I was talking to a friend recently who shared that Covid had brought enough stillness to her life to allow her to engage in deep introspection. This deep introspection had brought about a new awareness to the way she lived her life and how she showed up in the world. She had started to question whether the choices she made in life had lost intentionality somewhere along the way. Were they consistent with her values? With her wants, even? Had she slipped into autopilot, letting life happen around her rather than taking an active role in it? It made me think about what Covid has taught me about authenticity.

While stillness has certainly not been a universal outcome of Covid (think frontline workers and parents trying to homeschool their kids while holding down a job), for many of us, it has been a forcing function, prompting us to slow down and take stock of our lives. The search for meaning, the draw towards personal accountability and the yearning for a more authentic existence, seem to be recurring themes for many people at this time.

Meaning makes life worth living.

Meaning makes life worth living. Certainly, for many existential philosophers, this is a cornerstone belief. But how does that translate to a world where some of us have lost our jobs, aren’t able to spend time with loved ones or are prevented from practicing identity-affirming activities such as hobbies or cultural traditions?

Are we able to thrive with a bruised sense of self and a vague notion of purpose? Or must we redefine who we are so that we may find meaning in our new circumstances? Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl survived the horrors of Nazi Germany by redefining his sense of self and finding meaning in the worst of circumstances. After World War II, he developed logotherapy, founded on the principle of finding meaning in life. 

As I explored these ideas, I was struck by the memory of a conversation I had with a different friend who recently quit their job as a teacher. Following lockdown, they no longer derived the same meaning out of a career which had provided satisfaction and contentment for years. This led them to question their sense of purpose and make significant changes in their life. They are now redefining themselves and rebuilding their life, pivoting to adjust to their new reality, and in doing so, they have found meaning in something new.

This kind of self-awareness and impetus to make changes in response to what we learn about ourselves are the core ingredients of authenticity. When we live authentically, we listen to our inner voice, and we understand how we interact with the world and how it affects us. For me, authenticity has been, and continues to be, a life-long pursuit. Now, more than ever, our ability to live with authenticity and find meaning in our day to day can help us build resilience, and in some cases, even pivot towards a new way of being which brings unexpected – but welcome – changes. 

Schedule an appointment with a trained mental health care professional at Pacific Mental Health. You can also read more articles about mental health topics written by Pacific Mental Health counselors on our blog.