An alternative to authenticity.

The mantra for most of us is “be authentic” — find your true self and discover who you truly are. Become unified.

Self discovery is important. I’m not saying that these are not valuable goals — they absolutely are — but how are they working for you? I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal about Chinese wisdom, and discovered that the contemporary emphasis on self-discovery and authenticity may have really messed with all of us. Maybe we shouldn’t be looking for our true self, let alone embracing it.

According to Confucius and other Chinese philosophers, we human beings are:

“messy, multidimensional creatures, a jumble of conflicting emotions and capabilities living in a messy, ever-changing world. We are who we are by constantly reacting to one another. Looking within is dangerous.”

Instead of struggling to be authentic, Confucius suggested we try another approach: ‘AS IF…’ rituals. These ‘AS IF…’ rituals can help us break out of our own reality for a moment. We break from who we are when we see we are in unproductive patterns we have created, and actively work to shift them — AS IF we were different people in the moment. These rituals are actually the opposite of authenticity, that’s what makes them work.
If you have pattern of relating to your partner, change it up! AS IF you were another person. These don’t have to be massive changes. Let’s say you never make the bed, and it’s constantly a source of frustration. It causes your partner to become Bitter, Angry and Resentful so you decide to get up in the morning AS IF you are a person that makes the bed! You make the bed and see how that changes your relationship. You would be surprised how little changes like this can make a big impact in your relationship.

Changing these patterns starts with mindfulness. Being in the moment. I know that we can’t always be in the moment, but think of it like learning to play the guitar, or any other new skill. You need to put time aside and work on it! If you decide to look how much better your life will be, rather then how hard it is, it becomes easier.

During the next few days evaluate where you could do an AS IF, and make it a point to do it! See how that works for you!