Written by Ritu Garg

Let’s choose to be Authentic.

‘Authentic?’ Really? Are we not authentic already? I mean, well, what do you even mean?

“Doesn’t it sound cliched, platitudinous, oft-repeated?” I sensed a husky whisper in my ears. Clearly, it was imagined, as there was not a single soul around, and I was sitting like a solitary reaper in a park which had just started receiving its regular morning walkers trickle by trickle.

So when Merriam-Webster dictionary announced ‘Authentic’ as the word of the year for 2023, it made me reflect deeply, despite my knee-jerk reaction in the first instance.

In this age of slangs and abbreviations, ‘Authentic’ sounds boring, drab, dull, and maybe even un-youthful. Jejune, meh, and uncool, even. Surely, it unapologetically offers itself with a ‘this is ‘who I am, take it or leave it’ vibe sans any chutzpah that would invite a Gen-Z “wow!, so gucchi” or “so cool” kind of reaction which seems to be the refrain ad nauseum.

“Well, I hear you,” I told the imagined whisper.

“But just calm down. Let’s go touch grass! Yes, touch grass!” I invited the voice.

Yes, indeed the spirit of the year 2023 was captured by choosing the word ‘authentic’— as a give-out, a message, a clarion call, maybe a war-cry beckoning all of us to go for an authentic existence. Basically bringing home the point that enough is enough! That enough of faking, enough of deep-fake, enough of filtering, enough of sandwich makeup, enough of not feeling enough, enough of enough, you see. Going authentic requires gumption and acceptance of self.

Starting from Taylor Swift becoming a demi-god of the musical universe owing to her authentic music leading to the emergence of Swifties, it is true that the message across is to be authentic. Authentic could be anything such as authentic attitude, authentic food, authentic cuisine, authentic music, and so on, and above all authentic spirit and attitude.

Authentic means – Not false, not imitation, devoid of pretensions and copy-catting. Having said that, Authentic, according to me, is actually a very interesting word. It touches the words like original and pure tangentially, but it also touches the planes with the words demiurgic and uber-mensch of Nietzsche. The word invites you to find your boundaries and then allows you to break them or smudge them with equal confidence to make a zone that is your unique, which is your inimitable reality. Mind you, it doesn’t limit you to be a certain way; it just urges you to be you.

And that’s why the choice of the word. We are relentlessly eco-chambered by hypersocial existence fueled by WhatsApp university and social media overload, and when each one of us can be a broadcaster with the click of a button with no editing and restraint, we can easily be high on delulu (read delusional) with something or the other leading us to become poor and patchy versions of each other, losing our core identity or more appropriately authenticity.

I feel ‘authentic’ is a call to evolve back and find our primal energy and then deploy it according to desh, kaal, samay to make a gestalt of our being. Authenticity is an exhortation to not lead a fragmented and hacked life, but a life that is seamless with our core, which wears our unique and unadulterated truth in everything, be it our way of serving the world or serving our own selves.

We need to ask this question to ourselves – Why are we being what we are? What drives us? Is it inspiration, imitation, or intimidation? Authentic means being aware of the latter two as they may hideously intercept our motivation in the garb of inspiration making us confused and strangers to ourselves.

Likewise, doing something out of FOMO hits your authenticity. We must realize that not being able to do bungee-jumping doesn’t make our life incomplete or unadventurous or uncool. Maybe realizing that it doesn’t work for you is authentic. There you will find JOMO. The joy of missing out. Authenticity is as much about our strengths as it is about our limitations. It is as much about our yes as it is about our no.

Being authentic is undoubtedly the most robust way of human existence, a trait that is a gold standard of being a creature on this earth. When we are authentic, we are fearless, courageous, confident, and humble at the same time; we are powered by our agency through which we contribute to the universe happily and effortlessly and not begrudgingly.

I read it somewhere that we all want to be good, but we all want to seem good. And in that, we develop a conflicted mindset. How much we agonize over being known as a good human being. And to fulfill that need, we do so much un-good to us. For example, we struggle so much to say a simple ‘No’ to maybe, an invitation, or a call from a friend simply for the fear of being labeled rude or canceled. But a lot of times, our No is coming from a place of goodness, even if it means we are choosing to be good to ourselves.

So that’s where we need to check our authenticity. If we can’t go to a post-dinner party of a dear pal, we must send an authentic No, without being afraid of her displeasure. After all, knowing others is knowledge, knowing self is wisdom.

So far as goodness is concerned, Choose Shreyas over Preyas. Good over pleasant- Same way, make your own philosophy – I find the phrase below having a strong resonance with me.

‘Na kitab na ustaad, Chalna hai akele din raat’ Means, no matter how many books we read, or how many gurus we follow, we will still have our own philosophy which will create our authentic spirit.

The more aware and authentic we become, the more authenticity we seek. To be authentic can be hard, but it’s the most meditative way of living, for we are relying on your very unique core given by nature to us – it is a heady combination of our experiences, learnings, skills, realities, desires, capacities, capabilities, and it has solidified in us organically with a lot of building up and natural breaking down. So choose to be you and go into the world just as you are. Be the author of your life. Be authentic.

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