Quoting Scott Barry Kaufman
Humanistic psychotherapist Carl Rogers noted that while the problems people present during psychotherapy “run the gamut of life’s experiences... there is perhaps one problem.” Rogers observed that below the level of the complaint, each person is really asking, “Who am I, really? How can I get in touch with this real self, underlying all my surface behavior? How can I become myself?”
Authenticity Under Fire
This is the wrong question to ask yourself, however. There is no real you. We each contain multitudes. For personal growth, a better question would be: "Which potentiality within me do I most wish to spend my limited time cultivating, developing, and actualizing in this world?"
Healthy authenticity isn’t just saying whatever is on your mind or indulging all of your impulses. Healthy authenticity involves constantly aligning your actions with your most consciously chosen values and ideals, regardless of whether those ideals are who you are right now.
The word "authenticity" is way too overused in the spiritual guru world. I don't think people really want to be who they are, because humans by default are downright messy and contradictory. Instead, people want to grow and to feel upward movement toward becoming a better person.
Stop worrying "Who am I?" There is not a single you, nor should there be. Embrace the richness and complexity of human existence, work to integrate the contradictions, actively cultivate your favorite selves, and view other humans with the same understanding and compassion.
After all, I do believe there is within each of us best selves— aspects of who you are that are healthy, creative, and growth-oriented, and make you feel most connected to yourself and to others. I would argue that getting in touch with your best selves and intentionally actualizing your most creative and growth-oriented potentialities is a much more worthy goal than spending your entire life trying to find your one true self. In my view, there is such a thing as healthy authenticity.
Healthy authenticity is not about going around saying whatever is on your mind, or actualizing all of your potentialities, including your darkest impulses. Instead, healthy authenticity, of the sort that helps you become a whole person, involves accepting and taking responsibility for your whole self as a route to personal growth and meaningful relationships. Healthy authenticity is an ongoing process of discovery, involving self-awareness, self-honesty, integrity with your most consciously chosen values and highest goals, and a commitment to cultivating authentic relationships.
As long as you are working towards growth in the direction of who you truly want to be, that counts as authentic in my book regardless of whether it is who you are at this very moment. The first step to healthy authenticity is shedding your positivity biases and seeing yourself for who you are, in all of your contradictory and complex splendor. Full acceptance doesn’t mean you like everything you see, but it does mean that you’ve taken the most important first step toward actually becoming the whole person you most wish to become. As Carl Rogers noted, “the curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”
Self-acceptance is the essential starting point for growth. Where am I right now? Stand on the scale and look at it with blunt honesty.