What "being authentic" means
Maybe it should be called "acting authentically." We are real; we just don't act that way a lot of the time. But when we act more consistently with who we are inside, we get healthier, and our relationships improve. Let's look at an example.
At a party, someone asks you how you're doing. You are, in fact, doing horribly. But you don't want to go through the vulnerability of telling semi-strangers about it. Fair enough. If you fake a big smile and say, "Great!" I think that hurts you. But of course you can't show your vulnerability to everyone all the time. So, what can you do to be authentic and protect yourself? I'd recommend being honest, but not fully open: tell the truth, but not too much of it. In this example, "I'm hanging in there. You?" Or "Rough week, but I'm still standing. You?"
Authenticity is easy when you're peaceful or joyful because people usually won't be displeased by your showing your real feelings. The hard part is when what you feel inside isn't so rosy. Let's do another example about a difficult emotion--sadness.
You go to a meeting at work feeling sad. You have the option of protecting yourself by being inauthentic--for example, faking happy. That'll help help with hiding your vulnerability, but, again, I think you'll feel worse inside. So, some other options other than being really inauthentic:
* Compromise. Don't let all of the sadness show, but also don't put on a Happy Show.
* If you feel safe enough with these people, simply act and look that way you feel. I know--you can't do this in many situations. If you feel safe enough is an important condition. If you do act consistently with what you feel, it doesn't mean you have to announce to everyone how sad you are and tell stories about why; it means you simply do the meeting in the way that feels natural, which may mean saying less than usual, not volunteering for a big project, etc.
Licensed psychologist, Austin