Embrace the authentic you
Consciously working towards living more authentically means we start to feel more alive and have more meaning in our lives. Brene Brown, the author of Daring Greatly, describes authenticity in the following way:
"Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are. Choosing authenticity means cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable; exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of strength and struggle; and nurturing the connection and sense of belonging that can only happen when we believe that we are enough."
Even those who had a happy childhood were born into an environment where there were expectations regarding gender, temperament, personality and even what subjects and hobbies we might be passionate about. Order of birth amongst siblings may even contribute to certain expectations in our family. Then, at school we are told we should be ‘good’ and depending on what type of school we go to we are ushered towards certain subjects, being led to believe that they are more important than the others. On top of that we may be encouraged to be super sporty even though sport might not be of interest and introverts are often told that they need to speak more.
Then there’s the peer pressure in school regarding everything from fashion and choice of pencil case to, when older, sexual exploits and body image. Add this to the pressures from media and now social media as well as the ‘norms’ of society and the journey to authenticity is a tough one.
The road is tough, but it is well worth the trials and tribulations. If we are more authentic then we tend to have more genuine relationships and connections, we are more passionate about our jobs and we can live in the knowledge that we are standing in our true beliefs and values.
You may wonder what a truly authentic person would look like. What behaviours would they exhibit? Here is a snapshot of what an authentic person would be like:
1. They know what their core values and beliefs are. It can be helpful to decide what your core beliefs are (you may like to decide on between three and five). This can include things like creativity, honesty, humour, nature, compassion, balance, respect, justice, and ambition. It isn’t about looking at a list of values and deciding what we feel are the most righteous or credible: it is about deciding which values resonate the most with our inner self. If we know what our core values are we can use them as a barometer for making decisions and for how we live our lives in general.
Similarly, it can be worth checking out the beliefs we hold. Sometimes beliefs can be handed down to us through the generations and we can mistakenly believe they are ours. For instance, we may have been told that children should be seen and not heard. We may sustain this idea in our life, but we may not feel entirely comfortable with it. We can choose our own beliefs; we do not have to maintain beliefs that are not authentic.
2. Decision making feels reasonably easy for authentic people and they can follow their intuition more than those who are not so authentic. This comes from getting to know themselves, being honest with themselves and learning to tune in with their body as well as their mind so that they make holistic decisions.
3. Authentic people can voice what they think, want, and feel. It may not necessarily be easy, but an authentic person will speak up about the things that are important to them because they are fully aware of the consequences of not doing so.
4. An authentic person will find themselves in situations where they feel alone or challenged. This is because standing in our truth isn’t always very popular with others, particularly if we are challenging the status quo. It does have its payoffs because the honesty may result in more meaningful relationships and satisfaction from having stood up for our convictions and perhaps even from changing something that needed changing, but it isn’t always easy.
5. Someone who is authentic, over time, will have a good idea of what they need to do to look after themselves and be good at doing this most of the time. This may include things like going for walks in nature or keeping up a writing hobby. Another aspect of this is that authentic people are aware of the boundaries they need to maintain for their well-being (for instance, things like being strict on things like working hours and being able to say no when necessary).
6. Authentic people are far more likely to have honest, meaningful relationships and are unlikely to maintain friendships or romantic relationships that are not right for them. When it comes to problematic family relationships, authentic people may be able to negotiate these more honestly so that there is a greater sense of peace.
There are a number of ways to tell if working on your authenticity could be of benefit to you.
- You may feel numb and as if you are going through the motions.
- You may feel like you aren’t living your own story or that you have gone off track.
- When you sit and think about it you realise that many of your decisions have been made for or by other people.
- You wonder why your relationships lack connection or are insincere.
- You lack enjoyment in a lot of the things that you do.
- You have lots of regrets or find yourself being jealous of people with a very different life to you.
If you realise that you aren’t as authentic as you would like to be, the key is not to beat yourself up about it. You haven’t changed it so far because you cannot change what you do not know. The important thing is that you can now make changes. There are many ways you can help yourself become more authentic.
- Work with a counsellor or coach.
- Do some journaling on themes such as values, beliefs, your strengths, your past and patterns that you notice about yourself. This is a great way to get to know yourself better.
- Spend more time with yourself reflecting and perhaps finding new things you enjoy.
- When there is a decision to be made, take a moment to tune in with your body to see if it is telling you anything and to see how you feel. This will help you be more in contact with your intuition.
- Spend some time focussing on being in there here and now. Good times to do this may be when you go for a walk or when you are exercising. This will help you be more present and tuned in in other situations.
- Think about some of the pastimes you used to have that you stopped doing. Would you like to revisit any of them? Also, are there any goals you have been passionate about in the past that have gone by the wayside and are there any of these you want to rekindle?
- Practice being honest with yourself about your feelings. We may try to push feelings down and just get on with things, but we could be missing really important information such as how we feel about our job or needing to make decisions about certain relationships.
If you decide you want and perhaps need to start living a more authentic life it is important not to expect massive changes in a short space of time. If we expect fast results, we may find ourselves disappointed and therefore disinterested. This is a process of trial and error, and it can also be an ongoing process throughout our lives. Rather than taking things seriously all the time it can also be an opportunity to have some fun and try some new things out.