“To be authentic, we must cultivate the courage to be imperfect — and vulnerable. We have to believe that we are fundamentally worthy of love and acceptance, just as we are. I’ve learned that there is no better way to invite more grace, gratitude and joy into our lives than by mindfully practicing authenticity.”— Brené Brown
I’m so tired of the New Year mantra! Every January the same verbiage rolls around – change this, do this, try this, be this…it’s exhausting. And, it makes us question if we are good enough. How about the encouragement to just be ourselves? Is anyone practicing that anymore? Braving the moment by throwing down the armor, stories, labels and masks to have the freedom to be the person who is left standing there – that is all the resolve we need! Being is what we need to encourage each other to practice, not doing.
What does being our authentic self mean anyway?
Authenticity starts when we set the intention to be genuine with an awareness of what that feels like. Then, the willingness to act congruently with our values even when it feels vulnerable or uncomfortable. The courage to be imperfect and accept that you are human. The ability to make unpopular decisions so that you can live a more open and honest life.
What Authenticity Looks Like
- Being open to the moment.
- Accepting of ourselves and others.
- Allowing ourselves to wholeheartedly fail, without judgment, and grow from our mistakes.
- Practicing kindness in a genuine way and having true compassion towards others.
- Being who we are and not a false version of who we think we should be or how others want us to be.
- Making decisions based on what aligns best with our own values.
- Staying true to our path without comparing ourselves to others.
It can be confusing, at first, to truly be our authentic selves. We have roles that we all play in our lives at work, in social engagements, with friends, family, etc. These roles effect the way we make decisions and can suppress our true nature out of fear for what others will think. When we make decisions based on what we think someone else would do, we are too focused on being judged and we aren’t being the authentic version of ourselves. Making decisions that work best for us, regardless of other people’s opinions, means we are respecting our authentic self. It does not mean we are selfish or don’t care about others. Being authentic simply puts us in a position to make choices that complement our preferences.
Ways to start practicing being your authentic self:
1. Start with being you, without apology.
Stop attaching to any thoughts or opinions that make you feel selfish or that you are going to disappoint someone. Exploring things that speak to us is critical because only then can we practice being truly authentic. Stand up for what you believe in, practice voicing your opinion and remember that you are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. You have your own unique flavor – drink it up – you don’t need to apologize for it.
2. Stop seeking outside validation.
You do not need validation from anyone to prove your worth because you are worthy just as you are. Furthermore, you don’t need approval for the decisions that you make in your life when they align with your values. Practice shifting the focus internally and respect what is truly there. Authenticity comes from within.
3. Let go of the opinions of others.
We have many old, negative beliefs about ourselves that were handed to us by the opinions of others. Over time, these opinions have become our reality. When we are stuck in someone else’s reality, we can’t possibly make space for our own authentic nature. Let go of the opinions of others and resolve to breathe in more of who you really are. You can read more about the courage to be disliked here.
4. Listen to your instincts.
You know those little feelings inside that nudge you in a certain way? Listen to those feelings and instincts. When we are thinking about someone and are worried that they won’t want to hear from us because it’s been too long since we’ve connected; listen to that instinct and reach out anyway. When dinner with friends is on the calendar and we don’t have the energy, we can honor that by staying home and resting. Listen to that inner voice. When there is a class or workshop that sounds fun but others might look at us weird; explore the urge to be true to you and take the class anyway. Listening to those little feelings is so important, because that is our soul talking. That is where authenticity resides!
5. Accept your personality traits.
We all know if we like crowds or prefer small, intimate gatherings. We know if we like to take charge or let someone else lead, or if we like to take risks or play it safe. It’s important to recognize and honor these truths about ourselves. Own your authentic self and stop hiding in a false sense of self.
6. Stop comparing yourself to others.
You are not your sister, mother, friend, co-worker, boss, teacher, student, etc. You are you! And, you are enough. We are all unique. So, why would we want to be someone else? We each have our own dreams and goals, our own intentions and ideas, and our own experiences and values. Comparing ourselves to others is not a productive way to be who we truly are. Spend that energy on being your authentic self instead.
The journey to authenticity starts with you, just the way you are. It takes a lot of courage to stand in your truth and be who you are. Encouraging you to rise up and brave the challenge!