What Is Authenticity?

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.

Awareness

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.

Redefining Continuously

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.

Why I Try To Let Go of Expectations

I remember before I started traveling that I had high expectations towards rock climbing. I was really looking forward to spending time in one place climbing, continuing to the next spot to do it again. Also, visiting Patagonia was on top of my list together with my main goal to improve my Spanish. Before leaving these expectations and the following anticipation were huge. I could imagine this rock climbing lifestyle up to the cramps in my fingers, I could see the peaks in Patagonia, and I could feel the Spanish words I did not know yet, flow out of my mouth.

What Really Happened

I have been traveling for over four months now, and how different everything has been. I did not go rock climbing once yet, I learned Portuguese before I got to Spanish, and I am not sure if I will make it to Patagonia at all this trip. The irony here is, that when I wrote a first draft of this blog post, I was almost leaving for Patagonia. Two days before I left though, I twisted my knee and had to cancel that part of my trip. But, do I regret any of this? Not at all, instead I experienced a million other things that got me to where I am now, happy with whatever crosses my path. Leaving a big part of my life up to the unexpected.

The Origin of Expectations

When we take a step back though, it is interesting to see where these expectations originate. We create expectations in our mind by projecting the past into the future. Because, we cannot expect what we did not experience yet. Moreover, we can create expectations about expectations. Hereafter, we create an entirely imaginary world that is clear of any surprise but is far from reality.

When you realize this, you see how self limiting expectations can be. Where on the one hand they are a tool to invest “time” more efficiently, on the other hand they take energy by dividing our attention between the past and the future, leaving little for the present. Since we create the future by how we live in the present, living in expectation actually increases our chances on experiencing the same thing over and over.

Also, expectations are reinforced by our society. Contracts, appointments, clear trajectories in school, and at work allow us to know exactly what to expect before we experience it. Since we do not have to worry about what is going to come up next, we can turn off our brain, stop asking questions and do as we are being told.

Living in this expectation-based society, life might get a little boring. Luckily, there is a lot of entertainment around to thrill us nonetheless. Cinemas, music festivals, restaurants, streetplay, theater, and soccer matches are all there to be consumed. Of course, we expect everything to start on “time”. Otherwise, the day after we might be at work later than expected.

How Expectations Influence our Daily Lives

In our personal lifes we often let expectations direct our feelings aswell. Because, do we not expect our parents to know the way when we do not? Is not our partner supposed to be there when we are sad? And, should not our friends keep your secrets forever? Again, in this case it might be harder to see, but expectations in these situations can be limiting as well. When we stick to these expectations the chance is high that any given relationship will solely develop along preset lines.

Where betrayal of a friend would provoke disappointment and anger, it might actually be the moment he or she realizes it is possible to feel comfortable sharing his or her deepest feelings. And, what if you do not show up when your partner needs you most and he or she realizes an inner strength to deal with it alone. So much for expecting anything from your loved ones.

Living in this version of reality we are limiting our own view. Where there might be a lot of valuable lessons to learn, we usually stick to expecting what we experienced already. We end up either satisfied or disappointed with the outcome. This all seems so normal because everybody around us does the same. It has gone thus far, that we have created an entire construct of ethical and behavioral rules. We know exactly how we are supposed to behave before we enter any situation. The people that act differently are usually the ones we talk about when they are not there.

Putting Expectations into Perspective

Even though, certain expectations are useful, for example, when your mother tells you she will pick you up, it is useful to think that this is going to happen. Also, certain ethical and behavioural expectations are useful to live, at least in relative peace, next to each other.

However, I think we should stop valuing expectations as something important. When we do this, we can see and adept to what is happening in the present. Because, expectations by itself are not limiting, rather it is the level of importance we ascribe to them that limits us.

Personally, I still expect things to develop in certain ways. But the boundaries around these expectations are more transparant. In general the importance of expectations is on the decline in my life, and I intend to keep it going this way. Because, when expectations are not limiting our sight in the present, there is more energy to enjoy it. At the same time staying excited about everything that we do not know yet.

Why I Started This Blog

Hi everyone, and welcome to my third blog post. I hope you enjoyed my previous posts and that you will continue to read the ones that follow. If you have any feedback, in whatever form, I really appreciate it if you get in touch. This really motivates me, and helps me improve. Because, having an idea in your head and then getting it right on paper can be hard. Anyway, I thought the time to be right to explain why I started this blog in the first place.

I Like to Write

First of all, I like to write. To me it is the easiest form to express my creativity. During my years in school I had little problems filling pages, putting what I knew in to writing. Nevertheless, only occasionally I would write something for myself, a poem every now and then, or I would work out an idea, but never to a point where I kept doing it regularly.

Where, I suppose in my younger years I was not aware of what I could do with my writing skills, later on I just had too many other things going on to get my mind into a state where I could write. An urge developed in me nonetheless over the last year and a half. Where I would get inspiration and had ideas but still felt blocked to get them on paper.

In retrospect, I understand why this happened. At the time I was living a life where my work would always be at the forefront of my mind. Most of the things I thought of were related to work, my perspectives on the human body and mind, and on nutrition. Similar ideas still fly around, but now I identify less with myself as a Physical Therapist. Therefore, I feel fewer obstructions in my thoughts and I actually have more headspace to follow up on them.

Stream of Ideas

Also, I realized that the less I identify with my thoughts in general and the more I reduce the amount of things I do, even more head-space opens up. Consecutively, thoughts and feelings do not dictate my state of mind as much, but rather come in to being as a result of it.

Further, during my travels I felt a growing sense of connection with the world around me. I noticed that wherever I go people will tell many similar stories, even though they all come from different places. Regardless of where they are from, if they are rich or poor, healthy or unhealthy we all seem to be sharing this human experience of ours in the same world.

Therefore, I figured that my travels should not necessarily be limited to my own experience. Before I took off I really had the feeling that this should be my time, my experience, in solitude and disconnected from the rest of the world. Soon though, I realized that this is nonsense and impossible. I had no idea at the time that I would be able to travel exactly how I want and still share this experience. Where I used to disconnect from the things that happened around me, they now inspire me to express myself in my own way.

Everybody Does What He Can

There are great people around, both alive and in history, close to me as well as people sharing their knowledge, lifestyle and ideas through blogs, vlog’s and other mediums to let the world profit from what they know. Not everybody has the time to read 100’s of science articles every year, but there are people who do this and break it them down for us.

There are people sharing their lifestyle on YouTube allowing us to profit from their experiences and there are people sharing their recipes so that we can still eat an awesome healthy meal when you are without inspiration. In general, there are so many perspectives being put out in to the world, it is up to us to let them shape us in whatever way you want.

In conclusion, this bigger sense of connection led me to revalue certain thoughts and feelings. As a result, I feel more confident and find it easier to express myself despite what other people might think. At the same time I am being inspired by a variety of people and causes that actually motivate me to do the same.

To join in on this exchange, I chose to write here to offer my views and story, so that people can profit from what I do. I hope this will inspire them finding their own way in to living their own authentic life, from repairing cars to working in an elderly home, and from volunteering in a neighborhood to writing a blog, every single one of these things are equally valuable.

My Current Travel Philosophy

I have been travelling through South America with my particular travel philosophy for four months now. I experienced enough to write a couple of books already. During this time I had the opportunity to meet many people, listen to unique stories and experience a lot of things I could not even imagine before.

Some of these experiences still blow my mind when I think of them. Experiences like ending up in a car accident to joining family parties and a pit stop in juvenile prison. During these four months though, I always tried to travel my way, sticking to my ideas of what traveling is about.

Before I took of, I set myself the goal to try to stay with people in their homes as much as possible and to use hitchhiking as my main form of transport. At that time I had no idea how this would work out, because I had little to no experience with both of them.

Sleep and Transport

To stay with people at home I use Airbnb or Couchsurfing to get in touch with locals. Also, I have had the fortune that on several occasions people offered me to stay with their family just because I was travelling in that direction. On one occasion even, just because I was in the car with them, after they picked me up hitchhiking. Regardless if this fit my plans or not, the answer was always yes.

Why I Stay Away From Tourist Attractions

However, when I meet other travelers I sometimes get the idea I am doing something wrong. I am not running from one tourist attraction to the next one, and I do not live from photo to photo. On the contrary, my way of traveling usually takes me to places that are not pretty from a photographic perspective. At these places though, is where the people live, unbiased by tourism, and unbiased by the idea of how much money I might spent.

In these places the beauty of the experience is harder to capture in a photo. In these less scenic places I have to speak different languages, I have to continuously adjust to different life values, different daily routines, and I am confronted with a wide variety of perspectives. Where after, the reward is so much more than a pretty photo. Even though, there are times when I feel so tired of having to adjust, again, until I do.

Really, looking for discomfort rather than comfort, increases the travel experience a thousandfold. Hitchhiking is one of these “discomforts”. At times, I am standing in the burning sun, collecting layers of dust on my skin, blown up by passing cars. Where after, somebody will stop and give you another chance to learn a million things. Sometimes, taking a bus might be quicker or more convenient, it reduces the chance of getting in to unexpected situations. Getting out of these situations though, is how I become more confident in dealing with everything that comes after.

YES-philosophy

Together with the above I also try to stick to a “YES-philosophy”. Along the road plenty people have invited me in to their homes, to family parties, to the cinema, to barbecues, to dance, to sing, to play an instrument, to a friends’ house or to their work environment (where the last, on one occasion turned out to be this juvenile prison). Regardless if my plans are different, if it might complicate things or if I feel uncomfortable accepting, I will always try to say yes.

This discomfort and feeling of insecurity, is there because it is sometimes hard to see what is coming. Also, at times I am afraid to show my “weaknesses”. Nonetheless, I believe all these feelings to be natural and valuable. I try to deal with them my way. Not seeing them as a code red situation, but rather as an opportunity to learn. Handling from this perspective has made my life a lot more exciting.

However, I have certain things that are very important to me. Mainly the way I take care of my health. I aim to eat a whole foods plant based regardless if I am at a Brazilian barbecue (there will be just meat) or if somebody offers me “Dulce de Leche” while I am getting a ride from them, the answer is always no. I do not eat animal products and I stay as close to zero with the amount of processed foods I eat. This means that sometimes I say no in the midst of enjoying limitless hospitality. Even though, looking from the outside this might seem rude, people have always respected my decision.

Two-way Street

I am willing to try everything but I stick to my core values, because that is who I am. If they will not hold up anymore I trust to keep an open mind, and to replace them with different values. In general, sticking to them will show people who you are, and the beautiful thing about this is: as much as the people I meet enrich my life, I do a little something in their lives as well.

Time: A Different Perspective

Starting of the blog and the new year, it seemed like a good idea to talk about a different perspective on time. Progressing to the next year always creates a special feeling, for some it is full of anticipation and for others it is filled with hope. Another chance to do things better, leave bad habits behind, and finally start eating right. Regardless of what happens though, we always keep counting our years as they pass by.

Linear Time

Our calendar and idea of time progress linearly. Day after day, month after month, year after year, always counting on. This invention of ours “helps” us determine where we are in space related to our idea of time. We can tell when somebody is late for work, when the sun comes up, when somebody should know enough mathematics to progress to 4th grade, and when you can expect to retire. All makes perfect sense, right?

Artificial Life, Artificial Time

Until you realize we are natural beings living in nature. Yes, we still live in nature even though we stacked it with roads, bridges, and cities. Just another concept to support those other inventions of ours, such as: money, time, distance, and borders. All these inventions reinforce each other in order to sustain society.

In effect, this creates a bubble where everything seems fixed but never really is. Because, borders are being fought over, there is always too little time to do everything you want, it is too far to walk to the supermarket and there is too little money to buy that new car. This all distracts us really from who or what we are, which diminishes our true needs: social contact, real food, exercise, and a sense of purpose in life.

To me, however, more and more it starts to make sense to drop this idea of time progressing along this artificial line of ours. Feeding the idea of that we are all different and “individual” (un-dividable). I am older than you, I have more experience than you because I work here longer, I am better than you because I play the guitar longer, and I have the right to retire because I am 65 years old. This way there will never be a person like you, everybody will always be ahead or behind you. Ever more creating a feeling of disconnection from the world around us.

Cyclical Time

However, in nature there are obvious cycles taking place. The sun goes up and returns, the moon shows itself in cycles, the earth moves in cycles, the seasons progress cyclically, women have their menstrual cycle and even men seem to experience cycles.

On a macro level there are times when the earth heats up or cools down depending on what happens elsewhere in our galaxy. Even our own inventions are subject to cycles, our economy, for example, needs to crash now and then in order to prosper again.

Keeping faith in this idea of time can make things really confusing. Our artificial creation keeps you thinking that this time is important. However, our bodies are subject to other inputs as well, including the cycles found within nature and our own lives, which influence our appetite, sleep, fitness, and ultimately our mood.


Once you become aware of this, you might recognize similarities with the people around you. Whereas cycles in nature seem to be dynamic returning phenomena, like the seasons starting around the same time each year, human cycles are initiated by the way you grow up, but also through changes in (social) environment and other life changing events. Thus, a 23-year-old experiencing a break up might experience the same feelings as a 65-year-old quitting his job.

Personally, during my work as a Physical Therapist I saw clients ranging from 10 to over 90 years old. It really surprised me how much I would have in common with somebody who was 90 years of age.

Leaving the linear way of perceiving time for what it is, a useful tool for navigating space, allows for seeing that everybody is living through similar cycles in different ways. Sometimes we return to similar situations, but at another point in our life. Understanding time cyclically this starts to make sense. If you stick to the idea of linear time progression it seems you have set a step back – ridiculous.

Adopting a cyclical view will allow you to realize how you are influenced by the world around you and vice versa. This will facilitate a sense of connection with the people around you, wherafter the world automatically becomes a more meaningful place.

Time to See Things Differently

Upon finishing this blog post, I challenge you to let 2018 be the year where you start seeing connections rather than disconnections. Possibilities rather than impossibilities and perceiving a familiar life situation as another opportunity to learn instead of seeing it as a setback. This will energize you along the road to find your own authentic way of life. In the meantime it will open your eyes to see that everything around you might actually be a bit more connected to you than it was.