10 Ways To Develop Authentic Self
By: Poonam Sharma, Ph.D
Very young children exude authenticity. They speak their minds, express their
emotions generously, and radiate tremendous energy. They are comfortable in
their own skin and delight in their own uniqueness and that of others. We can’t
help but be drawn to these wonderful qualities.
Over time, life has a way of chipping away at our authenticity. The world
continually bombards us with messages about how we must behave in order to be
accepted. Our parents teach us the things we have to do to be a “good” boy
or girl. The media tells us how to dress, what to eat, and how to be “cool.”
What’s “in fashion” changes constantly, so it's hard work to keep up.
This sea of influence around us makes it all to easy to lose touch with
ourselves. Do you still know exactly what you like and don’t like? Do you
still feel comfortable voicing your opinions openly? Do you dress in ways that
feel right to you? Or are you so out of touch with yourself that you
automatically transform yourself to gain acceptance?
There certainly is no shame in wanting to fit in or to belong. It is a very
human need that runs deep within all of us. For those who have been hurt by
others, acceptance may be exactly what we need to start healing. However, the
danger is that when we regularly sacrifice our true selves for this acceptance,
we start to live a lie. As with all lies, they take a tremendous amount of
energy to sustain.
Putting a false self out there day after day drains you emotionally,
physically, and spiritually. “Faking it” over and over can lead to deep
sadness, feelings of emptiness, and a sense of being alone. Sadly, the fear of
rejection can keep your true self imprisoned within you. By living
inauthentically, we all support a “cookie cutter” culture where none of us
really feel free to express the real person within us.
Finding Your True Self
To experience life fully, you must get back in touch with your real self.
Start by asking yourself some very basic questions, such as:
*Who am I when no one else is around?
*Who am I when others are present?
*What is most important to me?
*Do I behave in ways that reflect my values?
*Do I typically express my true feelings?
*When do I feel most comfortable showing up as myself?
*When do I have a tendency to run and hide? Why?
*What price do I pay when I’m not real?
*When do I feel energized?
*If I could be myself all the time, what would my life look like?
Answers to these questions can give you important clues about how much work
it will take to excavate your true self. For some people, the real self has been
hurt so early in life that their work is less about excavation and more about
having a chance to develop an authentic self in the first place.
Certainly, learning to express your true self takes courage and involves some
emotional risk. Not everyone will be comfortable with the “real” you. You
may lose some relationships in the process, but most likely you will find that
these are relationships that tend to drain you anyway.
10 Ways to Develop Authenticity
Try these tips for developing the real you:
1. Risk telling a friend or loved one what you really think next time you are
asked your opinion.
2. When you are with a group that is trying to make a decision, let your true
choice be heard.
3. Find a safe way to practice expressing your real thoughts and feelings,
such as in a journal or to your pet.
4. Think of one thing you’ve never told anyone else and share it with
someone who is usually supportive of you.
5. Make a list of your core values and determine if your life reflects them.
6. Do more of the things that bring energy into your life.
7. Take some quiet time to meditate or reflect, so you can be more in touch
with your inner voice.
8. Develop a talent you have secretly wished you had.
9. The next time a friend or family member asks you how you are doing, tell
them the truth.
10. Accept people that seem a little different. They may be working on being
themselves, just like you.
The rewards of authenticity are having integrity, a sense of serenity, and
abundant energy for the things that you love most!
The interesting thing is that the more authentic you are willing to be, the
more you will draw other authentic people to your life as well. Being part of a
community of people who are willing to be real with one another frees everyone
up to focus on what is truly important in their lives.