The Importance Of Living Authentically


Kelley Dunn

On a hike in the mountains of Colorado, the group takes a moment to admire the scenery and fresh air.

Masked by a layer of filters and facades, has our generation learned to value aesthetics over authenticity? I found myself pondering this question as I was beginning to gain a greater care for what people thought of me, rather than who I truly was and wanted to be in life. 

When we’re growing up, we slowly start desiring to fit into certain peer groups. It’s not just cultural, it’s human psychology to crave belonging and community. And I don’t think this longing is shallow. We desire not only to belong, but to be understood, seen, and loved as we are. 

I believe this leads a lot of people to compromise their values or interests in some cases. You don’t want to risk being outcasted so you begin to alter the way you dress, talk, and walk. In a sense, we all mirror this model of ‘normal’ we think everyone else will accept and praise. 

Psychiatrist and author Joanna Cannon stated, “The need for acceptance is a basic human instinct… We all want to fit in, to belong. In order to achieve that, we often present slightly different versions of who we are, depending on the environment and whose company we are in. We might have numerous ‘editions’ of ourselves – for work, or at home, or even online. All tweaked and modified in order to be accepted in that particular situation (of course, the question is, are we being accepted for who we truly are, or merely for the version we choose to present of ourselves?)”

In highschool it’s especially difficult to stand firm in who you are as an individual. In all honesty, everyone at this stage is trying to figure out what that looks like for them specifically. So when you bring in the factor of having multiple faces around different groups, that’s when it can get even more confusing and messy to navigate. 

If we see these two faced traits in friends we turn around and call them fake or toxic, yet if it’s us who are guilty we easily brush it under the rug. Our innate desire to be accepted creates a foundation of sinking sand for our lives. We are left with no true morals and lack confidence in who we are past the fronts we hide behind. 

An honest solution for this is to understand how subjective in thinking each person is. Their upbringing, experiences, and influence shapes what they find attractive or interesting. And that might be completely different from yours. It only proves to drive you further from being yourself when you try to amuse every person you come in contact with. 

I reached out to RHS students to ask how they thought we wasted our teenage years. Senior Tanner Meale replied, “ not branching out and trying new things because it’s ‘not cool.’ Whether it’s your friends saying it’s not cool or it’s your own self conscious.” 

Many things hold us back, but the longing for approval or praise of others might be the single most detrimental one. 

Senior Charlotte Spencer said, “I wish that in the last 3 years I would have been more carefree and less self conscious about what everyone always had to say or what they thought about me. Because I look back and it doesn’t bother me now, it has just made me stronger.” 

In life you won’t find two individuals who are alike- that’s the very beauty of authenticity. We are all carrying the privilege to offer something unique to this world. Maybe that costs you the attention of a certain group, but in the long run being authentic will allow you to gain friends who value you for the person you truly are instead of the person you think you should be. Which is a lesson our generation could benefit from greatly.