Honesty vs. Authenticity

As I’ve mentioned before, honesty has always been paramount to me. I would often tell people that I don’t care what they do, as long as they tell me about it. In recent months, I’ve had several epiphanies around my obsession with honesty. 

The first I outlined in a separate post, namely that some things are not mine to share; this led me to appreciate the importance of secrecy, which illustrated to me that the particular variety of honesty I valued was disclosure. In sitting with this, I realized I needed some secrets of my own, things that only I knew.

This exercise organically led me to the next major epiphany: I was using disclosure as a manipulative tool. I believed on some level that, if I told someone everything, they would feel compelled to reciprocate. So a deeper motivator for my honesty was a desire to have others be honest with me. Basically, I was overcompensating for trust issues I didn’t realize I had.

The most recent realization is tied into a much larger process I’ve been going through in the last few weeks (which is a culmination of over a decade of introspection), which I will explain in more detail in a later post. In short, I have begun to live from the core of my being, my true self. I would describe this as being authentic. In practicing living from authenticity, I discovered that this was all I ever really wanted from myself or anyone else. I just wanted to be who I really am, and for others to be who they really are – no pretence, no masks, no illusions. This highlighted the fact that, for me at least, there is a big difference between honesty and authenticity.

Honesty is centred around telling people what we’ve done and who we are. Authenticity is simple being who we are, letting our actions speak for themselves. A person can be authentically dishonest, if withholding or misrepresenting certain information is in line with their core self, their deeper truth. Maybe they know the truth will do nothing but unnecessary harm, or the timing is off. And, of course, as I’ve experienced personally, one can be honest without being authentic. We can tell people things purely from the desire to be honest with total disregard for the effect this has on others, being motivated by fear and unhealthy patterns.

Of course, being honest with ourselves about our actions and the motivations thereof, recognizing even the things about us that make us uncomfortable or even frightened, is key to achieving authenticity (at least, as far as I can tell). We’ve all done things we’re not proud of, but telling others about them is less important than accepting within ourselves that we’ve done them, that it means we have the capacity to do them again, and that they do tell us something about ourselves. If we can be honest with ourselves in this way, we take a huge step towards authenticity.

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