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Authenticity – What If You’ve Had It The Other Way Around All Along?

Written by: Dr. Jackie Lau, Senior Level Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor Dr. Jackie Lau

Without silence, there is no music. Ah, authenticity, the buzzword of the century! It seems like everywhere you turn these days, people are talking about being authentic. But why has this topic “suddenly” become so popular?

silhouette of a person standing in body of water in art form
“Music is pleasing not only because of the sound but because of the silence that is in it: without the alternation of sound and silence there would be no rhythm.” ― Thomas Merton

Without silence, there can be no music. Similarly, the exploration of authenticity is compelled by our discomfort stemming from an awareness of inauthenticity.

The attention drawn to authenticity has likely been partly birthed from the pervasive “I share therefore I am” culture we live in, as brilliantly described by Dr. Sherry Turkle. This perpetuates the comparison game of social media and exposes us to an overwhelming amount of content that stirs a sense of inauthenticity within ourselves and towards others.

The illusion of perfection begins to infiltrate our real-life interactions with others and even our self-perception in the mirror. There is a palpable sense of disconnect in the air, as if our selfie filters remain active even when we close the app.

The authenticity trap

Ironically, the root of curated self-presentation lies in our intrinsic desire for acceptance and validation from others. Yet, the mode through which we present ourselves, often striving for perfection, is an unconscious expression of self-judgement based on heavy social comparison.

The desire to appear “good” stems from an underlying perception of “not good”, which is rooted in the egoic self’s need to be both “good” and “not good”. We are both and neither.

This paradoxical presentation has backfired and has recently morphed into movements seemingly advocating for authentic self-expression, manifesting as a series of deliberate appeals against social norms and traditional expectations.

This development makes total sense. It is all part of the equilibrium.

However, the concepts of conformists and the non-conformists in relation to the perfection ideology are essentially two sides of the same coin. Both seek external validation and social belonging by adhering to a certain mold, often independent of context, perpetuating inauthenticity through subjectively curated personas.

Both approaches involve fighting for permission from others to create a safe space, where we can surrender to the internal process of navigating a sense of alignment with the intrinsic nature of existence. On our own, we feel like we are supposed to understand the seeming imperfections of life situations, embrace the concept that we should accept at least who we think we are, comprehend and accept the messiness of existence, figure out our optimal ways to interact with the world.

Most of us don’t have a single clue who we really are, but we actively and passively program ourselves to externalize our identity, thinking that we can be defined by something or somebody external to us. “As soon as we get permission from the externals, we can feel safe to truly explore.” This is often the beginning of the trap we set for ourselves.

Ultimately, we all experience internal disintegration from time to time, to an extent continuously, some would say. It is therefore tempting to internalize perceived social expectations, and externalize or outsource our internal growth and individuation process to the world we live in.

For the above reasons, self-expression has become the pedestal for us to gain a sense of self and find anchor for our identity. However, David Hawkins highlights that “Expressing oneself is now in vogue as a result of a misunderstanding of the work of Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis. Freud pointed out that suppression was the cause of neurosis; therefore, expression was mistakenly thought to be the cure. This misinterpretation became a license for self-indulgence at the cost of others. What Freud actually said, in classical psychoanalysis, was that the repressed impulse or feeling was to be neutralized, sublimated, socialized, and channeled into constructive drives of love, work and creativity.”

Though Freud's theories have sparked controversy, they are unequivocally accurate in this context.

After all, the answer may not lie in focusing solely on self-importance and attempting to define ourselves in a certain way that fits our perceived sense of self.

All is you and all is not you ― breaking free from the confines of selective self-identification

It is all very natural for us to pursue a curated sense of authenticity, as we have been conditioned and socialized from a very young age to relate to ourselves and others through a fragmented lens. This disintegrated view is rooted in a sense of separateness and reinforced by the heavy boundaries of dualism.

What if there is another way to cultivate compassion towards ourselves and others, that is conducive to a deeper and more genuine connection with each other?

Let’s delve deeper into this from an existential standpoint. Instead of being fixated on the constant need to be identified as solid self and personas, we can be open to recognize the malleability of human nature, an ever-evolving process of creation as we exist.

The concept of “self” is really just a collection of beliefs we hold about our “selves”, often favoring certain ones while disregarding others. We have the proclivity to identify more with the parts of ourselves that we like, and less with the ones we view as less preferable.

In other words, we fall into the illusion that we can cherry-pick our identities, selecting from a compilation of all our observed momentary thoughts and behaviors, labeling the perceived “good” parts as who we think we are, and relegating the “bad” parts to so-called mistakes and reactions to something or somebody else who made us momentarily fall from grace.

If we look closely, we are actually the first to judge ourselves, abandoning the parts of ourselves we dislike. Imagine the harmonious world we could live in if we extended the same approach to others around us.

We tend to define others based on their personality traits and temporary expressions, hence shaping our degree of liking towards them. Why are we quick to see others’ seeming blemishes and identify who they are through which, yet our own “authentic self” is defined based on our perceived higher self and not the slip-ups? Or for some of us, the other way around?

Self-acceptance stemmed from isolated focus and exclusion rather than inclusion is much an illusion.

What if the parts you prefer are not more “you” than the parts you don't prefer, while no parts of you are more “you” than other parts of you, and no parts of you are less “you” than other parts of you?

All is you, and all is not you.

Redefining authenticity ― allowing the unknown in ourselves and others

The question arises: why do we find it so daunting to see the totally, all that we’ve observed about us, as truly who we are? Must we cherry-pick and arrange a configuration of our self-image to fulfill our judgement about ourselves?

What if being true to oneself means embracing a great deal of not-knowing? And what if this sense of unknown does not have to breed confusion? The vast realm of the unknown itself is certain, as it is an inherent part of life. In theory, there is nothing confusing about it, there is immense clarity in not-knowing itself.

The underlying principle is simple and universally applicable, though not always easy to embrace. It is not difficult, just different. The challenge lies in getting over our resistance to embrace the entirety of our being, all of what we experience.

Ultimately, life is about all of life, all aspects of existence, not about who we think we are.

“All things in this world exist independent of you. You are projecting from inside out, therefore, the innocence of life is hitting your projections, causing you to suffer.” ― Michael Singer

It is important not to turn the expression of our existence into a desire, a desire derived from our self-defined identities, for desire and ignorance lie at the root of suffering.

To truly grow, we must harness the power of responsibility. By reclaiming our position of awareness and letting go of guardedness, we can see the world as what it truly is, rather than through the lens of our mental projection based on our inner stories.

As such, rather than fixating on seeking a momentary expression of an authentic self, we can experience a life that embodies authenticity at its core.

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Dr. Jackie Lau Brainz Magazine

Dr. Jackie Lau, Senior Level Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Dr. Jackie Lau is a neuroscientist and an experienced international life coach who is fascinated with human behaviors and the mechanisms underlying our mental and emotional states. With a deep appreciation for the integrative approach of modern psychology, neuroscience, and spirituality, Jackie is a top life coach in Australia and has co-created with people all over the world to radically transform into more self-awareness, sense of purpose, and inner freedom.

Jackie is trained as a strategic interventionist and breakthrough specialist with Robbins-Madanes Training, directed by Tony Robbins, which combines effective techniques evolved from neurolinguistic, psychological, and therapeutic inter-disciplines. As a curious researcher, Jackie completed her Ph.D. in neuroscience at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Sydney, Australia, studying the neural circuits governing motivation and reward. She is currently researching neurodegenerative diseases, with a focus on Alzheimer’s disease, investigating the molecular basis relating neuroplasticity to cognition.

Leveraging her diverse cultural background, Jackie is profoundly devoted to studying Eastern and Western philosophy and literature, learning transformative wisdom from influential life strategists and spiritual teachers. In the fervency of her gratitude, for over a decade, she earnestly empowers people from all walks of life to live our authentic virtuous Self and commit to becoming love. Through ingenious modalities including mindset transformation and meditation, Jackie is inspired to cultivate our connection to a deeper world, one that nourishes our spiritual heart rather than feeds our time-bound predicament of patterns, one that channels our fear of pain into lasting pull to joy, appreciation, and peaceful presence.

Jackie loves the art of music and dance. She trained as a classical violinist from a young age, later on, discovered her passion for classical guitar, and has also been a dedicated hip-hop dancer and instructor since her college years. Her creative journey has never ceased to open doors for the extraordinary in the ordinariness of life.

Jackie’s vision is to co-create with the human family as part of nature, to tune in consciously and align with our thoughts, emotions, and actions, and to live passionately and playfully with full presence.



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