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The Authentic Self

The authentic self, authentic living and well-being.

We are all sooner or later faced with the most profound question about our existence, “Why am I here?” This philosophical viewpoint gives rise to questions such as.

  • Is this all there is to life, work, sleep, eat and die?
  • How do I find meaning and purpose to my life?
  • Am I doing what I really should be doing?
  • How is it possible to live out my purpose?

These questions all lead to a remarkable journey of self-discovery of our authentic self, which is expressed as authentic living.

Authenticity is now considered as the most crucial and fundamental aspect of well-being and healthy functioning according to mainstream counselling psychology. Authenticity is not just a precursor to well-being but the very essence of health and well being. Psychopathology (mental illness) can be seen as a departure from authenticity.

Authenticity as a construct has emerged from person-centred psychology through consensus and debate to agree on the content and boundaries of authenticity.

According to Barrett-Leonard (1998) authenticity is considered as a tripartite construct, i.e. having at least three levels:

  • Level 1: The person’s primary experience
  • Level 2: Their symbolised awareness
  • Level 3: Outward behaviour

The first level identifies the mismatch between conscious awareness (subjective awareness of physiological, mental and emotional states) and actual experience of physiological, mental and emotional states.

The difference, or mismatch between conscious awareness and actual experience identifies the extent to which the person suffers from self-alienation. This aspect of authenticity identifies the subjective experience of not knowing oneself, or feeling out of touch with oneself.

The second level identifies authentic living. This is the harmony between experience as consciously perceived and external expression or behaviour. Authentic living involves being true to oneself and living in accordance to one’s own values and ethics.

The third level identifies one acceptance and responses to external influences, since Human beings are social beings therefore their sense of self-alienation and authentic living are both affected by external factors and people.

Therefore authenticity can be considered to be composed of self-alienation, authentic living and accepting external influences