How to be authentic and true to yourself
Do you ever feel like you’re not showing your true self to the world? Do you try hard to project a self-image that is “more acceptable” to your surroundings? Do you go through life with the idea that you should be someone everyone will love?
The truth is, it is an illusion that social approval can bring us genuine happiness without first accepting ourselves as enough.
We are conditioned from early childhood, depending on our culture and surroundings, to seek out certain attributes that have a “higher” value. We are taught that being accepted, loved, happy and fulfilled all depend on possessing characteristics that are socially desired.
These desired attributes often include education, talents, hobbies, physical appearance, academic and business success, finances, and personal relationships, all of which are valued based on a set of invisible standards. Add to all this the pressure of having to be happy, stress-free and mindful, and you find yourself in an impossible situation of trying to reach something that is unattainable.
Shutting down our need to be loved is impossible, but how do we make this road easier?
Authenticity is a topic that is currently discussed at length. Often, it is made equal to being exceptional, but this only brings us back to the beginning. Exceptional at what? Fitting in?
In reality, authenticity should stand for all the things that set you apart from others. This is a unique set of characteristics and experiences that make you who you are.
Being authentic should actually mean being prepared not to be accepted.
A large part of growing up is spent focusing on the question of how to be enough. For me, this process lasted 16 years. Some people will take less time to figure themselves out, while others will need more. What is universal to everyone, however, is that growing up actually means not trying to be good enough, but realizing that we were born good enough.
We waste our time, energy, even money, wondering how to fit in and trying to become what we have been taught is acceptable. What we often forget is that one of the main human needs isn’t to be accepted – it is to belong. In his theory of human motivation (1943), Abraham Maslov didn’t speak about love and acceptance. Instead, he identified love and belonging as one of the basic human needs. We need to be loved and we need to belong, whether it is by and to our families, friends, intimate and romantic relationships, or even our community.
To belong means to connect with others in our surroundings, who know us for what we are.
It doesn’t require us to fit in or become something that is required of us:
“Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.’’
In order to be authentic, it is first important to love ourselves.
To love and accept all of the things that make us different from others, and then to be brave enough to show those things to the world. It may sound simple, but oftentimes, we rely on behaviors that stop us from doing this exact thing. How can we help this?
Questioning habits that stand in our way can be a useful tool in our quest for authenticity. So is figuring out what we can do to change those habits.
Usually, these learned behaviors are developed and acquired with the aim to protect us from being hurt. What this means is that daring to be authentic also means daring to be hurt. We cannot affect the way in which people will react to our authenticity, the same way we cannot prepare ourselves for defense in advance. After all, we should not have to defend our authenticity at all – the world is huge, and there’s plenty of space in it for anyone to belong. I was inspired to study these questions by Brené Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. She taught me to identify the behaviors that were stopping me from being who I am, as well as knowing that I am enough. Perhaps she will inspire you as well:
’’Again, after years of research, I’m convinced that we all numb and take the edge off. The question is, does our _______________ (eating, drinking, spending, gambling, saving the world, incessant gossiping, perfectionism, sixty-hour workweek) get in the way of our authenticity? Does it stop us from being emotionally honest and setting boundaries and feeling like we’re enough? Does it keep us from staying out of judgment and from feeling connected? Are we using _____________ to hide or escape from the reality of our lives?’’
We all have to face our behaviors and questions regarding authenticity. What we need to ask ourselves is what we are ready to do about it. Do we require support, and if yes, from whom?
IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR A WAY TO NOT ONLY ACCEPT YOUR UNIQUE CHARACTERISTICS BUT TO MAKE THE ABSOLUTE MOST OF THEM ON YOUR WAY TO SUCCESS, YOU CAN SCHEDULE YOUR FIRST COACHING SESSION WITH ME FOR FREE.
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Disclosure: The links referring to Brown Brené’s book, in this article, are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click thought and make a purchase of the book.