much difference between us except labels, it starts becoming impossible not to open up.

Written by Dana Toerien, Rosemary Volunteer 2016, Age 23, South Africa

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