be-authentic

In one of the first few articles ever written for elegantwoman.org was about self-confidence, and a large part of that was about being yourself.

I was inspired by this concept of being authentic and its relation to elegance during a conversation about recent events.

The main idea is this – that in order to be elegant, you must first be yourself, otherwise, any learned elegance (so-to-speak) is being pretentious. And, any whiff of pretentiousness has the OPPOSITE effect, namely, disgust.

Pretentiousness can appear in different forms, but due to the rise of social media, it has appeared more prevalently there.

One obvious place is on Instagram, and it was during my discussion with a friend that gave me the idea for this article.

We were chatting about the annoying self-proclaimed “dance photographers” on social media. In recent years, it became trendy to become a ‘dance photographer’. These hobbyist photographers burst unto the local dance scene, started clamouring over and overtly flattering dancers, giving out free photoshoots.

I understand the fascination with dancers. They are generally slim, long-limbed and can do seemingly amazing things like a split in the air and still look graceful and calm.

Although they produced relatively good pictures, they still didn’t get as many followers and likes on Instagram as one would expect they would – for the extent and the amount of effort put in.

This is because through their photos on Instagram we can see that they

  1. have no love of dance
  2. do not know or understand dance
  3. have little respect of the art

We are tired of their exaggerated, superfluous captions and flattery, calling everybody and everything “amazing”. We are especially annoyed when clearly their picture is NOT AMAZING (from the dancer’s perspective).

The most ridiculous thing is that when these photographers are questioned further, almost all of them has never seen a ballet. Thus we do not understand absurdity of it. Why do you want to photograph dance if you’re not interested in it?  It felt superficial. They were doing this to gain LIKES and FOLLOWERS. Sure, if you want a cool picture, that’s okay, but don’t call yourself a dance photographer or write captions faking it as though you know what you’re talking about. As dancers, we feel they have made us into objects and have little respect of what we love so much.

But I bet they had no idea that we can see this. You can’t fake it especially to the people who are the real deal.

You can’t fake it especially to the people who are the real deal.

This is exactly the point I want to make. This is different from the motivational quote “Fake it until you make it”. The latter is about keeping your head high and remaining positive, channeling success before you actually become successful. It is not about being pretentious, or to lie about your achievements in order to achieve success.

Other examples of not being authentic include the girl who married well and is constantly boasting on social media the expensive restaurants her husband takes her to, her shopping, expensive handbags and luxury holidays.

There is also the cousin whose spending and lifestyle do not accurately reflect his real income.

It is not just those who buy expensive things to look rich or elegant. I also know of high-income friends from wealthy families who believe they have to match their material things with their status.

We can be pretentious (maybe unknowingly) in so many ways. Ways such as whatever image we want to project, or status, financial ability, popularity etc. We curate our images of lives to a level where it becomes fake news.

If you want to be elegant in both appearance and character, then you will not gain that this way because true elegance is rooted from being authentic.

Why do people pretend? Why do they behave in such a pretentious way?

They may have a wrong belief, thinking that portraying themselves in these ways leads to desired results. Some derive self-esteem and popularity from it. They probably also strongly believe that a certain image (that inauthentic one) is a way to happiness and fulfilment of their dreams.

Unfortunately that only reveals a sense of arrogance and dishonesty. It also shows a lack of character. I don’t know of anyone who is impressed or feel drawn to anybody pretentious. More often than not, they are unaware that others know the truth.

Also, I think to a certain extent, we all do it too. We pretend because we are insecure or embarrassed or are afraid of what others may think. The fear is real. We may fear rejection and believe the only way to cope is to pretend.

Elegance takes a higher road. It requires some humility by having that element of honesty with ourselves and with the world. This stems from acknowledging that we are all different, not perfect and to be at peace with that. Why compare? I’m not saying you should give up and resign to your lot in life, but to be self-aware and love yourself. And be okay with you. And not be in competition with the person next to you.

We all have our insecurities and shortcomings, but we also have our strengths and talents. Overcoming challenges is part of personal growth. Not being where you would like to be is just part of being human.

That is being authentic and there is something very elegant about that. So the point of being authentic is about knowing who you are and being all that you are.

The point of being authentic is about knowing who you are and being all that you are.

And to accurately presenting that to the world. Less focus on the superficial.

To know yourself, and be yourself is the only way we can serve others and lead a purpose-driven life, instead of one based on pretence and keeping up with the Joneses. It is also about not being afraid to show the world who you are. That just gains respect.

How to be authentic?

#1 Don’t pretend (but you don’t have to explain either).

Don’t let anything about you be about pretense. Try not to fake anything. I’m not going to write a list of things because it can easily get legalistic. It is more about the principle of “not faking”. (Audrey hepburn wouldn’t even fake the size of her chest by wearing a push up bra).

Some traditionalists think faking hair color, eye color, plastic surgery is all a no-go.

I’m not that extreme. I mean, I love highlighting my hair and I love extreme mascara for my asian lashes.

My point is, be a genuine person. Sure, if you love make up and stuff, go for it! There is a difference between loving an item because you think it’s very YOU, and not because it is of a certain brand that all the socialites carry.

You can always ask yourself, “does this thing (or doing whatever____ thing) reflect me accurately?”

I remember watching an interview of Benjamin Millepied (Natalie Portman’s husband) on YouTube. He quickly clarified with the journalist that he owned a “one person company” (well, back then). He created that company in order to bill other companies for his choreographic work and accounting purposes. He did not have staff working for him. He felt it was important to portray himself accurately. He wasn’t a big businessman with a big company.

I remembered thinking how humble he sounded. Why didn’t he let the reporter think he is more successful than he actually was? (Maybe because he already married Natalie Portman. Haha!)

So even if you aren’t proud of what you have or are right now, practice saying matter-of-factly. You don’t need to fake-smile or laugh, neither do you have to reveal your circumstances in a way that makes others uncomfortable but hold your dignity. Neither do you have to explain or talk about anything you are uncomfortable with.

#2 Get to know yourself (again).

In our different stages of life, we all have different levels of self-awareness. Learn to get to know yourself again like you would to someone interesting.

Take some fun questionnaires that may bring different perspectives of yourself.

You may discover or realize what your true strengths are and where your passions lie. Try to think of them as your special secret super power, ones that God has blessed you with. Hone them even more! Be proud of what you have, make the best of it. Let those things be part of your identity. They are real, they are yours, they are you.

#3 Don’t be embarrassed. Learn this phrase, “SO WHAT?”

We all have stuff in our lives whose memory of it makes us cringe. Sometimes this embarrassment ONLY lives in our head.

Sometimes what we feel embarrassed about is NOTHING to be embarrassed about! This means that after we “confess” or reveal our embarrassment, we soon realize that no one ELSE finds it embarrassing. It was all such self-perception and self-torture.

So we made a mistake. So we’re a little overweight. So we may not be married, or have kids or we got divorced again. Maybe we got let go or fired again.

This is how you should respond

SO WHAT?

So what if we have all those things and made all those mistakes? So what? We have our mistakes, and everyone else will have their own.

We are not all here to judge, and why bother? There are too many things in life that need our attention. Stop feeling embarrassed right now and just respond with “SO WHAT?”

Practice speaking about such stuff in a matter-of-fact and in a non-embarrassing way. Don’t need to hide for 20 years just because your life didn’t turn out in in the way you expected (it never does, does it).

After a while, you will find that the confidence grows!

So what if I can’t afford luxury items? So what if I drive a bomb (cranky old car)? So what if I’m not friends with the rich and famous (like you are)? So what if I don’t dine at fine dining restaurants etc.?

There will always be people who enjoy boasting and bragging – for what, I don’t know. Maybe it is to feel superior. Their low-self esteem makes them feel the need to constantly elevate themselves. But don’t let them get to you, that is on them. You choose to be proud of yourself and what you have done with what you’ve been given.

Be yourself, be positive and don’t be afraid of being authentic. You can still lead a meaningful, purposeful life no matter what your circumstances. And living it in an authentic way is respectful and elegant.

The thing is…You don’t need money to be authentic. You just need a positive outlook on life and self love.

Let everything about you reflect accurately who you are.

One doesn’t need to pretend to be successful or intelligent or popular or whatever. There is increasing temptation to do so as we live in a world of curated images via social media. If someone assesses and values you in a superficial way then really, they probably aren’t anyone worth getting to know.

Have a dream to be the best version of who you are, the way God has designed you. Don’t try to be like someone else or live someone else’s life. Explore your strengths and talents and LIVE IT! Commit to be authentic, and I believe you will find greater joy and happiness in living an honest and elegant life, making the best of everything.

Thanks for reading!