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mw editorial

confronting a fear of authenticity

October 8, 2020

October is the season of scares. As people don terrifying masks to scare each other and ask for candy, others wear less conspicuous masks to hide a fear of their authentic self. Underneath this fear lies a discomfort with authenticity. Unlike masked trick-or-treaters, it takes more than a handful of lollipops to banish this fright. Why are people reluctant to show their authentic selves? How can you live authentically?

Unpacking a fear of authenticity

For those that go through life hiding their true self, bringing authenticity to the light is like asking a monster to come out from under your bed. It’s petrifying. But why are some people afraid to be authentic?

fear of rejection drives some people to create a more appealing or palatable persona to put on, like a mask to wear to a Halloween party. Individuals with this fear believe that the risk of being shunned for displaying authenticity is greater than the cost of obscuring it. It is more urgent for individuals with this fear to feel a sense of belonging, even if it means sacrificing their genuine self.

Coupled with this fear are intense feelings of shame. Shame says that our true self is unlovable, undesirable, unattractive, or not good enough to fit in with society. Shame lives in our head, so even though others may accept us and love our authenticity, shame convinces us that we are intrinsically repulsive.

If an individual is not outright afraid of rejection or ashamed of their authentic self, they may wear a mask for convenience. Sometimes, it’s simply easier to pretend to be someone else to avoid conflict, unnecessary judgment, or a bruise to our ego.

Taking off the mask and embracing your authentic self

When you strive to live authentically, you embark on an arduous journey that requires risk, vulnerability, and courage. Here are some strategies to help you live a more authentic life:

Start small.

You don’t have to rip off your mask and show the world your true self all the time if you’re not comfortable doing so. Authenticity isn’t always a grand gesture. Start small. Use small talk to empathize with someone. Laugh louder in public. Hold someone’s hand a few seconds longer if you want to. Don’t overlook the tiny opportunities for authenticity in everyday life. Starting small makes a commitment to authenticity more manageable.

Encourage authenticity.

If you want to live more authentically, start encouraging your social circles to practice authenticity. Authentic relationships require environments where others don’t feel judged or pressured to behave in a particular way. When others feel comfortable showing their authentic selves, they encourage us to do the same.

Have the courage to unmask yourself and love what’s underneath.

A commitment to living an authentic life means taking off your mask and learning to love the face underneath in all its flaws and glory. Doing the work to accept your true self will give you confidence and self-worth that’ll repel any masks.

As October comes, many people wear masks to ask for candy and scare others. Don’t let fear scare you into hiding your authenticity. When you learn to accept and welcome authenticity in your life, you’ll understand that masks look best on the trick-or-treaters that come knocking on your door. You’ll be able to relax into the crisp fall air and observe that the only occasion a mask is beneficial is when you’re celebrating with a scare and a chocolate bar.


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