Do remember this scene from Disney’s Aladdin?
It’s evening and in an attempt to woo princess Jasmine, Aladdin shows up outside her balcony with the prospect of taking her on a magic carpet ride. In offering up advice to the would-be suitor, Genie changes himself into a bumblebee and whispers in Aladdin’s ear… “just bee yourself!”
Being himself would be a sharp contrast for Aladdin at this stage of his courting. He’s already attempted to convince her that he’s a prince (which he’s not) with grand parades, riding on elephants, and trying to play the part of a rich royal.
And she’s not impressed.
But as Aladdin lets down his guard and shows Jasmine a glimpse of who he really is (convenient to have a magic carpet to help in this experience), things start to change for the young couple. All of a sudden Jasmine is more interested in getting to know him and a real connection begins to form.
Just like Aladdin, you’ve probably often heard the advice to just be yourself. It’s a common phrase these days.
Another word for “being yourself” is authenticity.
But What Is Authenticity?
Authenticity. It’s not a word that’s new to you—you’ve heard it plenty of times, right? And you’ve probably got a pretty good idea of what it means.
Being authentic means being true to you. It involves knowing who you are—the things you love, the things you hate, what you’re good at, and what makes you tick—and then acting accordingly. An important part of authenticity is feeling like you can behave in a way that is reflective of who you really are, like you aren’t hiding part of yourself.
The dictionary defines authenticity as the act of being real or genuine; not copied or false; true and accurate. So, living with authenticity means being real, true, and genuine, not copied or false about who you are.
Just like a piece of art is assessed for its authenticity—is this real or is it a copy?—the same holds for you. Are you being real or are you a copy of what others tell you to be?
Let’s pause here and do some personal reflection. Grab a pen and paper or open the notes app on your phone and write some answers to these questions:
- What makes me me? What is unique about me?
- What are some things I love? Some things I hate?
- What am I really good at? What am I not so good at?
Those questions are probably fairly easy to answer. You’ve probably got a list of things you love (for me the list might include chocolate, the color pink, reading, and my family) and things you hate (mine = snow, fighting, and a dirty house).
These are all fun things to know about yourself and to share with others. But hold on, we are going to dig a little deeper.
The Good. The Bad. And Everything In Between.
One of my favorite things about authenticity is that encompasses everything.
To truly engage in a relationship with authenticity, to truly be you, means letting others see it all. That means not only the good or not just the surface level things (like some of the things you wrote down a minute ago), but the things you struggle with, ways you feel inadequate, weaknesses, challenges, or the dirty dishes in your sink.
That can be hard. There is so much pressure these days to measure up to others’ expectations that sometimes we don’t want people to see where we fall short. It’s easier to just show people the things we want them to see.
But true connection with others comes when we are willing to share our vulnerabilities. Just like Jasmine with Aladdin, she didn’t want to see all the glam and glitz that he was pretending to have. She wanted to see him for who he really is. She wanted him to share himself with her in meaningful, honest, and genuine ways. She didn’t even care if he was a “street rat.”
Think of a time that you’ve shared something deeply personal with another and felt a real connection. Sharing our vulnerabilities or hardships has a strong ability to connect us with other humans. There’s something powerful about sharing the human experience together, something that draws us together when we really allow others to authentically see us. That’s when deep and lasting relationships grow.
So, if authenticity means being the real you, how do you find that real you? Do you ever feel like you’ve lost a piece of yourself or that you’re not sure who the real you is anymore because there are so many pressures from outside sources to live a certain way?
Taking some time to identify the sources that are eating away at your authenticity can be valuable. It happens to all of us, but you can challenge those barriers to authenticity and begin to feel more confident and comfortable with who you are.
If you want to develop more authenticity in your life, be sure to take a look at what it means to live authentically and take inventory of how you’re doing. This is a great place to start:
 Harter, S. (2002). Authenticity. In C. R. Snyder & S. J. Lopez (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology (pp. 382–394). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
 Sheldon, K. M., Ryan, R. M., Rawsthorne, L. J., & Ilardi, B. (1997). Trait self and true self: Cross-role variation in the big-five personality traits and its relations with psychological authenticity and subjective well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 1380-1393.
 Butler, E. A., Egloff, B., Wilhelm, F. H., Smith, N. C., Erickson, E. A., & Gross, J. J. (2003). The social consequences of expressive suppression. Emotion, 3, 48-67.
 Jordan, J. V. (2008). Valuing vulnerability: New definitions of courage. Women & Therapy, 31(2-4), 209-233.