Instagram currently has more than one billion users, making it the third most popular social media network. In the age of selfies, filters, and likes, it has never been more important to connect to your authenticity. How we present ourselves to others, both online and in-person, underlies the types of relationships and connections we are able to make.

As someone who has experienced this firsthand, Donna Lea Jones of Orlando, Florida, wants to share her insight on why it is important to be authentic. With over 23 years of experience working in the pharmaceutical industry, Donna Lea Jones now dedicates her time to volunteering with her local church and several charities, and embeds authenticity into every interaction she has.

Donna Lea Jones

A lot of people live their lives online, but this snapshot should not influence the choices we make in our own lives. We have to understand that what we see is not the whole picture, and that comparing yourself to others online is like comparing your behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel. As she outlines below, living authentically requires getting to know yourself, disregarding the opinions of others, and being unafraid to be who you are.

Get to Know You

Donna Lea Jones explains that to live authentically, you have to start by learning more about yourself and your key values. When we grow up, we slowly start to adopt the beliefs, values, and ideas of others—which is normal—but these core ideologies need to be regularly re-evaluated.

We are all a product of social conditioning, and while this is unavoidable, Donna Lea Jones suggests expanding your horizons; read literature, watch a documentary, or go to a class that you would have never intuitively chosen for yourself. A big part of figuring out who we are is figuring out who we are not. Additionally, think about the situations in which you feel you have to ‘fake it’. Why do you feel the need to be fake? What will happen if you try to be more genuine? She finds that a lot of these answers often come back to insecurity, and a desire to be perceived in a specific way—which brings us to the next point.

Disregard the Opinions of Others

If you want to be authentic, you have to disregard everyone else’s opinions. Of course, this doesn’t mean ignoring the sound advice of our friends, colleagues and family, but rather checking in with ourselves first, asking whether this opinion makes sense with our own internal values before we take it to heart.

It is crucial to stay grounded, but not allow our self-worth and confidence to be guided by the opinions of others. If someone tells you that you are being selfish, do not immediately adopt this characteristic as a part of your narrative. Does what they are saying make sense? Is this a pattern? If it is, consider taking steps towards changing it. If it isn’t, continue being your authentic self.

Be Bold, Be You

Donna Lea Jones recognizes that living authentically requires bravery. You have to make a bold and powerful decision to be your real and true self moving forward, and eliminate everything in your life that does not align with this new narrative. If your new pillars of authenticity are kindness, honesty, and hard work, you may need to change the situations and relationships that no longer align with these values. This may be the hardest part of living authentically. For example, if you feel the need to be fake with a friend, you may need to re-evaluate that relationship and whether it is adding value to your life. The same goes for your habits and your job.

Why We Should Live Authentically

Why is living authentically so important? Donna Lea Jones explains that it is important because it leads to the greatest degree of happiness for those brave enough to live according to their own values. To make genuine, loving connections with others, we need to be authentic.

If you value intellectual conversations, being authentically yourself in every interaction you have will naturally attract like-minded individuals. In many cases, we try to hide our insecurities and weaknesses, but being authentic about the good and the bad may make you more relatable to others, and can foster long-term, meaningful relationships and experiences.