I wrote recently on the Impossibility of Authenticity, suggesting that due to a variety of factors the goal of achieving your one-true-genuine-authentic self is a pipe dream.
What I didn't write about was how harmful a narrative it might actually be.
Walking around the world wondering "Am I there yet? Have I achieved authenticity?" That's a question that has no answer.
In lieu of authenticity, I'm going to make the case that alignment is the goal.
Aligning is the practice of ensuring the "correct positioning or fit of something". When your car is pulling towards the ditch, you take it in for an alignment.
When it comes to living our lives though, most of us don't consciously practice the art of aligning our behaviours with our values, until they're obviously out of whack or we've hit the ditch.
- We don't see a therapist until our marriage is on the rocks or our anxiety is keeping us up at night.
- We don't hit the gym until we catch a glimpse of the extra layer of pandemic-induced weight hanging around our midsection.
- We don't turn away from our social media feeds until our child stops asking for our love and attention.
We often don't know what we truly value, so have nothing to align ourselves with.
I prefer alignment to authenticity for the simple fact that it's readily achievable and rooted in action. It's a practice that you and I can cultivate in our daily lives, checking in on our values and re-adjusting our behaviours to reflect them.
Much like how I approach empathy, authenticity is one of those often-talked-about, rarely deconstructed ideas that we take for granted.
Should you be authentic? Who's going to say no to that? Besides me, obviously.
The gurus and insta-fluencers are going to keep singing the authenticity song, and a lot of people are going to keep chasing that elusive goal.
I'm going to keep working on my alignment, within myself and within my various roles and relationships with others.
Because as I mentioned in the Impossibility of Authenticity, the only constant is change - and change will knock you out of alignment and into the ditch.