5 Things to Know About Living Authentically
We value authenticity, but living authentically is not always easy. Read on to to find out five important truths to help you live more authentically in the world.
Your only purpose is to be yourself, otherwise you deprive the universe of who you came here to be. ~ Anita Moorjani
Most of us would like to think we are authentic. I mean, what’s the alternative? We certainly wouldn’t want to think of ourselves as a phony. But what if I told you that none of us is authentic all the time? It’s true. All of us have played the “role,” code switched, lied, or denied our true essence at one time or another. And some of the reasons why we did it are understandable.
Perhaps we thought we had to be inauthentic to survive, survive a relationship for example. I once knew a woman who was miserable in her marriage. She put on the face of a happily married woman because to be divorced did not align with the picture she had of her life. She was afraid of how it might affect her social standing among friends. Being inauthentic was a survival tactic.
The work environment is a petri dish for studying authenticity. There are plenty of examples of high achievers who admit they play the game at work to get ahead. And sometimes we’ve been inauthentic in search of love and acceptance from people who matter to us. We want to please others, and in the process, we can lose ourselves.
The truth is, when we live detached from our true selves, when we are inauthentic, we will never be happy.
Each year for the past few years, I’ve chosen a theme word. The theme word is usually something that I want to be more present in my life or improve upon as part of my personal growth and development. In 2022, I chose Authenticity as my theme word. I chose it for two reasons, for myself and because several of my coaching clients and mentees seemed to struggle with knowing their true selves and having the courage to live authentically in the world. I wanted to help them increase their self-knowledge and to understand myself better as well.
Over the year, I immersed myself in learning about authenticity. I read books and articles by psychologists, listened to podcasts, watched videos, and talked to friends. But I didn’t make authenticity a theme word to fulfill some sort of experiment or study it as a concept. I wanted to live in alignment with my true self and help others do the same. As Anita Moorjani’s quote above tells us, learning to be our true selves is our only purpose. Otherwise, we deprive the world of our uniqueness and squander our reason for being here. And, we won’t be happy.
As with most of my prior theme words, learning to live authentically will be part of my lifelong journey because we choose authenticity moment by moment. I learned that. And here are a few other things to know about living authentically.
- At your genesis and your core, you are authentic. In his book, Authentic: How to Be Yourself and Why it Matters, Stephen Joseph writes: “We are born authentic. Authenticity is our natural state.” Newborns are not taught to be authentic. They just are. But we also understand the fragility of authenticity. Once we become self-aware and start interacting with others, we move away from authenticity. We start trying to be who others tell us we are. To get back to authenticity requires us to return to our true selves – to listen to our inner voice telling us who we are. We can only do that if we spend time with ourselves, in reflection and introspection. Then, accept who we are.
- Living inauthentically is a regrettable offense against oneself. In her book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, author and palliative nurse, Bronnie Ware, found that the most common regret of the dying was, “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” Who are you and what do you want? What are the dreams you have for your life? These are the perennial questions we must answer, then live. One of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver asked, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
- Authenticity is explicably connected to your happiness. Joseph also wrote, “The more we are able to be ourselves, the happier we will be. And the happier we are, the more we contribute to the betterment of those around us.” In The Way of Integrity: Finding the Path to Your True Self, Martha Beck wrote, “Integrity [authenticity] is the cure for unhappiness. Period.”
- To live authentically, is an intentional act. We choose authenticity. Lisa Kentgen, in An Intentional Life: Five Foundations of Authenticity & Purpose, identified Awareness, Reflecting, Choosing, Acting, and Allowing, as five factors that can help one to serve their authentic self. She said of Awareness, “Bringing increased awareness to everything you do is at the very core of being the central actor in your life.” It was psychologist Carl Rogers who put forth that authenticity is to be the author of one’s own life – to be the author in relationship to oneself and in relationship to others.
- Authenticity is truthfulness. In the end, authenticity is learning to be true to oneself and to others. Even the smallest lies matter. Beck writes, “Lying, like a ubiquitous blood-sucking insect, is insidious partly because it’s so small, so common, so nearly invisible. And lying enables every other type of evil.” She goes on to say what we all know, “Lies tend to proliferate: tell one, and we often end up needing several more to support it.” Even silence can be a lie. And the lies you tell yourself are the most grievous. When we are truthful, we discover our core selves – our authentic selves.
I’ve had this saying for a long time that, “I will not lie to myself.” It was a way in which I kept promises to myself. But unknowingly, I have lied to myself. Anytime I’ve denied who I am, what I want, and when I’ve remained silent when my heart knows I should speak up, I’ve been less than my authentic self. So, this authenticity journey is a moment-by-moment experience. In every moment, I get to, you get to make a choice. Will we be our authentic selves in this moment? And every time we say “yes,” and we are, it becomes easier to be authentic the next time.
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With love and authenticity,
Learn My Story