Authenticity means living according to your values and beliefs. It is about being true to yourself and expressing that truth to the outside world. People who are strong in this area are not ‘false’. We are naturally drawn towards people who are authentic because they seem real. We feel we can trust them more.
Authenticity is linked to integrity and honesty. Integrity means being ‘true to your word’. A person has integrity if they live up to commitments and standards they have set for themselves. Honesty means telling the truth in words and actions.
As a young boy, Robert Zimmerman was bored growing up in Hibbing. The place didn’t excite him very much. So, he used his imagination to escape. He would turn on the radio, listen to music and imagine he was somewhere else.
Robert learned to play music all by himself. He taught himself the guitar and the harmonica. At school he was quite shy. He didn’t like when the spotlight was on him. But he also had a strong urge to express himself through words with his voice and his instruments. The musicians he listened to on the radio inspired him.
Robert loved to experiment and try different ways of doing things. Growing up he tried his hand at playing different types of music: Blues, country, rock. He eventually settled into folk as his natural home in the music world. He liked the old folk songs that were about ordinary life, written and played by ordinary folk like him. They told stories through their songs. They sang about good times, bad times, the joy and sorrows, all the different experiences that make up a human life. Music, for Bob, was a way of making sense of the world.
He soon started to write his own songs. He found his voice and had a message. The songs he wrote were like poetry played to music. So creative was Robert that he even created a new name for himself. Robert Zimmerman became Bob Dylan!
Bob wasn’t big into doing things the usual way. He didn’t care for following the usual path. Soon after he went to college he dropped out. Then he moved to New York with just one dream: to become a folk musician. He had nothing, just his voice, his poetic words and his instruments.
He started gigging around Greenwich village and soon got picked up by a record company. The song’s he sung were about things that people cared about: protesting against war, making society better, and civil rights. In his songs he sung about sentiments that were in the hearts of all people.
Bob rose as a star in the music world. His writing was so good that he was soon writing songs for others – even the most famous musicians came to him for songs. But, like when he was young, he didn’t care for the attention he was getting. He avoided giving interviews, preferring instead to write poems and ride his bike.
Lots of people expected Bob to be a certain way. But Bob didn’t care. He did things his own way. Being an artist meant being free. Free to express yourself in whatever way felt true. Like all creative people Bob marched to the beat of his own drum. He listened to the whispers of the voice inside himself.
Sometimes Bob disappointed people. Even his own fans. They liked the music he made and expected more of the same. But that wasn’t the way Bob was. He was always looking to explore new things. People tried to put Bob in a box. ‘You’re a folk artist’, they said. But Bob constantly broke out of that box. He tried pop and rock, trying on new styles like new hats (he was also fond of wearing hats). Bob like to challenge himself and the way people thought.
Bob was given loads of awards but they didn’t really matter to him. In fact, he often didn’t even bother to collect them. He played music because he liked to play music. Not for fame and acclaim he got. He once said that a person is a success if they get up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between, they do what they want to. This was his formula for living. Bob says what he thinks and does what he feels.
Throughout his life bob Dylan tried to be true to himself. He tried to express himself honestly. Discuss what it really means to be true to ourselves. Why is this strength important? How do we live in a way that is authentic? What are the blocks to this? What does it mean to be inauthentic? In what ways can we be false?
Often it is most difficult to be authentic when we hold an unpopular view or want to take a stand on something but know that we will meet with the disapproval of others. Being authentic often means using the strength of courage too.
Write about a time where you acted honestly and authentically. Perhaps you stood up or spoke up for something that was unpopular. Or you took on a stand on an issue you felt strongly about.
Then write about a time when you acted ‘falsely’. Perhaps you felt like saying something but didn’t because you were afraid it would make you unpopular. Or you didn’t do something because you were afraid of how you would look.
Discuss what the two experiences were like. What feelings were involved in both? How did both experiences effect how you thought about yourself?
Who am I? What do I stand for?
Try make a list of your core values and beliefs. These are what you feel is most important in life. They are the principles that guide your actions. For example, ‘treating people fairly’ might be one principle. Others include ‘Being kind’, ‘Fighting for justice’, ‘Standing up for the rights of others’, ‘Looking after my family and friends’, ‘caring for the environment’ etc.
Try identify 5-10 values that are most important to you. Then evaluate how much of the time you live according to these values.
Discuss in groups:
How can you live more honestly and authentically? How can you stand up for what you belief in more often? What would this look like if you lived like this?