What it Means to Be The True You: Finding Your Authentic Self
The authentic self versus false self
So many people need to be happy and experience a life fulfilled with joy and bliss. One part of being happy consistently is through connecting with your authentic self. We stay true to who we are when we are authentic to ourselves. There is a level of congruence within us. Our inner world aligns with our outer world. What we think and believe matches what we say and do.
When we are authentic to ourselves we are free to do what makes us happy, regardless of whom we may disappoint. This allows us to live our lives in a place of inner harmony. Why? Because we are being honest with ourselves and in turn, honest with those around us. This practice supports us as we move from a stress-filled life filled with fear, anxiety, and apprehension to one fill with joy.
When we are hurting inside, instead of covering it over with a cheap smile, we should acknowledge it, honor it. We are not being authentic when we walk around pretending everything is fine when it is not. Numerous psychological studies have identified that being true to ourselves promotes a greater sense of well-being. It also improves our self-esteem which supports a better foundation for all of our relationships.
Being your authentic self versus people pleasing
Authentic people do not allow people or situations to change them. They do not worry about how they may be perceived by others. They do not live constrained by other people’s expectations or based upon what society considers normal. They honor themselves, their unique values, and perhaps even their weird idiosyncrasies that may not fall in alignment with mainstream values and social conventions. Authentic individuals march to the beat of a different drummer, their inner drummer. The beat they follow is sounded out based upon what they perceive as bringing them the happiness they desire.
People who are not in touch with their authentic selves can find themselves in ‘people pleasing’ mode where they do things that are expected of them based on external influences. Their thoughts, words, and actions are not a reflection of what they believe or feel inside.
People pleasers often think one thing and then say or do something else just to keep the peace. They go along to get along. They hide their true selves, their authentic selves so that they can experience love and acceptance and avoid rejection. This invalidation of self can only lead to unhappiness, especially if it is our primary way of interacting with others.
The mask of the in-authentic self
A child’s worldview is formed by his or her parents, caregivers, family, religion, or society. They teach us right from wrong, what is good or bad in all we think, feel, or do. Some children, for example, learn that it is impolite to put their elbows on the table while eating. They may find themselves still chastising themselves as an adult when they break this sacred dining rule.
Silly as this example sounds; our parents and caregivers instill in us a series of expectations that we unwittingly honor, support, or follow through on. Simply said, we are programmed into the right way of thinking – their way. These roles, obligations, or expectations have nothing to do with who we are and how we feel on the inside.
As children, we may have learned that by acquiescing, we will receive the love, approval, and acceptance we desire. We may also comply because we have discovered that doing what is expected of us saves us from embarrassment, abandonment, or the pain of rejection. Life is simpler if you do what is required rather than being your person.
The authentic self versus the false self
The more indoctrinated we become the more we forget about our authentic self. We instead live a life shrouded by what is called the ‘false self.’ The false self is not you. It is you wearing a Halloween mask made up of all of your life’s programming. The mask of the false self hides your authentic self from the world. For many of us, we have worn the mask of our false self for so long that we believe this is who we are or who we need to be.
Wearing the mask of the false self is exhausting. Trying to be someone we are not is stressful and can suck the life right out of you. But the truth of the matter, when you live your life in the role of the false self, it is deceiving. You are deceiving yourself and everyone around you. Many narcissists live their whole lives shrouded by their false self and are too afraid to take it off and expose to themselves, and the world, who they are inside.
Experiencing your authentic self
Your true, authentic self, lies deep within you. Oftentimes, it is covered with layer upon layer of other people’s opinions, their expectations, and your excuses of why things cannot be different. It can be uncomfortable revealing our true authentic selves because many times we are afraid to express who we are.
We often ignore our dreams because we believe it is more important to fill someone else’s thoughts of who we should be. The avid musician who finds themselves in a boring accounting job because they were taught to believe that they could not make any money playing music.
We often mistake the voice inside of ourselves that reminds us of all the things cannot do for our authentic self. It might beat us up for every slight mistake we make while telling us how flawed or selfish we are. This is not our authentic self speaking. This is the voice of the years of self-destructive programming that we have taken on that reminds you of who we are supposed to be and what we should be doing with our life. This voice talks you out of your dreams and keeping you from finding real and meaningful happiness.
Being your authentic self requires risk
Being your authentic self requires being honest with yourself. Most importantly, it takes courage. You might worry that people will not like you or will judge you if you say what you think or do what you want to do. You might be concerned that your decision might hurt someone’s feelings or your feelings might be hurt by them.
Is it possible that these things might happen? Sure. Anything is possible as we venture into the unknown. But even if you experience negative reactions from those around you, these situations will provide you with the opportunity to reevaluate what is going on. They will give you the chance to decide if it is helping you or hurting you, making you happy, or only providing a constant source of anxiety.
How to transform yourself and be more authentic
One would think that being your authentic self would be easy. One day you would just wake and begin doing what you want to do without the fear of criticism and judgment. Transforming yourself to live in honest congruence with yourself is a process. It requires that you become mindful of the conditioning that limits who you are in the first place.
As you begin to pay attention to what is going on inside, unwanted feelings and painful emotions may emerge. You may feel ashamed or guilty at first but that is just the process of breaking through the thoughts and beliefs that were never yours, to begin with. Then, as you begin honoring yourself for who you are and what you want, the discomfort will slowly start to disappear and make room for you to be you.
Life is too short to worry about what other people think, want, or need. Your job is to make yourself happy, not theirs. You can spend time taking care of everyone around you or you can spend time and energy pleasing yourself. This opens the door to pursuing your dreams. This can help you live a happy, joyful, and peaceful life.