We’re often told to “be authentic” in order to be happy. But what does that mean? How does it serve us? And how do we be authentic anyway? Here are some of my thoughts…
What is authenticity?
Authenticity is “of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine” or “person, object, or emotion is genuine.”
- Not fake or false
Being authentic means not hiding, shrinking, lying, changing, reshaping, puffing up, or neglecting who you really are.
Why authenticity matters
Being authentic, real, true to you is empowering. It gives you confidence. Freedom. Respect. Power. Honesty. And more.
When you are the real you, you never need to worry or hide or be on edge about what you really think or feel.
When you are the real you, you attract the right people to you. You find belonging, true communal belonging, instead of hustling for worthiness by trying to fit in with the wrong people.
You free yourself from pressure, expectation, rules, systems, boxes, labels, and more and you’re suddenly just liberated; free to just be.
Sounds like bliss to me!
Here’s how to be authentic…
Unlearn what you were told to be
“There is this ideal of what you’re supposed to be, and a lot of us end up orphaning the parts of ourselves that don’t fit with that ideal.” – Brene Brown
It’s not your fault. Most of us are taught how we should act, what we should do, and what’s right or wrong from a young age. We never question these teachings because they come from a person with authority: our parental figures, elders, teachers, politicians, doctors, people on TV and so on.
But what if I told you that it’s not true? Not all of it, anyway.
It is for each of us to decide what is real and true and important for our own lives. Living is a personal venture! We may share similar paths, but there is no rulebook. No one-size-fits-all way of living and being.
And so, you do you!
Actively take the time to witness and analyse what you have been taught about life, the world, and yourself. What are your beliefs and are they actually serving you? Are they accurate, fair, or valuable to you and your personal wants and needs? No? Then adjust!
Remove society from your thoughts
If you allow yourself to worry too much about society’s norms, you’re guaranteed to become conflicted about who you are. You begin to think of yourself and your choices as ticks in boxes on a sheet.
- Mixed Black and White Carribean – Tick
- Straight Female – Tick
- Writer – Tick
- Kind person – Tick
- British – Tick
- Educated – …
And then, you start to think that you and your life choices need to fit into these neat boxes. You never explore your sexuality because you best stay in your box. You never behave in the way you want to behave because your ethnicity shouldn’t act that way. You never branch out and do other things because you better stay in your lane and keep doing the job you studied and worked for.
No, no, no!
Just be! Be you. Explore you. Grow.
Just do what feels right and natural and exciting. Don’t worry about labels, expectations, or norms. You don’t need to fit into boxes and wear labels with their list of traits and assumptions. Labels suck!
Free yourself. Let society slip from your mind by throwing out the labels and must-dos.
Get to know yourself
You can’t really, truly be authentic if you don’t even know who you are. Many of us live our lives on autopilot, just doing and talking and reacting without being aware of it. Instead, think about how great life could be if you knew who you were!
You’d be more confident, empowered, genuine, free, strong, and informed. Knowing yourself helps you to understand why you do what you do, why you want what you want, and how to live your best life.
Take some time to get to know yourself:
- Quiet time & Alone time – You can’t really know yourself if you’re never alone with yourself! Incorporate time alone into your routine. Meditation is a good one, but you can do this however suits you. As long as you’re quiet, still, and alone, you are bound to introspect and reflect, which helps you to tap into thoughts, feelings, and emotions that give an insight into who you really are.
- Journal & Documentation – This is my favourite as it has helped me learn things about myself on a deeper level. Write about how you feel and what has happened. Then, take a moment to analyse it; Why did it occur? What was it really about? Patterns will manifest and provide information about who you are and what you regularly do.
- Self-awareness and Attention – Simply, you need self-awareness in order to learn about yourself and your life. Pay attention to your day-to-day and come at it with a curious mindset. What does this mean? Do I really do that? Why?
Give yourself self-worth
Self-worth is not something that just happens or is given to you; it’s a practice. You need to actively practice giving yourself worth regularly.
Check out my post on self-worth here.
When you place your worth in someone or something else’s hands, you are stealing from yourself every day. You’re saying that your worth is up for debate. That it is something you win or lose. Something that’s on trial.
No, no, no!
You are worthy, simple.
Give that power back to yourself. Your worth is not determined by some ridiculous points based system on how much money you make, what you own, what you drive, how hard you work, what you achieve, what you look like, what you create, or other.
YOU ARE GOOD AND VALUABLE AND WORTHY AS YOU ARE.
To be authentic and true to you is to never give the power of determining your self-worth to anyone else.
Be intentional and mindful in your decisions
Why are you doing or saying or acting the way you are? Are you wearing your hair that way because you want to and you like it, or because you think you’ll fit in and look prettier that way? Are you studying that course because you enjoy it or want to pursue it, or because your friends are or your parents want you to?
Authentic decisions come from a place of real intention and self-truth. We often do things without thinking or without actually knowing the why behind it. This is down to emotional decision making, or basing our decisions on society or the opinions of others, or through thoughtless schema-based decisions on what you think is right or expected or normal.
But sometimes in life, things aren’t that simple.
I bet many of us grew up believing in this golden formula:
Good Education – Good Job – Good Money – Married – Family – Retire – Die Happy
Thankfully, many people have come along to prove that this isn’t the only way to be happy and successful in life. But it is the way to ensure that everyone around you agrees with your choices! Society, your parents, and your peers are likely to accept and validate this formula if you live this way. It’s tried and true, after all!
But authentic living means going against the grain if it doesn’t feel right for you. It means letting go of expectation and what others think (as mentioned before). It’s about getting clear on your intentions and being mindful of your decisions when you’re taking steps in life.
How to be intentional and mindful:
- Self-awareness – I’ve already touched on this. Being aware of what you do, think, and want and then using that information to be more purposeful about your decisions.
- Taking your time – Rushing and reacting is the opposite of mindfulness and intention. Instead, take your time. Look within. Breathe. What do you want, need, or value? How can you make the right decisions that suit those wants and needs?
- Write it out – It’s good to write things down. Not only does it help you understand and see clearly, it also serves as a reminder when confused or conflicted. I’ve written out life mission statements and my truths to remind me when I’m feeling lost or in doubt that “this is what I want and need and everything must be in service to that.”
- Know your why – Don’t just do and act, think about why! Why study that course? Why move to that city? Why date that girl? Why run that business? Why? If you know why, you know whether it’s authentic and You, or inauthentic and coming from somewhere else.
- Self-talk – It’s not just society that’s against us, unfortunately, it’s also our worst critic: Ourselves. Be aware of your self-talk. What are you saying to yourself on a regular basis? Is it affecting your actions, beliefs and decisions? If so, rewire your thoughts. Use a mantra or reminder that you know who you really are and what you want and the negative self-talk is inauthentic and not true. This will help you make decisions with intention because you’re mindful of the thoughts behind them.
- Belief system analysis – Question your beliefs. Question what you have come to accept as real and true. This will help you to reset (or set) intentions with real, strong, true foundations.
- Knowing what you really want – Of course, you must first take some time to get clear on what you actually want (see above) if you want to be intentional in your decision making.
Being authentic can be difficult at times, but once you start trying to make it your life, you realise that it is easier than trying to fit in, impress, or simply be something that you’re not.
Authenticity is all about:
- Mindset – Rewiring how you think about the world, your life, and yourself.
- Decisions – Making decisions with real purpose and intention.
- Inner truth – Knowing who you are and what is of value to you and servicing that.
- Expression – Wearing your inside on the outside and creatively sharing yourself with peers who deserve, appreciate, respect and value the real you.
- Vision – Having an image of what you want your life to be and who you want to be and working towards that; not because it’s what’s right or expected, but because it was the message of your spirit all along.
Are you living authenticly?
If you need any help in bettering your mental health, or better coping with anxiety, depression, and stress, then my book “You’re As Mad As I Am” may be for you. Check it out here, and download a free sample to see what it’s all about.
If you want to hire me to write about mental health (or other), then don’t hesitate to get in touch!