Updated: Apr 20
Finding Your Authentic Self.
I think we all want to live as authentically as possible. But it can be difficult. We wear so many hats and are expected to behave in certain ways in certain situations. Our work persona may not be the same one we have at home or out in social situations. We may be a firm, confident boss, the life of the party in social situations, and a total pushover for our kids. This may not be abnormal, but we are putting on airs for some of these roles. Who are you really?
I’m reminded of my college days (let’s not discuss how long ago that was) when I first ran into the idea of who you are in public may not be whom you are behind closed doors. I became friends with a girl that was in a sorority. I was firmly independent, so joining a sorority was definitely out of my realm of thought. And after witnessing what I did, I became even more firm on this stance. So, this girl invited me over to the sorority house one afternoon and I discovered she smoked. She told me they weren’t allowed to smoke in public. They also were told whom they could and could not date. Truly, I was appalled at this notion. When we’re in college, we’re trying to figure out who we are, who we want to be, and where we want to go…and we’re so young and easily manipulated. Life often leads us from here unless we take a firm grasp of the reigns and drive ourselves the way we want to go. This is our first block to building an authentic life.
What does it mean to live authentically?
According to Stephen Joseph, Positive Psychologist, and author of Authentic, the person living authentically exists “moment by moment, striving to understand themselves, their motivation, defenses, and conditions of worth, while being aware of their responsibilities and choices.” An authentic life involves following one’s passion and being intimately connected to our natural abilities, strengths, and talents while balancing the expectations of others.
To be authentic, you must do and act the way you perceive yourself and want to be perceived. If you think of yourself as a person who meditates, then you must have a meditation practice. If you want to be a wine connoisseur, you need to learn about wine, educate yourself, try different wines, and go on wine tastings. If you aren’t doing the things that you believe yourself to be, then you are out of alignment.
Authenticity and living a complete and fulfilling life are processes rather than outcomes. Living authentically involves moving in a direction that is most authentic to us as individuals.
We can engage in several practices and activities to be more authentic while encouraging a balance between what is going on inwardly and what we express outwardly.
In the long term, putting on an inauthentic front is tiring and ultimately damaging to our mental and physical well-being.
Live More Authentically
“The path to living authentically begins when you decide to embrace the journey of self-awareness, intention, and being free from the notion that others have to agree or approve of the choices you make,” says Zahara Williams, a licensed clinical social worker and co-founder of Ivory Park counseling therapy services in Texas
Williams states that authenticity involves:
being in tune with your values and passions
navigating life with purpose
prioritizing what brings you peace
having tenacity and flexibility
But being authentic to yourself doesn’t mean shutting yourself off entirely to others’ opinions or advice.
“It’s a delicate balance between being open to constructive feedback to help achieve growth, but not allowing it to dictate one’s perception of self, their abilities, or the possibilities that may exist beyond what others can see,” Williams notes.
To live more authentically, learn to do the following in your daily life:
Become more aware of what is happening in your body. Having a tense neck or shoulders may be linked to what is going on in your mind, feelings, thoughts, and difficult decisions. Check-in with yourself.
Listen to your inner voice rather than losing it in the noise of others. Make it an ongoing process to listen to your hopes, dreams, and fears. Meditation is great for this.
Know yourself, what you are good at, what you are prepared to do, and what you are not. Face up to the truths of who you are. Honesty is not always pleasant, but it has the potential to free you.
Own yourself and your truths. Don’t let others push you into their way of thinking, but also don’t stick to views when you are proved wrong or they no longer work for you. Take responsibility for your choices.
Be yourself; be honest and transparent in your dealings. People like and are drawn to those they perceive as sincere and genuine and distrust those who are not.
Learn to be vulnerable; open yourself up, share your story. Though sometimes scary, being vulnerable can be rewarding and a risk worth taking. Start with someone you trust.
We must also see and accept our existence and who we are with honesty; life is complicated and rarely black and white. We cannot expect people and opportunities to be as we would hope, but we do have control over our reactions.
By stopping yourself from alienating others and being distant and removed from your likes, fears, and desires, you can become more in touch with the real you.
Be open to new opportunities and experiences and seek new challenges. Engagement can be one of the most positive paths to authenticity.
To be real, you must follow your passions while remaining tied intimately to who you are, reflecting your strengths and virtues.
Why is authenticity important for mental well-being?
Research has explored the role of authenticity in many areas of mental well-being and found that the two are closely related. For instance, studies suggest being your authentic self can:
reduce symptoms of depression
aid in relieving stress
boost job satisfaction
reduce anxiety about death
lower risk of social anxiety disorder
Zahara Williams states that suppressing your true self and “disregarding one’s own needs and desires” can also lead to various physical health impacts. These include:
“When you make the choice to choose a life beyond autopilot, the potential for overall wellness and healthier connections increases substantially,” says Williams.
Authentic living can lead to more profound, longer-lasting happiness.
The closer we live our lives to who we really are and how we want to be perceived, the more fulfilled and authentic we will feel. The more we can connect to our purpose, core values, and character strengths in our daily lives—home, work, and social life—the more we will show up as real, genuine, caring, and connected to ourselves and everyone around us.
Remi Gibbs, the founder of Renovated Realities, is a 1:1 life coach, writer, speaker, and podcast host of Conversations on Life, Work, and Love. You can find more about Remi on her website, www.renovatedrealities.com. Or by emailing email@example.com.