Your authentic self is the part of you who knows exactly who you are.
What you need.
Your limits and strengths.
Who you are behind closed doors.
And, who you are inside your soul.
How to be true to yourself
Here are five areas to focus on to be your authentic self.
1. Let your soul be a guide and cheerleader.
Think of the soul as a cheerleader, cheering you on!
Let the soul be your guide… because it holds the blueprint for your life.
Think of it as one of your most important relationships!
After decades of a very real conversation with my soul, and wondering how it’s viewing my life so far, I’m grateful to have a cheerleader.
Because your soul patiently wants you to fulfill your deeper needs.
Furthermore, the soul is asking you to heal your life.
2. Do it your way.
After much soul-searching, I realized, I didn’t have to be good. I became ok with being better than average.
Not that this is right for you.
Maybe you’re someone who is meant to be the best. Or, your soul is longing to be the best.
But, whatever it is, do it your way, that is being a soulful person.
You do not have to be good!
Because you do not have to be good at something when you start!
Mary Oliver’s first line in Wild Geese, You do not have to be good, is a salve for the soul.
A tonic for the authentic self or true self.
And a mantra for an authentic life.
“You do not have to be good.”
Because there are things you’ll feel compelled toward and you won’t be good at it, at first.
Possibly, there will be a long period of being not good.
In life, you have to start somewhere.
That’s one definition of authentic… start somewhere and do it your way.
3. Don’t ignore your true self
In Elton John’s, This Song Has No Title, he sings…
“Look in the mirror and stare at myself.
And wonder if that’s really me on the shelf.”
If this song makes you tear up… I relate! It’s possibly because an important part of yourself is ignored.
Unfortunately, some good parts of you get left out when you’re not living an authentic life. These juicy parts of you want to be noticed!
Your sense of purpose must be valued.
And when it’s not you’re probably wondering…
What is going on with me that I’m allowing this? Why am I leaving part of myself on a shelf?
My poet self… on a shelf.
Sadness… at the back of the shelf.
My feminine self… roaming in the woods.
Helping humanity… a shelf in the other room.
Who I was at my core… I didn’t know what that was.
The leader in me… she was kind of there, but not in the way she wanted to be
Here are different ways for you to live authentically…
Don’t ignore what’s in you waiting to come out! If you’ve got to…
Why do we ignore our authentic selves?
There are a few reasons.
Possibly, we don’t think we’re good enough and we’re lacking in self-love.
Or, we don’t believe we can, or will, or that the world has any openings at the moment.
And even though we’re good at something, we think that tens of thousands of other people are good as well. So, we lose confidence.
Self-doubt is the enemy of the authentic self.
Self-doubt kills the soul because it tells us that we cannot do the very thing we need to do.
Add to that thinking:
The universe doesn’t care what you do.
You don’t have what it takes.
No one can have it all.
Other people are doing it better.
Here’s the thing, when you ignore key, deep parts of yourself, your soul becomes in a word, restless.
4. Self-compassion is key.
Years ago when my husband passed away I listened to David Whyte’s Poems of Self-compassion every day.
In it, he speaks of a conversation with the soul…
“The soul doesn’t seem to make the distinction between the light and the dark. It chooses both. It doesn’t care whether you do something successfully or fail at it. It just wants to know, did you do it your way? Was it you who failed? Or were you trying to be someone else when you failed? If it was you, the soul’s happy. That was your experience. Your failure. No one can take it away from you.” ~ David Whyte
These words ignited me. No longer would I ignore any part of myself. No way.
As you live a soulful life, this comes more naturally.
5. It’s OK to have an authenticity crisis
Many of us experience an authenticity crisis at some point. Usually around age 40 or later. It’s also called is a midlife crisis.
The midlife crisis
A midlife crisis is a period of introspection and reassessment that some people experience in middle age.
It’s feeling in your core that something is missing.
It is often characterized by feelings of dissatisfaction with one’s life, career, or relationships. You might feel like you haven’t achieved your goals… and will you never?
Or, you may sense you’re not be living as you want, like Ivan Ilyich. What a sad thing to come to the end of your life and feel you lived the wrong life.
Causes of a midlife crisis
A midlife crisis can occur when people experience major life changes, such as the death of a loved one, a divorce, or a job loss. These changes can lead to feelings of loss, grief, and uncertainty.
Around their 40’s, many people experience a crisis if they are unhappy with their career. They may feel like they are stuck, unfulfilled, and like there’s no end in sight. Or, they wish they were making more of a difference in the world.
After people have some time in a relationship, they may reevaluate. They may fear they are no longer compatible with their partner or that their needs are not being met by the relationship.
As we age, we may experience physical changes, such as weight gain, hair loss, gray hair, sagging this, that and the next! These changes can lead to feeling insecure and doubting yourself.
The older we get, the more we think about our mortality and the meaning of life. These kinds of existential questions can really preoccupy the mind. You may question your choices and with the finish line in sight… we tend to see life differently.
It’s important that you do not see an authenticity crisis or a midlife crisis as a failure. You’re human and as such, we all have to grapple at some point with the essential questions of being human.
Questions of an authenticity crisis
When your authentic self is not being expressed, the following questions will surface.
1. Who am I?
Or, who the hell am I?
(Hell is added when we’re seriously doubting things.)
2. What am I doing here?
Or, what the world am I doing here on planet earth?
And here’s the where the rubber meets the road question:
3. Will my life measure up to what I thought it would be?
Authenticity crisis… who am I really?
That’s an authenticity crisis right there. Where we ask that fateful question: Who am I?
It’s a brave question to ask. Because for now, this is the one life you’ve got.
And the very idea of not living fully… Well, it’s a horrible idea right?
No one wants to think their life was a waste.
Like you didn’t experience what you were CAPABLE of.
It’s why the Leo Tolstoy story is so chilling.
And you’ll walk your truth by being true to yourself.
Other meanings of authenticity.
Authenticity is self-honesty. Being honest about the self and what you need in your life, who you are, these kinds of things.
At work, it’s common these days to hear employers encouraging workers to show their true selves in their roles. And in our personal lives, we hear how important it is to show up, be real, and be true to our authentic selves.
Name and embrace your strengths.
Tony Robbins has an exercise he recommends where you identify three strengths that you possess. They can be gifts, talents, or traits that you are proud of. Then keep them top of mind, so that you lean on these strengths.
This exercise does a lot to boost your confidence and helps you stay positive in life. Embrace what you’ve got within you. You’re given the gifts you have for a reason, and that is so that you’ll use them.
Journaling is great for getting to know yourself better because you can be self-honest. It’s common to do what’s called automatic writing. Just let the words spill onto the page, without overthinking it.
This helps you discover your authentic self.
Let it be a mind dump.
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron gives great suggestions for how to do this. It allows you to explore your unique personality and do something reflective and creative. The daily practice of self-reflection helps improve your confidence and self-esteem.
Find the resources to do what you dream of.
When living authentically, look at how you can achieve something you desire, even when resources are low or non-existent. For example, how can you divide this dream into smaller achievable objectives and accomplish it in an easier way with fewer resources?
Or, let’s say you want to write a book, but after working full time and running your personal and family life, you’re exhausted. You can choose an hour a week. Just carve out an hour a week where you will focus your attention on this new, fun writing project. This also helps you discover your authentic self.
It may seem like not enough time… you don’t need to pen the next American novel. You just need to write something that is authentic.
Human beings love to belong and we love authenticity, so this can create a deep inner conflict! But, the soul is always there, urging you onto your path, your truth.
Do what fulfills the soul… because there’s much to do. This means being your authentic self.
Reflecting on the Elton John lyrics above, I think of this each day when I’m putting new things on the shelf. When I see them sitting there too long, I pull them off to ease my inner tension.
When you feel in your guts that there’s something you must do, or something you must say, your soul, your authentic self is cheering you on.
And, “You do not have to be good.”