on authenticity and kierkegaard


I was once told by a mentor: Do what you like to do and see who shows up.

At first, I thought he meant that if I like wine, then I should check out some wine tasting events and see if I meet a friend there. I found myself trying to fit into something and having no idea what the hell I was doing. Nothing fit because it wasn’t who I really was. I didn’t know it yet, but I was trying to fit into me.

Being authentic, but more importantly accepting one’s authenticity, originally manifests as an existential dilemma. We all (don’t we?) silently whisper under tears in the shower, “What am I doing with my life?” and “Who am I?” Identifying the truth, especially when it’s bad, can be a journey fraught with pain. We are animals and our natural instinct is to run from pain, if not hide. Emotional pain is no different. Facing fears and doing that which you are afraid to do can set you free.

Facing my truth to find myself is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, but it has been, by far, the most rewarding.

I read Sophie’s World years ago in graduate school and embraced my reintroduction to philosophy, since I only went to my undergrad Philosophy 101 class because I had a crush on the professor, thus diluting whatever knowledge I had about philosophers at the time. When I read about Soren Kierkegaard, I knew I found my man.

“A man who as a physical being is always turned toward the outside, thinking that his happiness lies outside him, finally turns inward and discovers that the source is within him.” –Soren Kierkegaard

“Face the facts of being what you are, for that is what changes what you are.” –Soren Kierkegaard

“Personality is only ripe when a man has made the truth his own.” –Soren Kierkegaard

There are some people in my life with whom I go back and forth over whether they are showing me their authentic self. But then, if I have to ask and I have my doubts, they are most likely hiding. Everyone has their mask, but with some people I wonder when do they ever take theirs off. Doesn’t it just get exhausting to not be the real you?

I stared down my existential dilemmas over and over again. I figured out what I liked and what fit for me. Then one day it clicked: I was the one who showed up for myself.