What We Can All Learn About Authenticity From My Son On World Down's Syndrome Day

In today's culture we tend to bent truth, share only certain parts of ourselves – but my son is only ever authentically himself

“Ah, always happy aren’t they?”

The lady in the supermarket smiles at me as she looks at my son, whose face is contorted with laughter, his infectious belly laugh rising above the general hubbub of the aisle.

That they are “always so happy and loving” is one of the super myths of Down’s Syndrome (DS). In truth, it’s a fact people with DS experience the same range of feelings and moods as others; the lady would have appreciated this had she seen us five minutes earlier at the playground, when my son had a huge tantrum as I pried him from the swing he was enjoying. Shortly after, having ben bribed with the promise of pizza for tea, he was indeed in a happy mood.

My response then should have been more honest. Taking the opportunity to raise awareness of the reality of living with Down’s Syndrome, but instead I just smiled and said, “yes he is, we have a lot to learn from him”.

In saying this though, it’s certainly true that while his moods do change, he is, for the most part, overwhelmingly and inspirationally happy.

And here’s why: my son is authentic. He isn’t phoney, dishonest or anywhere in between – he is 100% authentically himself.

In today’s culture, we have a tendency to bend the truth and only share certain thoughts and feelings that align with the person we want people to see. We behave in a certain way so others believe us to be kind and thoughtful – and it’s these cultural norms that prevent many of us from living 100% authentically.

In a digital era, surrounded by social media, we are more connected than ever before. We see our friends’ lives played out on Facebook and Instagram and we click to send a high five or a ‘like’. In reality, social media drives interaction not connection. It has built an even bigger platform for us to perfect our personas, a place for us to share only what we want others to see, with the converse ability to hide what we don’t want them to see. For this reason, and many others, we are less authentic than ever before, and the knock on effect is that we are less trusting, less connected and have lower levels of self-love.

Being authentic takes courage. To be willing to let people know who we really are and how we truly feel requires us to embrace vulnerability, an emotional state many of us now strive to avoid.

My son is different. He has created no ‘persona’ and doesn’t uphold the concept of being something or someone in order to be liked. He would never ask the question ‘but what will people think?’ And because of this he is only ever himself – effortlessly and naturally authentic.

When I watch my son interact with others, I see him build instant trust; he is an open book with nothing to hide. I see his natural vulnerability spark deep and lasting connections with everyone he meets. And I see his wholehearted self-love reflected in those around him. Authenticity breeds authenticity.

And I for one, aspire to be just a bit more like him.