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Authentically confused

Photo of Honus Wagners courtesy of the Santa Maria Times

Being in a state of confusion is not one which most people prefer. Clarity is much more ideal. It offers a sense of stability while I must confess, confusion confounds and confronts our confidence with those in whom we confront or confide. (What???)

Ideally, every word we speak or write would be understood with the same meaning and intent we originally intended it to have. However, all of us have had an experience spending far too much time reexplaining ourselves because of a slight misunderstanding.

Clarity is vital. Situations where it is not are when someone purposely wants to baffle, cloud, or create suspense such as in the plot of a story. Otherwise, any lack of understanding only gets in the way of productivity and accomplishment.

One of the first steps I take my clients through is being clear about the difference between guilt and shame. Understanding this difference is an important step along their journey of emotional healing. Clarity is typically the catalyst that fuels breakthrough moments.


Words, however, do not always have the same meaning for every person, or perhaps, we may mistakenly learn the incorrect definition of a word, making it difficult to understand that word in context.

I recall, around the age of eight, seeing someone who had a bit too much to drink yet they claimed to be sober. For years afterwards, I believed that sober meant someone was tipsy but not drunk, which frequently was confusing when hearing someone use the word sober in a conversation.

Sometimes I’ll hear a word and question the way it is being used. One of those words is “authentic.” Authenticity, at least for me, indicates or validates an original. For example, one of the most valuable baseball cards is a Honus Wagner original. He was one of the first players voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and Ty Cobb called him, “Perhaps the greatest star ever to take the diamond.”

Recently, an authentic Honus Wagner baseball card sold for $3.7 million dollars, and you can bet it was scrutinized to be authentic

If I were to ask you to look at the picture of the 2 men at the top of this article and tell me which one is Honus Wagner, there is little doubt as to which one would be chosen. Would you believe it if both of those men were named Honus Wagner? It’s true. The Santa Maria Times authenticated it.


One often-repeated phrase popular in personal development is “being your authentic self.” When hearing that, I often pause and think, “Aren’t we always our authentic selves? Even when we fall short of what we expect our actions should have been, wasn’t that a choice? It may not have been what we had hoped our actions would be, but no one forced us to be less.

Merriam-Webster defines authentic as: worthy of acceptance, conforming to an original, or made or done the same way as an original. None of these definitions seems to fit what people mean when they say to be their “authentic selves.”

Please know that nothing I am saying is meant to change anyone’s mind about being their authentic selves. These are simply my thoughts when I hear that expression. I don’t think less of anyone who uses that phrase, it’s merely what rolls around in my head when I hear it.

And here’s another admission. I haven’t been completely honest with you and fully disclosed all the definitions Merriam-Webster provides. I discovered that my questioning of being your “authentic self” was not fully justified. One of the definitions clearly states: True to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.

I stand corrected. My suppositions were not warranted. Clarity was a moment of growth.

This is precisely what people mean when they talk about being authentic. Authenticity is not deception, sham, or fraud, it is meant to show a person’s integrity, truthfulness, and honesty. It is knowing that in difficult times, one will not succumb to being less than they would expect from themselves and uphold these virtues in situations where others may hesitate, stumble, or fold.

Full disclosure

Once again, I haven’t fully divulged everything that rolls around in my head when people say to be their authentic self. I’ll preface it again by stating these are my thoughts and insights. Nothing is meant to weaken or dismiss others wanting to be their authentic selves.

Being your authentic self has a similar implication when people say, “just be you.” Showing up as you and not as how you imagine others might think or expect of you. Being your authentic self takes courage and inner strength.

Personal growth, to me, suggests always striving to be a better version of ourselves. It’s facing our shortcomings and exposing our vulnerabilities in order to grow and continually endeavor to improve. If we are that “authentic you” from the past, it implies we are not working at becoming that best version we ought to be.

Again, being authentic does not implicitly state one is not striving to become the best version of oneself. Instead, these are merely meandering thoughts when I hear this. What I am admitting is that I was incorrect in my assumptions and experienced a growth moment and wanted to share it with you.

You, on the other hand, may have a clear understanding that being your authentic self only infers that you must continue to strive to be the best version of you. Have I, again, repeated the same mistake my eight-year-old self was guilty of by not understanding the true meaning of the word authentic?

A little clarity would be nice right about now.

My thanks to the Santa Maria Times for the authentic picture and I look forward to your comments.

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