Dave Davis
Dave Davis

I may be in the minority on this, but I’m not one for making a resolution this time of year, as is the tradition for so many. Maybe it has something to do with my track record of caving during the first week, year in and year out. 

What I’ve replaced resolutions with has been something much more sincere, based in reality, and is manageable: I have a greater chance of dictating its ultimate outcome. It’s the foundation for renewing one’s commitment to authentic self.

Though the topic of “authenticity” as it relates to the individual has been covered extensively by such notables as Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and Sǿren Kierkegaard, to name just a few, it’s the following passage that appeared in a 2012 edition of “Philosophy Now” by Ben Yacobi, which I found to be refreshingly straightforward. 

He states: “Personal authenticity is often defined as being true and honest with oneself and others; having credibility in one’s words and behavior, and an absence of pretense. A desire for authenticity is also essential for the discovery of the truth, and for finding fulfillment in life, making it more meaningful and comprehensible.” 

One of the first questions that we might ask is: how do I know what is authentic in my life and what isn’t? Everything I’m saying and doing is me, is it not? Interestingly enough, those answers are not as easy as they might seem. They often require much introspection, an objective examination of personal history, and maybe some guidance from a certified coach or therapist. 

As we delve into the search for our authentic self, one of the primary obstacles that we encounter is what psychologists refer to as our “ego-identity.” 

Typical examples would include the roles we assume as parent, spouse and child, which in turn develop into the careers we undertake, the politics we align ourselves with, or the type of partner we choose. Each becomes a marker or identifier that serves a necessary purpose, yet tells very little about who we truly are as unique individuals.

Often times the obstructions caused by the ego-identity are embedded quite early on in our upbringing, especially if one were raised in a household with parents who didn’t recognize or value their own authenticity, hence felt little impetus to encourage others to do so.

What’s equally discouraging is that in most Western, capitalistic societies, as a whole; much of the emphasis for how one lives his or her life is rooted in cultural norms, conformity, and societal expectations. Not surprisingly, the result is that countless folks are going through the motions of everyday life questioning the choices they’ve made.

Fortunately, there are some preliminary steps we can implement when beginning the process of honoring our authentic self. First and foremost is the supposition that this path we are on is one of a continuous, ever-evolving “work-in-progress,” and not based upon achievements that will co-opt the ego as it attempts to define our Being. 

Therefore, the very first step one must embark upon is a relinquishment of the attachment to conventional definitions of self that have been assumed up to this point in time.   

I can vividly recall one of the first “adjustments” in perspective that put things into motion for me. It took place some years ago when presented with a significant, life-altering option during a critical point in my career as a business person. The actual moment of clarity didn’t occur when I subsequently left the industry I’d been working in for nearly two decades, but rather two to three weeks prior, when I came to the realization that I could no longer go on defining my self-worth and value through the lenses of someone else’s glasses. 

Revelatory moments, especially when divergent choices are before us, can oftentimes act as a springboard or agent of change. As we begin to drop those limiting perceptions of self, the opportunity for personal growth and authenticity appear more in focus. We are choosing to resist the pressures and judgments from those external forces, seeking conformity by dictating our options.

Additionally, the implementation of a mindfulness practice plays a crucial role in the development of our authentic life. Setting intentions at regular intervals and following through on their execution soon becomes second nature to us; essentially aligning our core values with purposeful, effective outcomes.

Once we’ve made our authenticity-based choices, we take ownership of their actions or consequences. We realize that they are most likely counter to the norm, yet welcome input from others without the need to be overtly defensive. The capacity to differentiate what supports our own authentic self and what doesn’t eventually becomes routine. 

Internationally renowned Buddhist meditation teacher and spiritualist Jack Kornfield shares the essence of this paradigm rather eloquently in his book “A Path with Heart”: “Beneath our struggles and beyond any desire to develop self, we can discover our Buddha nature, an inherent fearlessness and connectedness, integrity, and belonging. Like groundwater, these essential qualities are our true nature; manifesting whenever we are able to let go of our limited sense of ourselves, our unworthiness, our deficiency, and our longing. The experience of our true self is luminous, sacred, and transforming.” 

And really, when you think about it; aren’t those the types of qualities you’d rather behold while formulating a resolution for the New Year? I can only speak for myself, but stating that I intend to drop another 10 pounds is starting to get old.

Dave Davis
Dave Davis teaches preschool for the Head Start program based at the Children’s Museum of the East End in Bridgehampton, NY. He is also a frequent contributor to “Who Smarted?,” a popular educational podcast for elementary school children.

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