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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Classes have started back up, and this year, I’ve been weirdly excited about attending my classes. After two years of isolation, coming back to class in person has been unexpectedly stimulating. One class in particular has already gotten my gears going, generating understanding and questions about our lives as human beings.

In this class, we touch on the topic of authenticity and how we all try to achieve it in multiple ways. Some people spike their hair and wear loud clothing, some people create rules and values to live by to achieve their preconcerted notion of authenticity, some people are authentic for others, and some do it solely for themselves. In a world where our lives are embedded with influences from the media and its rapid trends, influencers, films, and music, authenticity has become the new hot thing. Standing out seems to be more important and more essential than ever, but what does it mean to be authentic and how does one achieve this? 

Trends dictate our lives nowadays. From the way we dress to what we read, to what food we consume. Everything we do says something about us while highlighting bits of our personalities and interests. Trends can serve as good inspiration when finding new looks or styles to implement into our own. But sometimes, these seemingly creative trends and aesthetics that are pushed toward us are almost confusing and borderline weird. People feel pressured to curate their lives through the objects they have, their clothes, and anything else they consume… all to make a statement about who they are. For example, TikTok is full of trends such as cottage-core, the clean girl aesthetic, the “that girl” aesthetic, whatever those mean… I find that now more than ever, finding your own personality or being true to yourself feels impossible because we don’t even truly know what it means to be ourselves.

I am by no means an expert on this, but I have come up with some ideas as to how we can go about being more authentic in our everyday lives and living in a way that is more in tune with who we are, and doing so unapologetically. 

Muting the opinions of others and tuning into yourself

Literally, just stop listening to other people’s opinions. Opinions on how you should look, what’s cool vs. uncool, how you should act, who you should like, and where you should be—it’s all just useless noise that tends to cloud our own ability to listen to ourselves. I used to find myself either acting in ways I didn’t like or dressing in ways that didn’t feel right to me, just because I felt like that was what I had to do to fit in. I often asked for other people’s opinions on how I looked because I didn’t have any self-confidence or trust in myself. The key to overcoming this was to ask myself the questions I was throwing at everyone else.

For example: Do I like the colour of my shirt? Do I feel comfortable in long dresses or do I prefer shorter ones? Do I feel good when I’m quiet around others or do I prefer being loud and expressing my thoughts?

We’re not really taught how to pay attention to ourselves. Since childhood, we’ve always been told to listen to others—our parents, teachers, and guardians. This isn’t entirely a bad thing, but we get so good at doing what we’re told and following what others want from us that we never learn how to figure out what we really want. It’s a muscle that’s never been worked on before, so of course it’s so hard to begin exercising it. But once you do, I assure you things will change for the better. 

Dressing to impress… yourself

We are almost always dressing to impress other people or to help control their perception of us. Dressing in all black has been proven to make you come off as more intimidating, dressing formally can make people take you more seriously, and dressing sexier on a date is believed to increase the attention of the person you’re with. We’ve been weighted with the responsibility of controlling how others see us through how we present ourselves, which to an extent can edge toward insanity. There’s no way we can control these things because they’re not ours to control. You can be dressed nicely and people will think the way you dress is weird, you can try to dress sexier and people can label you a slut. There is no way to control others’ minds, but you can control how you dress and how that makes you feel. Dressing for yourself is a fun way you can remain authentic. Pick out pieces that are weird and funky, wear mismatched colours together, be basic, be fancy, be more conservative or flaunt your body more—all that matters is that you are doing it for yourself and that you like it. 

Doing things solely because you want to

This goes along with my last point, but doing things solely because you want to is incredibly empowering. I think we’ve all done something like joining a club to impress a crush, or picking a program based on what our parents wanted. While this was mostly harmless in our younger lives when we were children, we have to do things that we like as we get older that strengthen ourselves. Engaging with what we like to do allows us to engage with ourselves in the real world. This strengthens our relationship with ourselves, which is the most important relationship in our lives. 

Being honest about what you do and don’t like

In life, we often abandon our own thoughts and opinions to please others. Has a significant other or friend ever played you an awful song and you pretended to like it just to please them? I’m sure you have. While little moments like these are harmless, agreeing with others just to please people can become disastrous. When we begin to agree with others’ opinions about things that we actually don’t align with, we choose those people over us. Placing them above us, even subconsciously, makes them more important and us, well, not. There’s nothing wrong with appreciating others, but it doesn’t justify putting yourself below them and betraying who you are. It’s important to learn to express yourself, regardless of how you think or believe it will be received, and regardless of who you think won’t like you because of it. Often, doing so won’t make you lose people who actually appreciate and like you for you. It’ll attract them! It’s kind of paradoxical like that: If we like ourselves, others will like us. But we have to be true to ourselves first. 

Regardless of where you are in life, you can always start changing your life if you feel disconnected from yourself. There are so many ways to do this, despite being hard and uncomfortable at first. We all owe it to ourselves to be authentic.

Alice Cocard

U Ottawa '23

Third year communications student with a passion for art, writing and criticizing
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