Two blog posts ago I wrote about why I started Quest for Authenticity and I will now continue to explore what authenticity means and how I think going on this quest has already helped me live a more fulfilling life.
To me, the thing that stands out most strikingly in this process, is the importance of becoming aware of what is ours in our lives, and what is not. Consequently, it is possible to make a conscious decision on what we would like to include and what to exclude. Because, from the moment we enter this world up to this very moment there has been, and will be, continuous input from both inside and outside ourselves. Regardless of the origin of these inputs, their effects on us are all equally real. The problem is though, that in most cases nobody teaches us how to deal with all of these inputs.
When we zoom out though, it becomes visible that a lot of these inputs are results of a societal belief-system rather than the result of personal needs. In western society, our culture has become increasingly materialistic and focused on education, money, and performance whereas in Middle-Eastern society, for example, a more traditionally family oriented belief-system is still in place. The result in both occasions, however, is that we end up living lives that we think are ours but are actually far from it.
Authenticity as a Painting
I like to think of this way of life as a painting. When we are born we actually have a blank painting, nevertheless society drew all the lines already. The way it is now, we are only allowed to color in our painting. The idea of finding your own authentic way of life though is, to look at your painting and question every color and line in there. Is this what I want it to look like? Where after you can decide to keep it in this way, change it or erase it, leaving space for something new.
What is Normal?
Currently though, the first thing that will be decided on is whether we are normal or not normal. Normal in this case means that we are allowed to start the path into society along the most convenient way – starting in kindergarten until we get our degree. Subsequently, we are eligible to start producing and consuming to keep the bubble of our western society floating.
However, if you are not qualified as normal, you will either have to become normal by doing therapy, using medication or just pretending to be. After this, you might still be eligible to enter the “regular” path of life. If this still does not work out, there is an alternative trajectory which reduces your chances of a free life in almost every way. The criteria for normal and not normal vary depending on where you are from. In some cases skin color or the amount of money is already enough to put you in one of the categories, while in other cases a certain mental health status might determine your trajectory.
However, the way we view skin color, mental health, body composition, physical capacity and book-learning capabilities are all labels and measurements created by us humans. We have defined what is normal and what is not normal. This way, the reigning paradigm can be kept in place easier, and threats to it can be suppressed and quarantined. Think of all the medication prescribed for certain mental health “disorders”. In this, we are made to believe that there is only one reality, and that is the one that is systematically being forced upon us. At the same time we get the false idea that all of this is necessary for our own well-being.
So when we realize this we can come to a point where we might decide to view things a little differently. We can start changing, erasing and refilling parts of the painting of life. Do you agree with the normal – not normal division? Do you think that money is more important than health? Do you agree with the amount of hours we have to work every week? Do you agree with school being more important than playing at home? Do you agree with the idea that somebody who finished his Masters’ degree is smarter than somebody quitting high-school? And do you agree with the idea that when you are not working you are not productive?
These and a million other normal things within our western society are results of this belief-system silently agreed upon. However, when we become aware of this and actively use this awareness, we can make a conscious decision on anything in life. Therefore, my Quest for Authenticity is really about reviewing these concepts and to decide on their part in my life. While there are both useful and useless things to our western society, both of them are there without question until you start questioning them for yourself, and start to paint your own painting.
Personally, in this on-going process I am redefining concepts like the importance of work, time, laziness, health, and money. I am trying to reduce the influence of the latter in my decision taking, by looking for alternatives when it comes to spending it.
Also, feelings of insecurity and fear I try to accept and retrace to it’s origin. These feelings are often based on non-personal beliefs and wreak havoc in my behavior and decision-making capabilities. Seeing them for what they are it is easier to reduce their influence. Still, there are so many other things that I at least try to approach without any preconception, until there is a moment I need to decide on the value of a certain idea. Because, the idea that once we have defined something that this is forever, is an invention of ours as well. We are actually free to redefine our authenticity at any moment.