The word authentic is used often today and typically viewed as complementary. If you are being authentic, you are living right. You are being yourself. If you are working authentically you are likely enjoying your work and finding contentment and satisfaction from it.
“I had no idea that being your authentic self could make me as rich as I’ve become. If I had, I’d have done it a lot earlier.” – Oprah Winfrey
People take notice when you are comfortable in your own skin, when you seem glad to be you. They observe with curiosity and interest because it’s not easy to do and we are all aware of that fact. It takes both inner knowing and guts, and both of these take effort to cultivate.
People are taught lessons throughout life that typically move them toward conformity and away from authenticity. Not only does it scare a person to be more authentic, but it seems to scare those around them as well.
Despite the perceived value, there is always a current to swim against in developing your authentic self.
“Always be a first-rate version of yourself and not a second-rate version of someone else.” – Judy Garland
People who live and work authentically, in accordance with their true nature and aligned with their values and beliefs are far less likely to lose their identity over time, and find themselves wondering who they are.
It’s never too late to find your authentic self and create a life that revolves around that version of you. Ideally, one might figure it out early, but often living inauthentically and unhappily is the catalyst for change.
So, what does it mean to live in authenticity and how can you do it?
Living authentically, in my opinion, means to drop the pretenses that define you. Being fine (actually more than fine) with being you, in your true essence, leads to authenticity. When you dig beneath the layers to the soul level and identify what the soul wants vs. what society, family or anyone else wants from you, you can be free to be a more truthful version of you.
This doesn’t mean you ditch your world and live a solitary life doing only that which feeds your soul 24/7. But you get to know and love that which is unique and special about you and no longer hide it. You express yourself in those terms (brand yourself, if you will). You become unapologetic for who you are, what you want and how you show up.
It is really about love. As an authentic person, you develop love of your own attributes, desires and spirit enough to expose them, embrace them and take action in support of them. It is a focus on passion and purpose and a lifestyle of integrity. You know when you are in integrity, so pay attention to when you are not, to help guide you off that path.
If you don’t know when you are aligned with your authentic self, you have work to do. Find the spiritual teachers, coaches, or wise folks that have already done this work (and written about it) to help you find tools that reveal your true nature.
Here are some tips for becoming more authentic in your own life:
1. Get in touch with the energy that you feel when you are in a state of true joy or bliss and observe what you are doing and who you are being in that state. This helps define your essence. With an observer’s mind, you will begin to recognize when something comes from your heart and mind, before you begin judging it against others’ standards. Keep on noticing what feels true and what feels false until you begin to see patterns.
2. Transform judgement. Whether you are judging yourself or another is judging your ideas, beliefs or actions, shift how you internalize your/their judgement. If it’s your own inner critic causing the pain, find a way to talk back to it or dismiss its voice for the voice of your inner cheerleader. If it’s another person criticizing, understand that they are operating from their perspective which may or may not have any transference to your experience. Thank them for caring and ask that they trust your process.
3. Visualize a future as if anything were possible. There is a reason people create vision boards, journal about their ideal day and create “mind movies.” You need to see a detailed picture of how life would look if you were living in your desired destiny. You are able to create a vision and an emotional feeling around the vision when you do this. It sets an intention and a design for your life that you can begin to fill in with next steps. Imagine a needlepoint canvas with the design drawn on it. It’s devoid of yarn so there is nothing there but a picture of what you want it to be, but that is what connects your plans to a future reality. You can envision what you want even if you don’t know how to create it at the present time.
4. Get away from your desk and your routine. While all manner of work can happen at a desk, transformation and revelations occur where perspectives are new. Remove yourself from your work environment and see and experience as much as you can to further identify who you are in a different context. Say yes to opportunities that will help you to discover your growing edges. Leave the known and mix it up with people you don’t know, in activities you have yet to try. Appreciate how you handle these new situations and uncover new aspects of yourself.
5. Allow yourself to unfold. Be aware that developing a sense of authenticity and then stepping out into the world in a new way takes time. It is a step-by-step process. Each time you show up in a new and intentional way, that is a success. Celebrate each victory and then move the needle forward again. Allow yourself time to become the person you want to be and allow the universe to participate in the process by noticing when external circumstances present themselves, giving you opportunities to step into your new persona.
Authenticity may take effort initially but once you have developed yourself in that way, it is unlikely that you will ever go back to being anyone but your true self. It will eventually seem like the simplest and most natural state of being, like the flower blooming in spring.