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What does authenticity mean?

Let’s be honest: how many times have you read the word “Authentic” online these days? How often have you been advised to be authentic, breath authentically, live authentically, …

To be perfectly honest with you, I always nodded as if I understood what these articles were about, but had absolutely no clue of what it actually meant. I felt drawn to the word. As soon as I found the etymology of it, it all became very clear: this is my true purpose! Time to offer a more comprehensive definition.

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Not always love at first sight...

Even though I am still looking for a better word to describe what I do, I settled for – for now – “Authenticity Mentor”. 

I did not always have a positive feeling about the word “Authentic / Authenticity”. It was too hard for me to figure out what it really meant. And how to get there. It provoked a serious resistance, every time I read it 

We both know it is all over the internet, so you can imagine how stuck and frustrated I felt at times 😊. I knew that I had to do it, focus on myself and return to my authenticity, albeit I had no clue as to where to start.

After spending more than 3 decades adapting myself to what other people deemed necessary / the best idea / the right behaviour / just what I needed, it dawned on me: I do not know who I am anymore, let alone what I want out of life. There seemed to be a gap of about 20 centimetres between my head and my body. My head ruling the world, my body and soul just had to follow suit.

No wonder I felt agitated every time I read the word authentic: that is quite the opposite of where I was standing!

Inspiring definitions

It is in my nature: I have to get down to the bottom of things. My husband calls it the Zeigarnic effect, I call it my urge to understand it down to it’s core. So my first stop was to check some dictionaries to get a first clue as to what it means, authenticity.

Well, actually, what “authentic” means. As all definitions for authenticity were quite lacking some profoundness for me: “the quality or state of being authentic; reliability; genuineness”


Just for the completeness of it, I have added the found definitions here that inspired me the most. Funnily, the well-known dictionaries did not do that so much :-). 

Merriam-Webster

Merriam-Webster describes authentic as follows:

Dictionary.com

Dictionary.com offers the following definition:

Yourdictionary.com

Yourdictionary.com offers this one:

Common denominator

If you take a closer look at these definitions, you can find there are 3 elements that can be found in all the different versions that are interesting if you are searching to get closer to your authentic self and live your life’s purpose:

  1. Genuine, real
  2. Trustworthy, reliable
  3. Conform to the original or representing a true nature or belief

Ok, nice starting point, yet for me it is still too general and does not reflect what I feel it should reflect.

Etymology

The next step for was to check out the etymology. I got to ask one of my favourite questions: “Where does it come from?”

The moment that answer became clear, is when all the pieces of the puzzle felt together. Do keep in my I am not a language specialist, I merely connected the dots after checking on other sources if it could be right.

The word authentic has a deeply layered etymology, which was beautifully illustrated on the etymonline.com website in this picture. I used this source to create this overview. Authentic originates from ancient Greek word “authentikos”, which resembles both in form and in meaning the contemporary word “authentic”: original, genuine, principal.

The origin of “authentikos” however shed the light for me. Derived from “authentes”, ancient Greek for “one acting on its own authority”, this word was created from melting 2 words: “autos” (self) and “hentes” (doer, being). The latter is linked to “sene-“, which indicates accomplishing, achieving something.

So here we have the following ingredients:

  • One acting on its own authority
  • Lord, master
  • Self
  • Doer, being
  • To accomplish, to achieve

The final clue for me was found on Wikipedia in an additional element to the word “authentes”: lord, master.

A more comprehensive definition

When I put all those elements together, and mix them up with the contemporary definition found in the dictionary, I came to the conclusion myself that authenticity consists of 4 elements:

  • Ownership – to be the master of yourself and act on your own authority
  • Yourself – the focus lies on yourself, not on other people or influences
  • Accomplish – to take action, to achieve something, to get it out in the open
  • Genuine – real, trustworthy, reliable, no fake

I hereby propose the following more comprehensive definition of authenticity:

Authenticity

  • Acting in alignment with your true nature and purpose, despite of all other influences or opinions
  • Taking full leadership and ownership of your actions
  • Knowing your true nature and purpose 

For me, being authentic, is automatically intertwined with fulfilling your purpose in life. So in order to be able to be truly authentic, you have to know your nature as well as your purpose. Only this way you will be able to lead the life you were meant to have, without too many struggles and with immense fulfilment.

If you are looking for a way to increase your fulfilment in your life and business, to get closer to your true self (aka authentic self), feel free to schedule a free strategy session so you know which areas need your attention to get to a fulfilled, flowing and prosperous business and life.

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