What it means to be your authentic self | Center for Growth Therapy

What it means to be your authentic self?

Jennifer , MS, LPC, PHD — Clinical director

Authentic self means:

Being your true authentic self means what you say in life aligns with what your actions. Your authentic self goes beyond what you do for a living, what possessions you own, or who you are to someone (mom, brother, girlfriend). It is who you are at your deepest core. It is about being true to yourself through your thoughts, words, and actions, and having these three areas match each other. When we aren’t in touch with our authentic self, it’s easy to go into “people pleasing” mode and do and say things based off of what is expected of us, or based off of social and peer pressure.

What can happen when you’re not living as your authentic self:

Keep in mind, your authentic self is completely different from what our society encourages these days, which is leading with your best self. There is a time and place for presenting our best self: job interview, first dates, etc. However, when we lead with our best self too often, that can leave us editing and managing very real and unique aspects of who we truly are, leaving behind our authenticity. For example, on websites like Pinterest and Facebook, people share creatives ideas, pictures of their new home, or pictures on vacation, or latest updates about the cute things their kids are doing. What you will likely not see is pictures of how they burned their cookies on their first attempt of a new recipe, or pictures of how messy that new home gets, or the really annoying things their kids are also doing. This kind of “life editing” can be a slippery slope to trying to reach perfection, and losing your true sense of self. I like this idea that intimacy is presenting the full you…. And online, or an interview you are only presenting a “real” you but only the positives. People tend to live their life based on obligations, roles and expectations, and a lot of “should’s.” This can prevent you from living in the moment and focusing on what isn’t in your life, rather than what is, or focusing too much on the next step.

Risks to being your authentic self:

When considering anything new, it’s important to assess the advantages and the risks. Here are some of the risks that come with leading with your authenticity:

  • People won’t like you.
  • People won’t accept the real you.
  • People will judge you.
  • Your feelings might get hurt.
  • You lose control. You can’t control how people will respond to your authenticity and honesty.
  • Overall, you are more vulnerable to the unknown.

What is the benefit of being your authentic self

When we are authentic, we stay true to ourselves, and who we genuinely are. We are present in the here and now. We do what makes us happy, we follow our passions regardless of who we disappoint, or how it may be perceived by others. Living a life of authenticity is a constant effort, and means sacrifice. Not everyone in our lives will respond well to our authentic self, because of how it may impact them. We have the opportunity for others to love us and accept us for who we are at our core. When we are being authentic, we are being vulnerable; we are showing all parts of us, the good with the bad. When we do this, we allow for more intimate and honest relationships, and we allow for true acceptance and unconditional love.

How do you know if you are being authentic?

You know you are being authentic when:

  • Your job gives you a sense of purpose or fulfillment, rather than feeling drained and lacking energy .
  • You believe your relationships are based off of honesty, and genuine respect for who we truly are.
  • When out in social situations, you feel as though you are presenting the real you, rather than someone you’re not.
  • You’re unsure of how others will respond to you, but regardless you are proud of who are and who you are being.

Have you been convinced to be the more authentic you, but don’t know where to start? Here are 5 simple steps you can take to start being your more authentic self today.

  • Take a vacation from social media (COMPLETELY!) for two weeks. This will help remove the peer pressure, and will help you in decreasing the habit of “life editing.”
  • Decipher between should’s and wants. Monitor your use of these two words. When you catch yourself using the word “should” consider taking that activity off the table for the week. At lease use this opportunity to ask yourself why are you really doing/or agreeing to this particular thing? Should implies doing things based off of obligation, or based on how others will respond. You can’t control how others will react. Doing things based on others is not a good way to make life choices.
  • Journal and track. Take out a pen and record. What does it feel like when you are more authentic vs when you are “presenting?” Do you notice anything physically or emotionally different? Do feel happy or guilty when you are being authentic, or are you tired? Does your breathing patterns change at all? Do you notice an appetite change or headaches? Are your thought patterns different? Are your thoughts more positive, negative, are you more or less focused on materialistic things? There are differences, you just have to practice your awareness in identifying them.
  • The next time someone casually asks you in passing, “How are you today?” Really think about your answer before you so quickly blurt out, “Great! you?” Ask yourself “Am I really ‘great?’ Maybe i’m just ‘fine’ or ‘hanging in there.’ It’s a simple interaction, but it’s an easy moment to be people pleasing and give a really empty answer.
  • Volunteer. Before you go and question if this conflicts with the “should theory,” pick an issue you care about, or you were always curious about but never took it a step further. Use this as an opportunity to give back and show gratitude for your life, but do this through an activity or organization that helps you feel passion. Beware, it sounds easier than it really is. You are being asked to be a cause that speaks to you, not to pick a cause that has the most headlines right now, or how it will look to those on the outside.

And remember, the goal is to work towards being more authentic, not being 100% authentic over night. Developing and revealing our authenticity is a process, it takes time. When in doubt, ask yourself if your thoughts and feelings match your behaviors, that is where the true authenticity lies.

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