“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let out true selves be seen.”
― Brené Brown
A sincere thanks to all the awesome experts who shared their best tips, insights and strategies on how to live an authentic life.
Living an authentic life requires that we be able to self-define.
To self-define requires that we soothe enough of the emotional reactivity that makes self-defining hard. I see two primary sources of emotional reactivity. One is the messages from the family of origin; the other is from societal pressure.
When you’re young social pressure is mostly felt from the peer group. We all want to belong, and taking a position outside of peer group norms is very uncomfortable. Besides being less popular you could feel increasingly lonely or become the target of bullying.
Family of origin pressure is difficult too.
When you stand up to your family you risk rejection from your primary social group. It can be really hard. Think of a gay person coming out. For many that is the most difficult part of the process. To lose the love, respect and support of one’s family can be devastating.
When we are very young we are most likely to be defined by family and social norms.
Because we are too young to have broader experience, we internalize external messages and for a long time they define who we are. As you get older, you realize that you are a separate person and don’t share all of the beliefs and social norms of your family and peer group. This is the beginning of switching from an external locus of control to an internal locus of control. Instead of looking at what other people think and believe, you begin to ask yourself what you think and believe.
Of course this doesn’t happen overnight. Like most parts of the maturational process it’s gradual. Families that encourage their members to think for themselves greatly facilitate this process. Families that are rigid in their beliefs and expectations make it really hard.
External pressure never goes away.
Society and family will always impinge on the total ability to self define. This is normal. We live in society and need to fit in in order to function. But the ability to fit cannot be at the expense of your most deeply held values and beliefs.
Every time you think or say, “This is what I think; this is what I believe; this is what I feel; this is what I want”, you are defining yourself and becoming a more authentic person.
Every single one of us has asked ourselves the question of “Who am I?”
The louder the world around us becomes, the more this question seems to seep into our consciousness. If I don’t know who I am, how can I be true to myself?
Let’s be clear, being true to yourself does not mean trolling people on the Internet, being bitchy to strangers who accidentally bump into you on the subway, generally being a self-centered ass and coming from a place of constant defense. It may be authentic to how you are feeling in that moment, but it is not your true self.
I’d like to invite you on a journey with me that goes all the way back to when you were first conceived.
You are, of course, the resulting mixture of your mother and father’s DNA. And their DNA is a combination of their parent’s, and their parent’s DNA is a combination of their parent’s DNA, and so on and so forth. You are essentially a mix of hundreds of thousands of little strands of DNA that has evolved and changed from as long as mankind has existed.
Now let’s go back even further.
From a spiritual perspective we’d ask the question: “Now then, what is the source of who we are?” It is actually quite simple. No matter your beliefs regarding spirituality, the highest form of energy is light. The purest state of being is enlightenment, the deep knowing and understanding of complete oneness with Divine force. It is well documented in every religion that this Divine force is the purest expression of love.
Therefore, your purest state of being is both light and love.
However, because of free will and ego, our unconscious self assumed separation from this Divine force, which led us off the path of being pure love toward the path that has us fight for survival. With each generation that was brought into this world, we created more reasons for the need to survive.
Eventually we thought only the fittest would survive, so we did what we had to do to stay in control, which led to power struggles without end. With each generation the need of external power increased believing that it is what keeps us alive as individuals.
Power struggles always lead to trauma.
Anything that creates trauma is imprinted into our subconscious through strong emotional reactions toward that specific event. Traumatic events could be as “insignificant” as being yelled at like a child to historically altering events like slavery, wars, the Holocaust, etc. For the individual themselves no event is truly insignificant because each experience impacts our genes, and therefore our DNA, which we then pass down to the next generation.
Basically, you are most likely carrying, unknowingly, the emotionally charged trauma of many, many generations in the making; this is called epigenetics.
Unless someone in your generational line has done the work of healing old, generational trauma, you are affected by history that is not always in favor of showing up as your true self.
Our current generations carry lots of pain that has been passed down which causes us to react and respond from that place of hurt and trauma in everyday situations. The epigenetics of this trauma alters your state of being, therefore your true self which in its purest form ALWAYS corresponds from a place of love.
Whenever we find ourselves responding with judgment, discrimination, hate, or anything else that creates division, we can be certain that this is not our true self, but that it reflects back to us that work needing to be done to heal deep-seated wounds; that lessons need to be learned so that we are able to forgive and move closer toward our fullest expression of love.
People who express their true self embody love even in the face of adversity, they create space considering the greater good of all, focus on healing even when it gets uncomfortable, teach in the light of unity, respect themselves and others in a healthy way through healthy boundaries, and forgive.
In order to stay true to ourselves, we all need to ask ourselves the hard questions every single day:
Who do I choose to show up as? Is it from a place of love? Is what I am about to do, say, or be in the light of the greater good and with the goal of creating unity? What lessons am I currently encountering that require me to focus on forgiveness and healing?
May our journey lead us back to our true selves!
Isabel Hundt, Sociologist and Speaker – www.isabelhundt.com
One of the biggest buzz words flying around in the personal growth world is the concept of being authentic.
The general idea is that if we are 100% our authentic selves—life will be incredible.
But what about those cases when it’s our authentic self that is creating the issues?
What if someone is authentically mean? Authentically depressed? Authentically wounded? Authentically negative?
In these cases—being authentic isn’t so great.
Sometimes we must change, and evolve, so that our authentic self works for us, not against us. And we must consider becoming more self-aware to reach a place of healthy, conscious authenticity in our lives.
My authentic self, at one point was not so amazing. My authentic self was insecure, negative, guilt ridden and just not very happy.
That was the real, authentic me at one point in my life.
So how is that of value to myself or anyone? I know that people might argue that the real meaning of our authentic selves is that part of us that is connected to Source, or God—that part that isn’t wounded and that is more about love and light. But I think that is far too often inferred and not really explained. And it creates confusion about what being authentic truly means.
Being authentic, in the best sense, means working to uncover you true self.
Being authentic means you operate from a place of awareness and consciousness, not old wounds, negative beliefs, or patterns.
Being authentic is about becoming more aware of self—how you operate, how you feel, how you react to things in life, and how you want to show up in your life.
Being self-aware is the cornerstone of living an energetically rich, and soulful life. It’s the #1 critical ingredient that we must cultivate in order to live lives we love.
It’s just that simple.
If I kept hoping that my authentic self was going to make everything better, I might not be here writing this article. My authentic, real self-needed a massive makeover and couldn't help others until she helped herself.
Sometimes, to be that best version of authentic—that version that is pure, connected to Source and consciousness—means we commit on a deeper level to becoming more self-aware.
5 strategies that I have found to be critical in this quest to become more self-aware include—
There’s something about cultivating a practice of journaling that helps us tune into self. This simple act can reap huge rewards in getting to know your authentic self a little better and then working towards what you want to change.
I know, I know. For some of us, this is a four-letter word, but hear me out. Meditating is the key to becoming more self-aware and in turn, more consciously authentic in your life.
Meditating is the BEST way to become tuned into you. It doesn’t have to be long periods of time. My meditation consists of a few focused minutes in the morning before my feet hit the ground and then intermittently throughout the day. I simply tune into my breathing, slow down and sink into that awareness and peace.
3. Coaching or feedback from people you admire, trust and who are consciously authentic in their own lives.
Sometimes this isn’t easy, but at times, it’s necessary to get feedback from others. We don’t have to agree with it all, it’s just an exercise in getting another perspective. This can also mean hiring a coach or mentor to help you sort through blocks around your self awareness.
4. Spend time doing things you love and that help you feel grounded and connected.
It’s critical that we do things to nurture what we love. This is how we become more self-aware. For me, it’s being in nature and practicing regular self-care—massages, exercise, eating well, and quiet time.
5. Becoming more aware of the power of choice.
I am a huge advocate for the power of choice and when you step into a deeper appreciation of this in your life, shifts happen, magic happens. When you realize, you are the one choosing to be aware, or not aware, conscious or not conscious, kind or mean . . . you open up a whole new world of possibility.
Being authentic isn't enough at times. Sometimes our authentic self is wounded, hurt, or caught up in negative patterns or habits and needs a bit (or a lot) of self-awareness in order to shift into a place of healthy and happy.
Yes, let's be real. Yes, let's be authentic. But let’s be these things from a space of awareness, consciousness, growth and expansion.
Let’s commit to becoming self-aware, so we can access that pure, conscious place of authenticity in our lives.
That version of authentic that feels alive, loved, connected and energetically rich.
Carrie Jolie Dale, Life and Business Coach - www.carriedale.com
I define authenticity or being authentic as being who you are.
Your real self. No longer denying what you want, desire, or feel but letting yourself live easily. Here’s the problem though, most of us can’t just let ourselves be. We dwell in what we aren’t or what we don’t have and we deny ourselves a lot of the good that’s out there. We suffer through life because we don’t allow ourselves to be who we are.
We dwell in the muck for many different reasons and one of them is that it’s easier. Think for a minute about what your life would look like if you said what you felt or what you wanted to say, or if you did what you wanted to do – maybe at first you feel a bit of relief or a sense of ease and then immediately afterward feel fearful.
Here’s what the fear is in this scenario – taking responsibility for your life.
See it’s a cinch to blame others, society, our education, the media for creating such confusion around who we are and what we really want in our lives, but it’s much more difficult to take responsibility for the fact that this is our life and if we want to live well, laugh often, enjoy the day and feel at ease in our relationships, finances, health then it’s our responsibility to make that happen.
It’s your responsibility to be who you are nobody else can do it for you. So how do you start?
1. Commit each day to living aligned with what is true for you.
That means saying, no when you want to say no. It means being honest in difficult situations. Confessing to what you did wrong. Asking for what you need.
2. Stop complaining.
If you’re taking the reigns that means you have a choice in how you interact. If something is bothering you, don’t go on and on about it, figure out what needs to happen and do it so it doesn’t get in the way of you being you.
3. Stop making excuses.
No longer is it about what you can’t our couldn’t do and why, no more well, I got stuck in traffic, I was out late last night, I didn’t have time … You no longer have to defend yourself or try to prove a point, because you’re taking responsibility for the good and the bad, which means you’re allowing yourself to be as you are. You know that one mistake doesn’t make you a horrible person.
Instead of making an excuse now it’s “you’re right, I’m late.” “Yes, I did make a mistake.” It’s empowering to own up to your actions, both good and bad.
4. Stop being upset with yourself.
You won’t be able to be who you are if you’re constantly pissed off at who you are. Try observing who you are without evaluation and criticism – what if there wasn’t anything wrong with you?
An easy way to know if you’re not taking responsibility for being who you are in the world is if you’re suffering. Because you suffer when you fight against what is.
It’s your responsibility to take away this suffering and step into who you are.
Applying the four pieces mentioned above will help you on your way to being your authentic self and in so doing you’ll start living a life of ease.
Cynthia Kane, Certified meditation & mindfulness instructor – www.cynthiakane.com
Vulnerability is a key element of authenticity.
When you are not being vulnerable, it’s as if you have a brick wall around you, keeping the world out, and keeping you in. You don’t get to be you, to share you, or to receive from others with that wall in place.
When you are willing to be vulnerable, you give yourself access to all of you. From there, you can bring yourself more fully to your relationships with others and to the world around you!
Here are a few key practices & pieces of information that will allow you to have more vulnerability.
Vulnerability is an inside job.
If you are not willing to be vulnerable with yourself – and get brutally honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses – you will never be able to do it with others!
Getting out of judgment of you is the key to vulnerability.
If you have no judgments of who you are and what is going on in your life, you will be able to not only be vulnerable with you, but with others too. If there is nothing wrong with you – and you embody that totally – there is nothing to hide!!
Vulnerability is the ultimate power.
When you are willing to approach the world with no walls, with your barriers down, and with the total willingness to be seen, you are not only making yourself immune to other peoples’ judgments and needs, you are suddenly the most potent and inviting person in the room. If you dare!!
Vulnerability is a choice.
When you notice that you have barriers up to you, or to others, lower them. It can really be as simple as that! You ask the walls and the barriers to drop, and imagine that they are simply dissolving around you.
Push them down if you have to – and see what that is like! It may be uncomfortable, but eventually being barrier-less is incredibly empowering, energizing, and enlivening. What if you could simply choose to have that as your way of being in the world?
Vulnerability is freedom.
When you are willing to be so different as to show up totally vulnerable, you have immense freedom to be YOU. Vulnerability has no judgment, no point of view, no defense, no posturing. Vulnerability says, “Welcome to my world! I have nothing to hide. Hi!!”
What would it be like to give yourself permission to be as vulnerable as you can be – and to be an invitation to a really different possibility in the world? What would it be like to have vulnerability as a choice?
You might find that you have a lot more fun, a lot more joy, and a lot more freedom to be you!
Heather Nichols, MSW - www.heathernichols.com