The longest, most challenging journey I have ever taken was the one getting home to my true self. It took decades to arrive and I willingly chose to make many side trips through roles, responsibilities, expectations, careers, and marriages where I had to work day and night to become something other than who I truly was. But when I finally found my way back to the real me, the honest me, the most authentic me, there was no greater joy.
I’m not talking about a perfect version of me. I’m referring to the me as I am right now. Comfortable in my 60s. Curly, messy hair. The butt and boobs of a real woman. Wrinkles around my eyes and mouth from smiling at my husband and laughing at my children. It’s me waking up at 3 AM and still worrying about finances. And it’s me dancing around with my iPhone plugged into my ears, joyfully singing Streisand’s “Don’t Rain On My Parade.” Like I said, it's all about being yourself.
When you begin to align with your authenticity, a natural expansion will take place within your being. It will feel as though the burden of the world had been lifted. There is no commitment in the world that can make you feel as free and as fulfilled, with a real sense of being in tune and in balance with everything around you.
Becoming your most authentic self isn't always easy, though. Every day, media, social and otherwise, bombards us with advertising specifically designed to make us want to be someone or something that we’re not. Psychologists and advertisers have long known that there is a strong human need to belong. And to belong we need to conform. Commercials, infomercials, print and blog articles, websites and podcasts, contain the same message, no matter the product being shilled - “Use this and become more than you are.” (More successful, more beautiful, more youthful…)
Unfortunately, being more vibrant, more confident, or more successful can never come from withOUT. Real vibrancy, confidence and success can only come from withIN, by living your personal truth. You can always talk the talk, but you’ll never get the balance and fulfillment that you desire unless you walk your own unique path.
People who live authentically understand this. They know that being yourself comes not only from what you say, but also from what you do. When you look at people who are fully focused and zeroed in on their authentic selves, you quickly see that they all share some common traits and behaviors. Unlike products and things, these powerful steps move you out of the imbalance of meaningless belonging and conformity and into the real joy and true meaning that comes from living your most authentic life. I am over-the-moon excited to share them with you today.
1. Say What You Mean & Mean What You Say
Words are power. When you use them for good you elevate yourself and others opinion of you. Use them badly or unwisely and the exact opposite happens. So, don’t be afraid to speak your mind and have an opinion. Being honest and straightforward is the gold standard of authenticity. Will you alienate some people? Absolutely. Is it worth camouflaging who you really are in order to gain fleeting acceptance? Not in the least.
2. Follow Your Gut
A moral compass, the sense of what is right and what is wrong, can’t be bought and can’t be developed by following others. If you want to be truly yourself, you have to be true to your own internal beliefs. More than anything, this set of beliefs is what makes you unique. Following an external set of beliefs that are imposed on you by others will only set your internal compass spinning wildly. You know what’s right for you. Follow that instinct.
3. Be Confident
Inauthentic behavior arises from fear, specifically fear of being “found out”. Fear that if you let down your walls and embrace who you really are, people will reject and ridicule the real you. This fear is groundless. Authentic living is confident living precisely because you have nothing to hide. The you that the world sees is who you really are, unadorned and without artifice. When you don’t care what other people think, their opinions of your choices cease to matter to you.
4. Be Emotionally Honest
It’s very easy to be emotionally dishonest, both to yourself and to others. You feel a certain way about someone or something. Instead of feeling that emotion and letting it guide your thoughts and actions, you suppress what you really feel for the sake of conforming and fitting it. The end result is imbalance. Your natural inclinations are out of sync with your behavior. The net result is a cascade of negative emotions, including guilt, self-reproach, and shame. Listening to your heart and acting accordingly keeps you aligned with who you really are.
5. Embrace Individuality by Accepting Difference
If you are critical of the way other people choose to live their lives, there is probably a fairly good chance that you are not walking your own path of authenticity. The fact is, when you criticize or deny others the right to live their truths, you deny the truth within yourself. Genuine living is not judgmental. A key component of living authentically is accepting and embracing the differences and variety that define all of us and help to make each of us uniquely different.
6. Understand That Money Is a Medium
Society tells us that one way to define a person’s worth is through their possessions. People with more stuff are considered somehow more worthy than people who have less stuff. This false belief can lead to a shallow lifestyle where the pursuit of wealth for wealth’s sake guides every action. This is, obviously, a mistake. Money is simply a medium for experiencing life. Experiencing the world, the people, and the places that it contains, reinforces the fact that each of us, as unique beings, can only find our true expression by being who we were always meant to be - ourselves.
7. Be a Good Listener
Everyone you meet deserves your full attention. Engaging fully with the people around you is one of the best ways to remain completely in the present moment. The best way to do this is by listening. When you’re living authentically, you don’t feel the need to monopolize every conversation with your opinions. You don’t feel compelled to support your ego with a monologue that is simply a laundry list of your accomplishments disguised as a conversation. Listening fully allows you to respond genuinely and reinforces the behaviors that support an authentic life.
8. Be Tough Enough To Be Kind
Cruelty is a defense born out of fear. Fear of being hurt. Fear of change. Fear of difference. While the effects of cruelty are horribly destructive, being cruel isn’t hard. It’s easy. It takes no courage or strength to be cruel. Because of this, in the end, cruelty is an action of someone who is weak. Kindness, on the other hand, takes strength. You need to be tough to be kind. That’s because kindness requires you to open your heart, leaving you vulnerable. Someone who is living their truth understands that vulnerability is not a risk. Instead, it is an opportunity to demonstrate the courage it takes to be yourself.
9. Follow a Road Less Traveled
For many people, achieving success is a matter of simply following a formula. Get a good education. Pick a career. Get married. Have children. Make money. Retire. Many fail to realize, until it’s seems too late, that allowing their lives to be scripted by someone else’s expectations is a recipe for misery and discontent. The truth is that real success is handcrafted to personal specifications. It is most definitely not one size fits all. This means that in order to live the life you were meant to lead you have to break away from the crowd and their conventions and expectations. You have to be prepared to go off script and define what authenticity means to you.
10. Find Humor and Beauty in Every Moment
Becoming the real you is a journey. Every day is an opportunity and every day offers a lesson. Yet, even though it’s probably the most important journey you will make, it doesn’t have to be solemn, serious, and severe. The process of living an authentic life includes discovering that the world is full of laughter and light. People traveling on their own path realize that all this laughter is light and all that light is laughter. They know that if the universe has a secret, this is it.
If you take the time to look with opened eyes, you will discover humor and beauty all around you. People who are genuinely themselves rediscover a childlike delight in living that fills them with joy. They are not afraid of being silly. They are not afraid of play, because they know that work exists so that play can happen. They have lightened up their outlook, so they don’t take themselves so seriously. They are able to see that everyday contains beauty, if you only take the time to look for it.
These ten steps to authenticity are not meant to be blueprint. They are certainly not a formula or a recipe. Instead, they are meant to heighten your awareness. If your life feels out of balance or you feel unquestionably dissatisfied with the way you experience life, use them as a practice, an outlook ,and a way of seeing the world and the people in it, including yourself. Take them in any order, pick the ones that make more sense to you. By using these steps, you will begin to see that being yourself - your true, authentic self - yields the freedom, the joy, and the self-love you deeply desire. Instead of being constantly swayed by external expectations, you develop an innate inner balance that allows you to reject lockstep conformity and begin moving forward into a life that is vibrant, rich, and undeniably you.