TED Conversations

Alison Whitmire



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What does it mean to be authentic?

Authenticity has an illusive quality. It's like 'Blink", you know it when you see it, but can you describe it? How is it you know when someone is being authentic? Is it because of how they are being or because of how they are NOT being? Is there such as thing as being too authentic? If not, what's meant by TMI, too much information?

Is authenticity showing up with no filters? Is that wise? Don't we need our filters? Is it OK to always be authentic? Is it always safe to be?

As you can see, I'm all questions and no answers. I look forward to yours. :)


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    Feb 18 2011: Being authentic means showing up as 'unprotected presence'. By being deliberately intentional in our choice of where we come from -- will we choose to use our defense mechanisms that protect us, or will we allow ourselves to be our imperfectly perfect selves?

    I think there is a question to be made about what vulnerability and authenticity are. Friends of mine have said they aren't comfortable and/or don't have the time to be vulnerable with everyone they meet. In my mind, they have the idea of "TMI" and complete trust collapsed with authenticity and vulnerability. You do not need to tell a stranger your life story to be vulnerable or authentic. You just have to be. Be with things you can't be with. Love yourself. Unconditionally. Love others. Unconditionally. Detach yourself from the outcome of everything you do. Be committed to yourself and to the process, but let go of what could, should, would, must, needs to happen. Trust yourself. Show up. Take risks. Reflect. Keep on trying.

    You are right though, you know it when you see it. And isn't it one of the most attractive qualities out there?
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      jag . 50+

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      Feb 18 2011: Vulnerability would be more if emotional pain is coming up, and having the courage to feel the emotion instead of suppressing it with music, TV, alcohol, etc

      Authenticity is more like a state of being, if you have little/no inner conflicts, then your emotions and thoughts will be healthy and happy>this translates into the behaviours.

      Also a very important point is the meaning of authenticity in regards to a human. We regard children and babies as authentic as they act of whatever emotion they are feeling. But when an adult is angry or spiteful, we say this isn't authentic, but if a child where to get angry, we would say this is authentic. So maybe another answer would be that everyone is authentic all the time.

      But, of course when we talk of being authentic it’s a kind of spiritual state associated with being happy, feeling contented and being kind and compassionate to others.
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      Feb 20 2011: Roxanne, your really hit the nail on the head, thank you..... You made me rethink my answer, and now in simple terms. It means to be truly present and connected to life in a caring way.
    • Feb 20 2011: The reflexivity of the phenomenon of authenticity requires, then, that we be always committed to the continuous process of honest Self-discovery. The danger when our true Self (a momentary thing at best, as the Buddha reminded us), is hidden from us by denial. Often this denial is the result of the fact that we want to be as honest as possible, yet we are acting under the influence of a commitment to some group, nation, religion, football team. So we must hide from ourselves the fact that we are speaking or acting in a way that is actually in conflict with the things we think we believe in. Denial rescues us from the cognitive dissonance, but renders us no longer an impartial judge.
      Thus, as the Oracle related, we must be on a continuous and courageous quest to know ourselves better, for the Self is an open system and in continual evolution. So I must strive to be authentic with respect to my Self at this moment, realizing it may be different from my Self of 5 years ago, or 5minutes ago, or 5 nanoseconds ago.
      Like it or not, it seems that a reasonable Dharma requires that we learn to juggle while walking this tightrope.

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