Simply stated, authenticity means being true to oneself, and while this is easily defined, explaining what it really means and getting there is a bit more difficult. How does one become authentic? What does being true to oneself really look like? How will one know when authenticity has been achieved? These are all common questions about the concept of authenticity.
Authenticity is about one’s relationship with self as well as one’s relationship with the world. To reach authenticity (to be true to oneself), an individual must balance the need to be true to self with the need to compromise and conform to others’ expectations. That is, along with fulfilling needs of self, a person also has to get along with others and manage the limitations that society imposes upon him or her. Remember that compromises must always be made when making a decision since all people are inextricably linked to the consequences of the choices they make.
Counselors can play a unique role in helping clients to examine their freedom to choose, the limitation of those choices, and the consequences they bring. Therapeutically, we want to know if individuals have struck enough of a balance between themselves and the limiting world to a point where they are at ease in their current circumstances. Are they at peace with what they are gaining and what they had to give up? Are they accepting the fact that they are limiting other possibilities when they make certain choices? Can they strike the right balance between what they want/need and what they have to give to others? If so, these people can be concretely identified as being positively adjusted in their situations and living more authentically.
In essence, we can say that a person has reached authenticity in a certain situation when he or she has the awareness about the compromises necessitated due to life’s limitations and can accept those limitations and move forward making decisions. We cannot, however say that a person has reached absolute authenticity, that he or she is authentic in every situation of his or her life. This is because authenticity is a process rather than an end result and is situation-specific rather than absolute.
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