“The authentic self is soul made visible.” – Sarah Ban Breathnach
“To be nobody but myself-in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make me somebody else-means to fight the hardest battle any human can fight, and never stop fighting.” – e.e. cummings
“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” – Joseph Campbell
A big part of our spiritual and personal growth journey is learning how to be more authentic. You absolutely cannot live in the flow of your life if you are not standing firm in your authenticity.
So, what exactly is authenticity?
Authenticity is being true to who you are in all the ways you communicate and express yourself. It’s fully living your truth in all aspects of your life. It’s when you are outwardly in sync with who you are at your core – your inner self. Simply put, it’s having the courage to follow and express your heart and soul.
When you’re being authentic – you’re real, you’re true to your values, you’re honest, and you’re fully living your truth as you know it.
Here’s why being authentic is so important:
1. Being authentic is essential to your joy and fulfillment.
I have said that joy and fulfillment comes from mindfully living in your flow or what I also call your authentic power which is the alignment of your inner life (your soul ) with your outer life (your way of being in the world). In other words, you experience flow when you align your outer life with your inner life – when you are authentic. You’ll never be happy living anything but your own truth. It really is that simple.
Intuitively we know this is true but it is often hard for us to live our truth because we fear rejection or criticism. We also think those we care the most about will deny us their love or acceptance if they knew the truth about who we really are. But wouldn’t the people who love you want you to be happy? The answer is yes and even if they don’t act like it, you deserve your own experience of joy and fulfillment which is grounded in your truth and authenticity regardless of who or what others think you should be or do.
2. Our children need to see us being authentic.
Our children first learn how to be authentic from us. Not only should we allow our children to express themselves and honor their inner voice, preferences and longings but they should see us honor those things within ourselves. They need to know that it is okay to be themselves and to march to their own beat which can be taught by being an example for them. And they certainly need to get this message before they become teenagers who are highly influenced by their peers and the media to be something other than who they are.
Kids, especially teenagers are constantly receiving messages and images telling them it’s cool to be this way or that. The influences and pressures around them are sometimes so strong they find it hard to resist them and they end up being and doing things out of desperation to be cool and liked, which leads to them becoming inauthentic adults who’d rather please and get the approval of others than express their own truth which only leads to a lifetime of unhappiness and regret. Sounds dreadful, doesn’t it?
As a mother I so believe in the power of being authentic and the message it sends to our children when we demonstrate our own authentic power. They get to see us being happy and fulfilled because we have followed our own path and truth. We have demonstrated that living on our own terms is the only way to be happy and whole. Carl Jung said, “What usually has the strongest psychic effect on the child is the life which the parents have not lived.” So live your truth so your children have permission to live theirs.
3. Making inauthentic choices and not speaking or living your truth blocks your flow.
Trust me when I say making inauthentic choices and not living your truth will only make getting what you truly want an uphill battle. In fact, not only will life feel like a constant struggle but you will be living someone else’s life and not your own when you don’t follow your heart and your inner voice telling you what’s right for you.
It’s sad but true that we often make choices that don’t really match our true desires and intentions out of fear, out of a sense of practicality, or because of the expectation others have of us and then we wonder why we are so unhappy.
It’s because being inauthentic really means you are going against your flow. You’re swimming against the current of your life, struggling to make something happen only to find it extremely difficult to manifest your desires despite your efforts. But what you don’t realize is that your efforts are fruitless if you are holding back parts of yourself or if your choices in the first place are not congruent with your values, your purpose and your truth.
Do yourself a favor and align your outer choices with your inner truth so that your life can truly flow.
4. The truth will set you free.
This is especially true of someone who is gay and living in the closest but this applies to all of us. Many of us are living in the closet regarding something we haven’t had the courage to share with the world or someone we care about and love.
My closet secret has been that my mother until recently didn’t know anything about the work I’m doing or that I truly consider myself a writer and teacher. Because of this secret there has always been an elephant in the room of unspoken truths. To say it’s been stressful is an understatement. But I’ve also realized that I’ve been blocking my own flow by not fully sharing this major part of my life. I’ve had my reasons for protecting this sacred part of my life but I’ve also known deep down how important it is that the real me stand up and tell my mother “I’m a writer and a messenger of truths” if I ever wanted to truly be free to show up fully and own my purpose and calling. Unfortunately my mother did not find out any of this through some courageous act on my part. It was more like she stumbled upon it but now that it’s out there I feel free none the less. I no longer have to hide who I am and what matters to me.
The bottom line is that we are who we are and trying to live according to someone else’s expectation or hiding to keep up a secret about who we are just isn’t worth the stress and misery. FREE YOURSELF and save yourself from the agony and bondage of secrets by openly BEING YOU NOW.
So how do you live your most authentic life?
Being authentic is about knowing who you are and what you want and taking a stand for it. Here is some guidance on what you need to do to express your authenticity and gain confidence in being the REAL YOU!
1. Ask yourself, what’s true for you?
You get to decide what’s true for you, not your family history, not other people, not past programming and beliefs. Only you can know what speaks to your heart and soul. Only you can know what your true values are, what your purpose in life is, and what your deepest desires are.
So you must ask yourself, “What is true for me?” and then you must examine if you are living your truth or if you are living someone else’s wishes for you.
It is real easy to get caught up in other people’s expectations and what the world around you values but at the end of the day living by someone else’s values and truth is not going to make you happy and it certainly isn’t going to allow you to fulfill your purpose and passions. So ask yourself, what are your truest desires and then follow your heart.
2. Block out the noise.
No one else can tell you how to live your life, because no one else knows you better than you know yourself. So everyone else’s opinion and misguided advice about your life is just noise. Block it out and focus on what’s really true for you. You must ignore the voices all around you telling what they think you should do and be and this goes for your own inner Saboteur which speaks to you out of fear. The voices telling you to do the opposite of what feels right for you are going to be there but you have to be strong and diligent enough to block it all out and follow your own soul’s voice which will never steer you wrong.
3. Be unreasonable.
Take a stand and be unreasonable. If it feels right for your life and truly inspired then be unreasonable about doing whatever you are inspired to do, be, or have. When there are people who are saying it’s impossible or unrealistic or crazy then be crazy and do it anyway. It’s okay to stand firm in your choices even when you don’t yet see how everything will work out because the Divine celebrates and acknowledges authenticity. You will find a way.
4. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not unless you’re a professional actor.
We all have our own unique talents and gifts and of course way of being in the world. We each have our own purpose to fulfill. Hopefully you have spent a great deal of time reflecting on who you are and what your purpose is. If you have then you know what your talents and strengths are and that’s what you need to offer the world – YOUR special gifts.
So stick to your own script because you know your part better than you know someone else’s role in the world. As Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.” Besides you will always be a better you than you would someone else whose talents and gifts you don’t have.
5. Let your values guide you.
We all have a set of values whether we are consciously aware of them or not. If you’re not clear of what your values are I would say take some time to get clear and then let them guide you in making authentic choices based on what’s most important to you.
Anything you do in life should be measured against your values. In other words, your life choices should be in alignment with what really matters to you.
If family is a value on the top of your list you shouldn’t be making decisions that don’t take your family in consideration. If health is a top value of yours, you shouldn’t make decisions that would be harmful or detrimental to your health.
Living an authentic life is hugely connected to your values and if you are taking action that betrays your values you are not being authentic.
If you need help determining your values read this post by Steve Pavlina on living your values. He gives a very thorough and excellent explanation on setting values and living them in a two part article – Part I and Part II. Please take some time to read them and use his process for getting clear about your own values.
6. Practice. Practice. Practice.
I haven’t yet read Mike Robbins book, Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken, but I did listen to a recent TED Talk he did on authenticity. I recommend you check it out. You’ll learn that authenticity takes courage but it also takes practice and it’s not always easy.
I am certainly aware of how hard it is sometimes to live an authentic life. It is something I struggle with all the time. But I am very clear that it is something I must practice if I want to be happy and fulfilled in my own life and if I want my children to confidently live their own authentic life. So I continue to pursue my truth and when I’m not living it I must self-correct and not beat myself up because it’s all part of the lesson. Even being inauthentic teaches me what doesn’t work for me so I will know better next time. It’s called gaining wisdom through experience and what’s more authentic than that.
Let me know your own insights about authenticity and how you struggle with being your most authentic self. We can all learn from each others experiences. Then tweet, pin, like, or google+ this post and share it with others.
Updated: September 19, 2013