How many times have you caught yourself comparing your work, or your life with other professionals, a friend, a member of the family or maybe with that artist you love? I’ve been there many times. In fact it’s so easy to be in this place of comparison nowadays when we have people sharing their perfect lives and amazing work on social media all the time.
We don’t come across their failures but only the things they decide to share with us, selling this utopian life and flawless work. And most of the time, we buy it. Well, I do. And among all this perfect world and people constantly celebrating their success, we hear “You have to be authentic in your work and in your life” over and over. But what being authentic really means?
So this week I came across the word “authenticity” for the first time. I mean, of course I heard of it many times. But when we hear so much of a word it starts to lose its real meaning, becoming underrated, another cliche word or a thing to say whenever we want to promote ourselves or our businesses. I’ve used it so many times saying “of course I am an authentic person” and “No doubt my work is truly authentic”. But then, after reading a chapter from a book called “The soul of the Camera” by David duChemin, I got intrigued by this word and its true meaning. As a curious person that I am, I went on googling.
Authenticity: “the quality of being genuine or true”
Ok, that's basically what I knew of the word. Not satisfied with the simplicity of this, I went for more and found some very interesting things when looking for it’s etymology. “Authenticity” comes from a mix of a lot of ancient words meaning “being one’s self”, “doer, being, to accomplish”. So yes, it's about being genuine, but it goes much deeper, more powerful than that.
The author David duChamin makes a reflection using the biblical story: “The Creator making man from clay and then breathing His own life into him, and it’s said of man that we were made into the image of the Creator...”, duChamin brings this as to make a the comparison where we, humans, are the creators of our own work breathing life into it. And because it came from us, the creators, the work should look like us. We should be able to see ourselves in it.
I found his reflection amazing and clarifies, at least for me, the core of this word. The real meaning of it. And that is beautiful!
Most people (including myself), find it really hard to look inside and see what we have to offer to the world. What are our deepest desires, thoughts, worries, dreams. There are things long forgotten, hidden inside us. Good or bad, those things are adding to who we are today and facing them might be scary, but knowing what they are and why they are there, will help us to breathe in life into our work being able to truly see ourselves in it. Therefore, we MUST look inside and get to know ourselves deeply if we want to be authentic in things we create or say, or do.
But that does not mean we cannot see someone else’s work and be inspired by it. In fact we should. We learn so much by observing others. But we should do it as inspiration (breathing in) and when we breathe out, throwing it to the universe, it should be mixed and polished with all the existing things deep inside us, in our heart, memories, energy, soul.
The day we stop wasting our time comparing our work (or our life) with others, and use this precious time to learn, to absorb, and to recognise what fits in with the things that are inside us, we will then be able to say that we are being authentic. If you ask me this question today I can only say that some days I am, some days I am not, but I understand it as a process of self learning. I am forever learning - from my inner self and from the amazing people around me.