To Thine Own Self, Be True

What does it mean to be authentic?

I’ve been hearing a lot about living an authentic life. It sounds interesting because, well, I like to keep it real. But how do we apply it to our lives?

Like most of my personal endeavors, it’s no easy task. It’s more of a process, really. I think that it is definitely something for mid-life, since it requires one to know oneself completely. That can take a lifetime!

Authenticity was defined by psychologists Brian Goldman and Michael Kernis about 15 years ago. It’s not a brand new concept. They described it as “the unimpeded operation of one’s true or core self in one’s daily enterprise.”

For starters, it requires a good understanding of your own values. Self-awareness is not something that comes to us until we’ve lived life, whether in years or in experience. To become truly authentic, you must be in touch with what really matters to you. What is most important to you? It means letting go of the expectations placed on us by our parents, families, teachers, society and friends. Then, we must act deliberately in ways that are consistent with those personal values and beliefs. 

 Authentic people do not deny their strengths and weaknesses: Rather, they acknowledge them and make no excuses. That means no hiding pieces of you or your life that might be unsavory or difficult to accept. Authentic people are accountable to themselves, first and foremost. 

It’s the most honest living there is. But, authenticity might also require that you make unpopular decisions, at times. There’s no more people-pleasing. Doing only what is in alignment with your own desires, goals and beliefs won’t always be the most popular move. But it can lead to a precious kind of freedom.

How do you create an authentic life?

1. Reexamine your personal values and goals. Are you holding on to the values and expectations that you grew up with? Most of us are – often without realizing it! If you are hanging on to a belief and cannot justify it in terms of your life right now, chances are it’s no longer working for you.

2. Keep an open mind. Ridgid, black & white thinking makes us judgemental. Look at all sides of something and try to be objective. Look at it through your own eyes, right now, at this stage of your life. Be open minded. Think in the now, not in the past.

3. Fill in the blank: If you really knew me you’d know that __________. Tony Robbins uses this in seminars to prompt people to reveal things about themselves that they might not otherwise acknowledge. When you share these things, you build trust in others. Authenticity sometimes feels uncomfortable and vulnerable. These are the first steps toward building intimacy in relationships. Truly accept yourself, shortcomings and all.

4. Listen to your intuition. If things don’t feel right, listen to that inner voice. Your instincts will tell you when you’re not being real and genuine. This is also not being authentic. When our actions coincide with our values, that little voice is silenced.

5. Identify your passions. What do you want to create or accomplish in your life? Figure it out and go for it. For me, it’s writing, playing music and making a difference in the lives of others. (So far). What are yours? Get started – It’s later than you think.

“Who we are evolves and changes,” Robbins has said. “This is a dynamic process and one we can keep moving into at deeper levels… This is less about a destination than a journey of going deeper to keep discovering and unfolding new pieces of ourselves…”

Find out who you really are and then live it, from the inside out.

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