“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself.”
This series on personal authenticity has focussed predominantly on the relevance of the individual’s alignment with his or her own truth and truth’s impact upon relationships with others. Part 6 looks at the wider social and global implications of personal authenticity as a lifestyle change beyond the limited notion of personal development and the individual’s sense of inner contentment.
The contemporary world is, most would agree, fraught with stresses, crises, impending catastrophy, profound injustice, and existential threats to our very survival as a species. There are discreet reasons for this. The human race’s anthropocentric view of the world, and increasingly narcissistic attitude of self as both superior and entitled, coupled with an economic system rooted in generationally hoarded wealth for the few and endless struggle for the many has resulted in our dog-eat-dog culture of competition against one another as we compete to outdo and outshine one another. The cultural decline of personal responsibility and the rise of fear politics and executive dictates worsen our social environment, promoting habits of fighting over what we want rather than cooperating over what we need.
“When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which the flower grows, not the flower”
~Alexander Den Heijer
Changing Your World
Where Martin Buber spoke of our elevation to the I-Thou way of relating to life and one another as a means by which we can relate to our fellow humans and all forms of life in a way that honours, respects and values them, contemporary exploitation economics does the reverse, treating other people, animals, and the environment as objects of our utility; things to be used and exploited to serve the profit, power and social status desires of the individual ego. As if this were not a sad enough state of devolved existence, we then reinforce the insidious practices of exploitation by referring to them and the profits gleaned from them as ‘success’, ‘good business’, and other endorsements of self-serving behaviours and customs that cannot exist without a discreet departure from personal integrity and authenticity.
Cultivating personal authenticity as an existential shift in lifestyle – living in alignment with one’s values and truth and examining our impact upon the world – from the jobs we choose to do and how we do them, our financial transactions, our lifestyle and buying choices seems not only wise, but crucial if we are to reverse an escalating trend towards catastrophic failure of the human species and the global environment that we exploit so rapaciously. As such, it is possible for people concerned about their world to do the individual work necessary to resist normative and indoctrinating forces that would have us behave ourselves, conform, avoid difficult questions. We see these forces within education, the institution, government and business as they seek to maximise profit and individual kudos via cultural systems that rely on the exploitation, usurping or diminishment of other people, animals and the biosphere itself. Our compliance and avoidance of the courage it takes to dare question these norms forms part of the culture itself.
Refusing to Join the Crowd
I offer focussed modules of twelve weekly sessions that concentrate specifically on two areas of personal development:
- The Courage to Be: building personal authenticity, self-esteem and self-confidence in our relationships and everyday life
- Stepping Out of the Rat Race: developing personal authenticity in our business and professional life
Each of these short modules is aimed at helping conscientious individuals challenge and redesign their personal approach to ‘making a living’ and everyday living, using personal authenticity to awaken us to how our choices contribute to justice and injustice in the world. Personal authenticity allows us to bring the force and value of individual truth, personal morality, courage and choice to bear in the service of personal needs, but can also raise awareness of the impact that our actions and inactions necessarily and instrinsically have upon others in the world, and our immediate and global environment as we follow the ripple effect of our choices.
Some questions and themes that help us begin to apply personal authenticity to everyday life:
Is there more to a well-lived life than money and comfort?
The crucial role of personal authenticity in revealing and changing a dysfunctional society
How do your purchases, votes, taxes, associations, investments, jobs, and daily choices contribute to justice and injustice in the world?
Using personal values, morals and principles to re-design your life and resist peer pressure and conformity
The crucial role of courage, activism, protest, whistleblowing and resistance in living authentically
How to avoid ‘losing oneself’ in inauthentic groups, the pursuit of money, and interactions with others
Dealing with passive-aggression, bullying, harassment, narcissism and other toxic behaviours in others
How working environments that don’t support or encourage personal authenticity are ultimately toxic
Authenticity-centred business practice is better for people, animals and the environment than profit-driven business practice
Customers, clients and patients value and trust authentic practitioners
How all hierarchy is founded upon an inauthentic parent-child relationship
How am I contributing to justice and injustice in politics, human and animal rights, environment, workers’ rights, the economy, society?
Cultivating personal authenticity in one’s life context can be developed over twelve or more sessions, with modules tailored to individual needs. Modules can be coupled with a life review, with the overall aim of challenging assumptions, habits and personal conscience; applying and living one’s personal ethics, values and morals; the role we play in shaping the world as consumers, managers, carers, professionals, teachers, employees, friends, comrades, partners, parents and leaders. With the development of one’s own personal authenticity comes greater clarity and awareness of our ways of relating to others as ‘customers’, ‘clients’, ‘patients’, ‘students’, ‘the public’ and other people who assume and to whom we assign mere transactional roles in our lives, and who typically become reduced to the staus of objects of utility by our routine and habitual ways of relating.
Honouring Self and Others
Authencity serves as both a means of looking after our own interests responsibly whilst at the same time relating to others in ways that can strengthen relationships by genuine relating, active listening, and careful understanding. More than this, it highlights our contribution to the world, awakening us to the impact our choosing and failing to choose has upon the shaping of our planet. Becoming more aware of our personal authorship on a short life that passes all-too quickly becomes the seed of change that can shift us out of self-defeating, destructive, exploitative, devaluing practices and habits that promote resentments, deceptions and fears, into much more rewarding ways of being than those which the current short-sighted slash-and-burn and ego-economics models of self-interest can possibly allow.
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