Authenticity. It’s about being real. It’s about knowing yourself. It’s about courageously confronting the parts of yourself that don’t fit with your vision of you. Authenticity can be a moral compass that directs your actions toward your own true north. It’s a feeling of being comfortable in our own skin. Yet as much as we understand this in theory, being authentic is one of the hardest things to do in practice. Think about how many people you know who are in your mind truly authentic. If you’re lucky, there are a handful of people who you can name. Now think about times when you have felt authentic. You may be one of the special few, who always feel confident in your ability to interact with the world from a solely authentic place, but most of us have to work at it regularly. There are areas where we shine our authentic selves like a bright light in a dark universe, and if we are being authentic, we also know that there are places that we still need work to grow the light. Most of us still have the dark closet or corner where our fear gets triggered.
Like any other trait, authenticity is an aspect of ourselves that we can develop. Part of that development comes from acknowledging who we are and that we want to become more authentic. When I was 18, I looked at myself and saw a person that I didn’t like. I saw a lot of negative qualities in myself and I focused on them. While I wasn’t a mean or bad person, I wasn’t very compassionate, or forgiving, I was often afraid, I was at times reactive and this didn’t fit with the type of person I really wanted to become. I pretty consciously decided that I needed to determine what sort of person I did want to grow into. I began to develop a picture of who I wanted to be. This included an inventory of my values and these values became the map I actually wanted travel by. These are not the values that we may say to other people because we think they are right or appropriate. These are the values that live in our truest hearts. I decided that I wanted to be an authentic person, honest about who I am and courageous enough to share that. The more I worked on authenticity, the more I needed to have compassion with myself, and the more I shifted my negative self talk. The more I could explore my strengths, the more clearly I saw myself honestly, and the easier it was to act or respond in ways that deepened my ability to be authentic. It was a positive growth circle.
I taught anger management for years and one of the hardest things I saw people struggle with was the willingness to be honest and vulnerable. We spend so much time worried about other people’s judgments of us, and fearing that we might be taken advantage of, that we stop ourselves from being fully present in relationships. The truth is that we often judge our insides by other people’s outsides, yet it’s our own opinions of ourselves that matter. Our view of ourselves is the guideline that every other person will use with us too.
There are steps that will put you on the path, as you journey, you grow.
Steps to developing your authentic self:
- Knowing yourself
- Understanding your deep values
- Recognizing your triggers
- Developing compassion for yourself and others
- Focusing where you have influence
- Willingness to be vulnerable
- Ability to acknowledge your feelings
- A willingness to not know everything
- Giving yourself permission to let go of yesterday and its mistakes
- Learn to clearly speak to your truth
- Being willing to let go of the idea of perfection
- Recognition that you are courageous
What developing your authentic self gives you:
- A feeling of empowerment in you life and your choices
- Breakthrough’s that allow you to push through resistances (fears)
- Ability to trust yourself and then to trust others
- Map to find your tribe of people
My favorite people to work with are the ones who want to forge themselves. Are you a person who is willing to be brave and face your life with authenticity?