A well-known poet, E.E. Cummings, once wrote, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” To truly live as your truest, most honest and most authentic self does take courage. It’s easy to fall in line with the pack, to just go with the flow and compromise to satisfy others. To stand behind each and every one of your thoughts and actions can feel more difficult. Living an inauthentic life, however, rarely leads to happiness. If you feel that you are ready (and needing) to make a change in the way you interact with others as well as yourself, please keep reading. Once you have made the decision to stop molding your thoughts and actions after those of the people around you, and to allow your authentic self to shine, nothing is more important than consistency and repetition. It will take practice to avoid exchanging your true feelings for the feeling you think you should feel based on others’ opinions, so you must be ready to fully commit for this to work. If you do, I promise that you will feel a level of happiness, self-assuredness and purposefulness that you never imagined was possible.
Now that you’ve committed to making this important (and rewarding!) change, it’s time to take action. The top six steps to living more authentically in every aspect of life are:
1. Practice Self-Awareness and Forgiveness
Gaiam Life blog describes so well the value of self-awareness in living an authentic life. It says, “Authenticity starts when you set the intention to be genuine. Then, there must be an awareness of what that looks and feels like, and a willingness to act in accordance with your genuine nature even when it feels vulnerable.” Having the ability to recognize inauthenticity in yourself, and to acknowledge that the way you life your life directly impacts your happiness with that life, requires a level of self-awareness that many people refuse to allow themselves to experience.
Forgiveness, in my opinion, comes hand-in-hand with self-awareness. Recognizing fault in yourself, or even just a need for change, can leave you feeling crummy. You may feel that you’ve lived an inauthentic life for too many years and regret not having put in effort to change earlier. It’s okay to feel that way. Forgive yourself and move forward. Many, if not most, people go their entire lives playing different roles in different situations – never actually allowing their true selves shine. The fact that you’re seeking greater authenticity, at any point in life, should be celebrated. :)
2. Re-Evaluate (and Redefine) Your Values
In order to live more authentically and to ensure that every action you take works towards celebrating your true inner self, and achieving happiness, you need to take a serious look at your values. What did, or does, your “inauthentic” self value? Maybe it’s money. Perhaps it’s brand name clothing or the envy of friends. Is it your name on the door of a corner office? Or, is it the love and affection of people you’ve never even met? Ask yourself why these things matter. Challenge yourself to re-evaluate your former values and decide which, if any, belong in your new authentic life.
Once you’ve done this, ask yourself what you truly value. Is it the love of your significant other? A feeling of self-fulfillment? The ability and means to travel? Chances are, your “new” values may very well be connected to your former values. The difference you’ll likely find, however, is in the way you describe the values and the aspect of the value that now matters most to you. What financial success would enable you to do, for example, will likely become more important than financial success in and of itself.
3. Catch Yourself and Grow
Just like quitting smoking, cutting back on salt or sticking to an exercise regime – living a more authentic life is nearly impossible to do “cold turkey.” Rather, it takes time and plenty of practice. When you feel yourself doing or saying something inauthentic, note the situation and circumstances. This will allow you to better catch yourself the next time and may even show you a pattern you were unaware of before. For example, do you feel the need to play a certain role with a certain person? If so, there’s likely a reason that particular individual brings out your inauthentic self. You may find the need to work out differences with family or friends or to seek new friendships in your life altogether.
4. Seek Genuine Company
It’s often said that you are the sum of those with which you surround yourself – or at least the average. Once you’ve made the conscious decision to seek authenticity in all aspects of your life, it’s important to surround yourself with people who genuinely want to see you succeed. If your friends or coworkers leave you feeling jealous, down or tempted to shift to inauthenticity, you may no longer feel that those people serve your mission of genuine, authentic happiness. It can be incredibly difficult to evaluate your current relationships and make a decision to seek new company, but sometimes it’s necessary to move forward in your “new” version of life.
When seeking new friendships and relationships, look to people who have similar values to those that you set in Step 2. Seek self-aware, caring and authentic people. Finding truly exceptional relationships can take time, and it may feel that there are a limited number of people who share your values, but I assure you that the effort will be worth it.
5. Create a Daily Practice
Living authentically, in and of itself, is a daily practice. In all honesty, it’s a moment-by-moment movement. To rejuvenate your mind, body and soul, it can be helpful to establish a daily practice or ritual. The condition of your body affects that of your mind. Your ability to get a good night’s sleep affects your mind. Living authentically takes strength. It takes a clear conscious and refreshed state of being. Consider taking up yoga, meditation or another activity you feel calms and refreshes you. Having a ritual or practice to look forward to, each and every day, allows you to check in with yourself and evaluate your progress. After all, authentic living is a process and movement with no finite finish.
To your authenticity,