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  • Writer's pictureLori Lee

Being Your Authentic Self: What it Means and How to Become Your True Self

The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are—Carl Jung

the priviledge of a lifetime is to become who you truly are

Why is it so difficult to step into our authentic selves yet so easy to morph into everyone else around us? Each day we're sent mixed messages about what it means to be a better employee, a better sister, a better partner, and a better daughter. Yet little guidance is given to being a better YOU and truly learning to live authentically.

In this article, we'll share how to discover your unique purpose and uncover the real you so life feels more effortless and free.

What does it mean to be authentic?

Firstly, what does being authentic even mean? It's easier to spot inauthenticity within others than it does within yourself. One question you can ask yourself to understand what being authentic means to you is:

Where am I currently lying to myself?

The answer differs for everyone. So simply put, authenticity is not societal norms, materialistic things, or traditional relationship milestones. Being authentic is:

  • Doing what you say you'll do

  • Ensuring your behaviors consistently match your actions

  • Knowing who you are and living a life aligned with that

  • Your feelings match your thoughts

If you feel there is a disconnect within yourself after reading that list, you mightn't be living authentically. The difficulty of living a more authentic life is that we lack self-awareness. From a young age, we've been told what to value to live a safe life. Go to school, get a degree, acquire a safe job, and travel on vacation.

Curiosity is beaten out of us so we can fall in line with the expectations of society. While entrepreneurship and curiosity are valued more highly now we're in the internet age—being true to yourself is still a challenge.

Benefits of living authentically

Some of the drawbacks of living a life unaligned with your core self are:

  • Feeling drained

  • Chasing external gratification

  • Getting bored quickly

  • Difficulty staying in jobs or relationships

If you're feeling bored, like you're lacking energy and that life is a constant effort—you might not be living true to yourself. When you are living authentically, you often have:

  • More self confidence

  • Higher self esteem

  • A sense of purpose

Personally, I've had a few existential crises and the benefit of discovering my core identity was feeling less drained. I never knew how exhausted I felt when I was paying attention to what was expected of me instead of what I needed. It's a lifelong process but here's how you can develop and maintain authenticity too.

developing authenticity

Developing authenticity: Take a step back to gain perspective

People tend to focus on what to do rather than who to be. However, to develop authenticity, you need to ask yourself the existential questions about your life. First, you need to start with uncovering your core values.

Explore your values

The first time I stepped toward true authenticity was in a cognitive behavioral therapy session. I was young but I felt I had the energy of someone in their 80s. Something wasn't aligned and I needed some support.

One of the most valuable experiences was discovering my values. Read this blog to discover your core values. It gave me true direction towards my authentic self. I had never considered why I believed what I did or why I took the actions I took. The exercise entailed:

  • Picking out as many words that meant a lot to me

  • Drilling this down to a top ten

  • Grouping the words into categories

  • Using a word for the three top categories

These three categories were my three important values. Because authenticity means something completely different to different people, I highly recommend anyone struggling with true acceptance in themselves to explore their values.

Live By Your Values

Once your values are discovered, you must then ensure your life aligns with your values. My therapist used the wellness wheel to illustrate the areas of my life where I wasn't stepping into my authenticity. These areas are:

  1. Finance

  2. Career

  3. Personal Growth

  4. Spirituality (or Community)

  5. Recreation

  6. Love

  7. Friends

  8. Health

wheel of life

Using this wheel helps you focus on all the areas of your life. Often we focus on money, body and relationships because others can see these areas of your life. However, recreation, personal growth and community are important areas of focus to develop your authentic life.

Build your social support system

Next, develop honest relationships with those who will support your authentic self. When you start stepping into this new version of yourself, there will be initial resistance from others. After some time, you will need to decide:

  1. Who's draining you?

  2. Who's energizing you?

  3. Which relationships don't understand you but you want to maintain from a distance?

ask yourself who's draining you

Building your new support system takes courage and the ability to set boundaries.

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

So make them supportive ones.

Recognize internal versus external influences

A huge reason we're unable to feel authentic to ourselves is because of the multiple influences that are thrown at us. We are consuming more information than ever and this makes it harder than ever to live an authentic life. You must stay present and continuously audit yourself to understand:

  1. Is this action or want due to an external influence?

  2. Is this action or want due to an internal influence?

A simple tool I use to stay true to myself, is breathwork. When thinking of a new course in a particular situation, I tune into my body and my breath.

When the breath is shallow, there is often a sense of anxiety or unease. Whereas when the breath is deeper or more relaxed, this indicates more confidence or authenticity in the body.

This exercise is an ongoing one and requires you to stay present in how your body is reacting. In any case, this moment of reflection allows you to respond rather than react to the stimulus in front of you.

Maintaining Authenticity: Take daily actions towards authenticity

Living authentically is a lifelong process because you need to maintain a strong sense of yourself which is more difficult to do as you intertwine your life with others. When I completed a 200-hour yoga teacher training followed by a 10-day meditation retreat in India, it was easy to reflect and regulate my emotions. But when I got back home? That's where the real learning occurred.

Learn to say no and define your boundaries

You can do all the self-auditing in the world but the real power comes from how you act after discovering your true self. We spend a lot of our lives reacting to the needs of others. Saying no is a simple interaction that allows you to take back time of your energy and time.

What would happen if you said yes to every purchase you wanted to make?

You'd be left with a lot less money. You must treat your energy and time the same. Saying yes makes us inauthentic. Saying no makes your yes much more powerful.

To say no effectively, you must:

  • Say no without over-explaining

  • Treat the other party firmly and kindly

  • Respect your no and don't go back on your word

You don't have to be harsh about it. A simple no with a reasonable explanation is enough. One of my favorite ways to reason my no at work is:

If I say yes to this, what out of these tasks am I now saying no to?

It helps a co worker assign priority to what they're asking of you and it allows you to respect your own time. Now you're aware of what's important to you personally, you can ask yourself this same question throughout your day before you say yes to something else.

Don't take anything personally, and accept that you can't please everyone

Everyone is living through the lens of their own experience and who you are will trigger others. So many people are trying to please everyone else that they are a blend of personalities but never themselves.

With people pleasing, you simply cannot win.

It's better to be loathed for what you stand for rather than loved for who you're not. Most people with any level of fame have just as many haters. According to a 1968 poll Martin Luther King Jnr had a public disapproval rating of 75%.

Nothing is personal, even when they say it is. As long as you're not hurting others, when you live authentically, allow yourself to shine irrespective of others triggers.

nothing is personal

Practice mindfulness

Living a more authentic life requires us to go inward. The key reason why many of us lose ourselves is people we get caught up in external gratification. We must understand our intrinsic motivation deeply, and that starts with removing stimuli.

There are several ways to get still. Here are a few ideas:

  • Meditation

  • Movement (yoga, surfing, lifting, etc.)

  • Walking in nature

  • Breathwork

  • Gardening

  • Journaling

Spending time to reflect and develop an understanding our internal motivators is key to becoming your true authentic self. Developing a daily practice of five minutes to start will help you define your day before the day takes away your focus.

Develop the courage to face your fears

Have you ever heard of the phrase, feel the fear, and do it anyway? That's what authentic people struggle with daily. If you want to step into your power, it won't always be easy—especially when you're challenging the status quo. Slowly but surely, find daily ways to challenge yourself.

Stop Breaking the Promises You Make to Yourself

The ultimate act of self love is to stop breaking the promises that you make to yourself. Ask yourself two questions.

  1. When you make a commitment to others, how often do you back out?

  2. When you make a commitment to yourself, how often do you back out?

If the amount you back out of your own commitments and personal goals is higher, then you are now showing yourself genuine respect. When you break a promise to yourself you're actually saying:

My needs and wants are not important.

This diminishes your self worth and self confidence. To develop an authentic connection with yourself, you must start prioritizing yourself.

Why is it so hard to be authentic?

On paper, "being yourself" and "living an authentic life" is a no brainer. So why is it so hard to do? This really comes back to how other person's needs align with your needs. We are tribal beings and nowadays we have access to a larger community than ever before. Typically, our tribe was 100 people. As such, being authentic is much harder now. Being the real you requires making others uncomfortable. Here are some tips to living authentically when your core values clash with others.

How to be your authentic self at work

Being your authentic self at work is tough. Many of us put on a corporate mask where we:

  • speak at a college-grade level;

  • use over-used sayings because everyone else is; and

  • act impersonal to limit showing vulnerability.

Acting like this only contributes to the disconnection of your authentic self and who you are at work and the disconnect between you and your colleagues. You spend at least one-third of your life at work Monday to Friday, and you need to express your true nature. Here are a few ways to develop your authenticity at work:

  1. Choose an employer whose company values align with your personal values

  2. If a way of speaking feels unnatural, find other objectives (you don't need to circle back if you don't like saying circle back!)

  3. If you have an accent or a name that's hard to pronounce, correct people and speak the way you speak!

  4. If an action is against your values, reason your case

  5. If you feel unsupported to be who you are, choose a new employer

choose an employer that aligns with your values

There are small ways you can develop your authenticity at work even if it's simply cutting the corporate lingo you find exhausting!

How to be your authentic self in any relationship

It's very easy to lose yourself in romantic relationships. We've all seen it or experienced it ourselves. Often it starts from:

  • a lack of boundaries; or

  • a lack of understanding of yourself.

When you lack boundaries, you end up putting everyone except for yourself first and that will impact your well being over time.

When you lack personal understanding, it's difficult to prioritize your own needs as you don't understand who you are yet. In this case, you need to study where you're most happiest and scroll back up to the "Developing Authenticity" section of this article.

You test your authenticity the most when romantic feelings are involved

When we love a person, we often drop push our boundaries, and put our lives second. This can be dangerous when you're with the wrong person because you'll find yourself continuously pouring from an empty cup.

Living Your Authentic Life Isn't an Easy Process

Becoming your authentic self isn't easy. You will lose friends and potentially shift careers or partners. Ultimately, you need to put in the work to become the truest version of yourself and decide what you want. Before embarking on this journey, seriously consider your personal situation and mental health. If needed, work with medical or psychological professionals for individualized support.

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