To be authentic, according to Merriam-Webster’s definition, is to be “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.” Interestingly, it is also “to be worthy of acceptance or belief.” But there are times in life when, for whatever reason, we lose track of our authenticity or become fearful of expressing our true self. How does this happen and what can we do to break free of these patterns?
Let’s look at three common scenarios that illustrate how you can live a more authentic life.
Be true to you
When nervous about an interview or a first date, people always advise, “Just be yourself.” It’s good advice, but we all know it’s easier said than done. We all want to be liked and accepted for who we are. Yet sometimes letting other’s see our authentic self is scary. Fear of not being accepted is one of many reasons why we often suppress our true selves.
It’s normal and useful to adjust one’s behavior to fit different situations, but when fitting in means acting in ways that actually go against your true convictions or beliefs – or not speaking your mind out of fear – then it’s time to ask yourself how you can be more authentic in your life.
Recognizing your genuine behavior is the first step. Learning to take the chance that someone might not “get” you right away is the next one. Once you take the risk to show your true self be prepared to approach whatever happens with humor and grace. It’s the best way to honor your authentic self.
Authentic times two
Coupling up can be a wonderful experience, but it can also be very confusing when the boundaries between you and your partner begin to blur. Questions to ask include: Have you suppressed your authentic self in order to meet the needs of the relationship? Do you make sure everyone else’s needs are met at the cost of your own? Do you spend all your time picking up the loose ends of the relationship, so that there’s no time left for you? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions then it’s time to get back to your authentic self.
The answer to staying authentic is to create more space in your relationship. While it’s great to do things together, sometimes it’s even better to do things apart! Set up dates with your friends, take a class or even a trip – without your partner. The idea is not to separate entirely from your loved one, but to strike a healthy balance between togetherness and separateness.
While the brain speaks to us all the time, often in contradictory ways, it’s also important to pay attention to our gut. A relatively new theory asserts that the gut is like another brain. It has both digestive and neurological components. The gut can help you with decision-making, avoiding danger and detecting stress. Listening to what your gut tells you is one way to get back to listening to your authentic self. The gut never lies!
You can practice listening to your gut by sitting in a quiet place and tuning into the sensations in your gut. Begin thinking about your question. It could be “Should I move in with my partner or not?” Visualize what it would be like if you did or didn’t. Does your gut clench, grip or tighten, or are the sensations warm, soft and relaxing? Soon, you’ll develop a sensitivity to what your gut is saying, and it will be a valuable guide!
Living life with authenticity is what we all strive for. While it would be great if everyone liked and accepted our truest selves, it would be folly to believe that everyone will. In the end, what matters most is not that the world accepts you for who you are, but that you accept yourself. Only then can you live life freely and with joy!
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