The idea of authenticity became the top value of my life when I turned 15. I was dumb when I was 15, as you do when you’re young. And I started to think more about what life is, the purpose of life and my personal identity. Specifically, “who are you, if you have everything stripped away?” and “what are you here for?”.
It kicked started a journey of discovering what I stand for, my values and my personality. At 15, the world is filled with endless possibilities and opportunities. You feel both like you can run the world yet there is so many more unknown waiting to be explored. As I explored, I began to think how everything is shaping and defining who I am.
And as a dumb young person then and growing up in the materialistic and fantasy island of Singapore, my values were shaped by specific events around me. For instance, material wealth and assets.
I am incredibly lucky to start thinking about my personal values, before my environment defined the values I stand for. For a few years after, my environment was surrounded by a specific archetype of people and assets. That would have ruined me, if I had not built the foundational value-sets.
Since young, I always struggled to fit in. It was not a struggle per-say, but I never truly felt like I belong. Hence, I always had a facade of me when I interact with people. Then again, when I was young, I did not believe in friendship and love, because I saw that as a weakness and liability for soaring in the sky. It is dumb. I was dumb back then.
Hence, I never really felt authentic in my interaction with people when I was young. I felt that people-to-people relationships exist for exploitation. After all, Adam Smith did say that the butcher does not open his shop upon the benevolence that you are well-fed, but he has an incentive to profit from the interaction of one purchasing meat from him.
From a social contract perspective, I did not believe in long-term altruistic social relationships. There was no incentive to hold the social contract in the long-term. People were only there for the good time, and they will leave. (Not that I have experienced that, but that was how I saw the world when I was young.)
As a social being, we like to belong. So I put on a facade and pretend to belong. I could not care for the bitchy fights and cliques, or gender disparity issue. I hang out well with anyone and generally a good (but not deep) friendship.
Still, I never felt like I was truly me, in front of these people.
Then I reached puberty and started to think more about who I am and what I stood for. I knew I was being an imposter and not being truly myself.
- Being straight-forward. Why beating around the bush when we can be more efficient at communication? But obviously there are people who do not like that, so I had to alter my behaviours and always communicated between the lines.
- Very loud. I am pretty much an open-book. You see emotions clearly and I am not afraid about that. But I had to be more reserve because “you’re a lady”.
- I hate being around people that I do not enjoy their company. But one has to be polite and fake a smile.
- Not hanging out with the opposite gender. I’m the only girl at home and my cousins and siblings are all guys. I like running around and playing catching instead of sitting down to bitch about other girls. But no, that’s being anti-social and that’s how you don’t get girl-friends.
I didn’t like any of that. The fake smile, the small talks, the beating around the bush. There are more important things to do, than these bullshit. Time is limited, and whatever the “asian definition of respect” is, I could not careless. I did not like living according to other people’s definition of rules. I have my own, thank you.
Anyway, when I was 15, I am sick and tired of this bullshit. I learnt to embrace my own company and who I truly am. Since young, I always loved myself very much. In fact, there was only a short moment in my life in which I did not love myself. And I love myself too much to bury my true self and conform to those around me.
There is where I started the journey of being truly and 100% authentic me.
It Took Time
Fuck, it took so much time. It was not as easy as waking up and becoming me. Things were confusing at first. I keep questioning if it was right to be that. But the answer always came back to “fuck what they say. Always be 100% you. As long as you don’t hurt anyone, that is ok. People will say whatever they want. You have the choice to hear it or not.”.
I’d say it took me about 5 years to be truly and comfortably 100% authentic me all the time. My parents did notice a change, mainly becoming more defiant but also confident.
Then again, of course by being 100% authentic me, I also opened myself for change. Every day, the goal is to be a better Lisa than yesterday, and to strive towards the ideal vision of me (which always changes). So I am always me, but I also continued to grow and improve to become better.
Ps: Authenticity doesn’t mean being the same all the time! I struggled with this for a while, because I question why I kept changing. Was I being inauthentic. Then I realised change was the only constant in life, and the definition of authenticity changes in the long-run. But at the snapshot moment, it is being truly oneself, without any apology.
Greatest Lesson: Imperfection
A greatest lesson I’ve learnt since I became 100% me instead of putting my walls up and faking a smile is the beauty in imperfection. By hiding a facade, I allowed only the good to show. But that is not real, because in life, the bad also exists.
Again, it took time. Showing weakness, having emotions, admitting that I don’t know. These were things that I had to learn how to do. I was fully prepared to be a lonely person, because people realised how imperfect the authentic Lisa was.
I WAS WRONG! Turns out, imperfection is okay.
No one is perfect. Any if you’re perfect, there’s nothing else to change and that’s boring. Whilst being imperfect, I strive towards the 1% growth everyday, compounded. Yet at the same time, I get to be 100% me.
What a revelation. Turns out, people prefer the real me to the fake me. I made more quality friends than I have in my life. I realised that when you are authentic and transparent with people, they also gradually let their walls down and be authentic with you.
The social contract of impermanence altruistic friendship? That turned out to be a failed hypothesis! I learnt that if you are authentic in your relationships (friendships), the social relationship adds a new variable of high quality connection and that becomes irreplaceable.
I lost many (fake/shallow) friends in my transition to becoming authentic Lisa, but I have gained so many authentic friendships as a result. Every day, I’m most grateful to have met these people and share a piece of my soul with them. They are all around the world, so I have little pieces of my soul all around the world. I guess I can never die then!
Translating that to work
And the most important lesson in 2019Q4. I am successful in making real and true friends, but always had the trouble to turn them into business relationships. I guess the idea of monetary gains made me question the authenticity in the relationship.
Once again, I’ve learnt to manage that! By having authentic relationships, it also builds trust and it actually makes it easier to work together. The monetary variable is just an exchange for services rendered. But that does not define the friendship equation at all.
It’s also 100x easier to work with an authentic person, sharing the same value, than someone I don’t know. By having shared values, we also have similar goals in the project/work we do. And nothing gives me greater joy than to produce authentic and value-adding work to the society and world.
So there, the top value that defines who I am: authenticity.
Other Top Values in my life
- Always add-value. Never cheat anyone.
- Choose efficiency.
- Keep being curious. You don’t know jack shit.
Hope you always get to be 100% yourself.