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Authenticity: The Deep Hurt of Hiding Your True Self

“If I was lying on my deathbed and I had kept this secret and never ever did anything about it, I would be lying there saying, ‘You just blew your entire life. You never dealt with yourself,’ and I don’t want that to happen.” – Caitlyn Jenner, Vanity Fair

We’ve all heard the expression, “live your truth.” It means knowing and being yourself without the need for external validation. You’re honest, you don’t make excuses for yourself and you’re not looking for something outside of yourself to complete you. You set healthy boundaries, care for yourself, and live your principles. You are yourself fully and respectfully, and you don’t “turn it off” just to suit others’ needs or desires.

“Being authentic means coming from a real place within,” writes Diane Mottl, MSW. “It is when our actions and words are congruent with our beliefs and values. It is being ourselves, not an imitation of what we think we should be or have been told we should be. There is no ‘should’ in authentic.”

I like to imagine we all work toward authenticity, partly because it feels so bad not to.

Jenner told Vanity Fair’s contributing editor Buzz Bissinger that Bruce was “always telling lies,” but Caitlyn “doesn’t have any lies.” She recalled public appearances she made after winning the gold medal in the 1976 Summer Olympics, while “underneath my suit I have a bra and panty hose and this and that and thinking to myself, They know nothing about me… Little did they know I was totally empty inside.”

A recent study published in Psychological Science found that hiding own’s authentic self produces feelings of immorality and impurity. Throughout the course of five experiments, participants reported that being inauthentic made them feel immoral and “increased desire among participants to cleanse themselves.” On the other hand, when participants recalled a time when they behaved authentically it made them feel positively about themselves.

“Our results establish that authenticity is a moral state — that being true to thine own self is experienced as a form of virtue,” researchers concluded.

Feeling better about ourselves and living our truth should affect our relationships in a positive way. On the other hand, some people may distance themselves but it’s not exactly a loss. It’s called living your truth because it’s not for everyone.

“I have high hopes that Caitlyn is a better person than Bruce,” said Jenner’s son Burt Jenner. “I’m very much looking forward to that.”

On some scale, we can all think of a time we weren’t being ourselves. We may have kept our mouths shut when a teenage friend was doing something illegal. We’ve squirmed listening to someone who has authority over us talk about something we don’t agree with at all.

We also commit ourselves to things we don’t enjoy or that don’t align with our personal beliefs. We bite our tongue. We won’t leave jobs we despise. We won’t travel or move away. We get stuck, frustrated and maybe even forget the errand leaving ourselves in existential flux.

“We don’t stumble accidentally into an amazing life. It takes a conscious commitment to figuring out what we stand for — finding our truth,” writes author and entrepreneur Kamal Ravikant. “It begins by looking inside ourselves, because when it rises from within, we have no choice but to express it, to live it. That is when magic happens: fulfillment, happiness, relationships and success.”

When we deny our truth, we hurt ourselves deeply. We communicate to ourselves that we won’t meet our needs. It communicates shame, fosters guilt and creates angst. I’ve felt it time and again.

I can get so wrapped up in what other people think, sometimes I find myself feeling a clamor of anxiety and discontent. For a moment I don’t even know why. I’m a million miles from my former mood, waylaid on an island of worry and I don’t know how I got there. “Oh, it’s because I was so wrapped up in what others would say.”

Living your truth is daunting and yet empowering, unimaginable but possible, raw and fulfilling. It may be the greatest gift we can give ourselves, but it can be completely overwhelming. As several celebrities recently spoke openly about their sexual orientation and gender identity, they become an example of what is possible, ushering in an era of being oneself completely.

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Authenticity: The Deep Hurt of Hiding Your True Self


Sarah Newman, MA, MFA

Sarah Newman is the managing editor and associate publisher of PsychCentral and the founding editor-in-chief of the Poydras Review. She is also the cohost of the podcast Excuse Me, I Have Concerns where she discusses personal boundaries, personality and other psychology topics.


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APA Reference
Newman, S. (2018). Authenticity: The Deep Hurt of Hiding Your True Self. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 15, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/authenticity-the-deep-hurt-of-hiding-your-true-self/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 25 Jun 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.