Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The telling life: authenticity

There is a lot of blather about authenticity out there. Gurus tell us we will be happier if we live an authentic life but what does that mean?

I view an authentic life, and an authentic artistic life, as one where I strive for awareness of self, awareness of how my behavior impacts the world and awareness of others. I strive to at a minimum be honest about these things and make choices that align with my values, with my vision of who I want to be (though I'm not likely to ever get there).

For me, as both a storyteller and a human being, authenticity comes down to a few basic precepts.

  1. Understand my own values and understand that they will change. 
  2. Be honest with myself. This means examining my motives; noticing when I'm being inauthentic and asking why; examine why I react as I do to different stimuli. As a storyteller radical self-honesty helps me understand why a given story matters to me, what it says about me and my world, and understanding the inner forces that drive me tell it in a given way.
  3. Strive for honesty with others. Everyone lies. Avoid it when you can. Lying creates cognitive dissonance as we try to reconcile the falsehood with the truth. We all are boring, small-minded and greedy. While I don't like admitting this about myself, it helps me avoid situations where I might want to lie. As a storyteller this means that, whether I'm telling a fictional story or (especially when) I'm telling a true one, I aim for emotional honesty. The story needs to be authentic with my experience in the world. 
  4. Fail again. Fail better. I fail all the time. Maybe every day. If I'm failing I'm risking and sometimes those risks lead to amazing things. I try to redefine failure though, so instead of berating myself for failure I instead ask what I  can learn from the experience. What parts worked? As a storyteller I don't want to rely on the tried and true. I want to learn new things and share them with my audience, so it's inevitable that not everything will be as well executed as I'd like. If I allow for failure and plan for it, it's easier to try again. This helps me be more authentic because I'm more willing to risk something new and grow.
  5. Trust myself. If I understand my motives, values and an honest with myself then I can trust myself to make decisions that support motives and values. As a storyteller that means I will make better choices about the gigs I accept and the work I do. 
  6. Trust my audience. When I trust my audience I can more readily build a relationship with them. This leads to a more authentic experience.
  7. Be open. Risk openness. This leads to more authentic experience because I engage with the world with less pretense. The same thing applies in storytelling. When I am open to the story, to my audience, to the process I experience it more fully and can reflect it back with more authenticity.
  8. Ask the next question. What happens after happily ever after? Who will I be if I risk telling that story? By continuing to ask I remain engaged and keep reminding myself to be honest, therefore authentic.
  9. Be kind. Be kind. Be kind. Be kind to myself. Be kind to others. Be kind to the world. This is probably my core value. Be kind. When I operate from a base of kindness I become more forgiving, more loving, more able to see the world as one of possibility and hope. It is then more possible to be vulnerable in all I do, story related or not.
    To be more authentic.
    To be. And being is the core of authenticity.

(c)2015 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

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True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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