Authentic. Authentic is a word that gets thrown around a lot when it comes to conversations regarding almost any subject. What does it mean to be authentic irregardless of personality & behavior?
In China, Taoist sages had a word, Zhenren (真人), that literally means authentic or perfect person. An individual who exemplifies Zhenren in their conduct and thought was seen as a person worthy of respect. The Zhenren individual was an ideal the majority of people could not reach but was otherwise respected. Today, the phrase “living your truth” may be the closest synonym to Zhenren this generation has to offer.
“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”Carl Gustav Jung
In modern times, what would be the best way for someone to become their authentic self? What would separate the individual from the collective? Is a person’s authentic self to simply be as they are currently? Does a person require change to find the Zhenren within themselves? This will ultimately depend on a number of factors if one is willing to look deeply within oneself and ask tough questions.
- Do you love yourself?
- Is there anything about yourself you wish to improve/change?
- What do you genuinely want to do with your life?
- Are you being honest to yourself or others about your intentions, dreams, and desires?
With enough introspection, there is always room for improvement no matter how far you’ve come. Perfect doesn’t actually exist, but it is a noble ideal compared to simply living to exist from one moment to the next. To reach a point of Zhenren, one must live with discipline. Without trying to become better, one can never see their authentic self. Chasing pleasure for its own sake means one will never see themselves change and grow when things get tough. Such a person will be constantly running from pain and inconvenience. All the running away simply leads you to slam into pain face first as if one ran into a wall. Living simply for pleasure and the acquisition of pleasure means one is running away from their Zhenren. Let’s answer each question honestly to see where one can identify how to include Zhenren in their daily life.
Do you love yourself?
For most people, at surface value, they can reasonably answer this question with a yes if they don’t think about the question. Given enough thought, one may find out that the question isn’t so easy to answer. The individual may have to come to terms with things they don’t like about themselves. In witchcraft or other spiritual practices, this thought process is called shadow work. Shadow work helps one to reveal everything about oneself, even the things they may not like. Getting in touch with one’s shadow self may help to embrace all the quirks and imperfections about a person’s personality. It can certainly help with discovering and dealing with weaknesses and strengths a person has. “Do you love yourself?” as a question may reveal some uncomfortable truths when one decides to dissect everything. This shadow work may lead to possible solutions to the next question in mind.
“Hard times arouse an instinctive desire for authenticity.”Coco Chanel
Is there anything about yourself you wish to improve/change?
Once an individual comes to terms with their imperfections, it will be up to them to figure out which faults they can live with and which ones they must change. The ones that must change are the bad habits that make one’s life more difficult. If, for example, the person smokes cigarettes, that may be a habit that needs change for several reasons. The rising cost of a pack of cigarettes keep one from saving money especially when one requires more cigarettes to get through each day. The health hazards of smoking are numerous. There is no genuine benefit to such a nasty habit. Being in touch with one’s authentic self is having the will to confront the necessity of changes in one’s life. Part of living a Zhenren lifestyle is simply getting out of one’s comfort zone because nothing ever grows there. Once a person understands the need for changes and improvements, the next question that comes to mind will likely be about what one wants to do with their life. This will be the next area of discussion.
What do you genuinely want to do with your life?
One of the most important aspects of Zhenren is understanding what you want to do with your life. What is it that will make you feel honest with yourself and give you a sense of pride? Is it something work related? Art? Bodybuilding? Determining what one genuinely wants to do with their life is difficult and it may lead one to understand that the goal they wish to accomplish no longer suits them later on. Goals may change, but so long as one goes through with it authentically, that change can be a part of their growth as opposed to just quitting on something just because it’s hard. Any genuine accomplishment of a goal will be met with difficulty. It will be met with many changes along the journey of life. It may even require one to change goals or change directions to accomplish said goal. That is fine as long as the journey is authentic.
“Being liked and being respected look the same to people who aren’t used to either. If you have to pick one to focus on, focus on being respected. You need to be able to look the face you see in the mirror in the eye, without shame, regret, or remorse.”Ed Latimore
Are you being honest to yourself or others about your intentions, dreams, and desires?
Respect. Respect is one of those things people crave but few ever are truly willing to earn it. To live a lifestyle rooted in Zhenren is to live a life rooted in being authentic. One of the major benefits of Zhenren is earned respect. The question that must be asked is one of how one is living daily. Does one live up to their expectations of others? Does one make their intentions to themselves and others known in an authentic manner? Does one live a life or perform actions and habits that will get them closer to what they authentically want? These are questions every person will have to answer for themselves. Without this evaluation, one can never start the journey towards Zhenren or living on their own terms. Respect is only earned when one decides to take the plunge towards their truth and dreams. Each person only gets one chance at this thing called life. Wouldn’t you rather live it to the best of your ability honestly?