For years, when my joints felt painful and stiff, I lied about it. Instead of telling people my rheumatoid arthritis was flaring, I’d tell them that I tweaked my ankle during a workout, or I’d create some other story to explain away my lurching gait.
I didn’t want them to know that my body was broken. I didn’t want them to see that I sometimes felt inadequate because of it.
Of course this didn’t work well. It never feels good to suppress or hide aspects of ourselves. To pretend to be someone you’re not.
I am so over that. Now, I blab about everything. I’m direct. Upfront. More honest and authentic.
This feels better. It’s like peeling away that tight outer shell to reveal the essence inside.
What is authenticity?
Authenticity is more than what we do. It also emerges from how we think about what we do – our self-awareness. This means we’ve got to get clear on our strengths and weaknesses, honest when we make a mistake. Authenticity requires you to know yourself and then live openly with all that, say the bigwigs Michael Kernis and Brian Goldman, psychologists who study aspects of authenticity.
If you want to get fancy-schmanzy about it Kernis and Goldman define authenticity this way: “the unimpeded operation of one’s true or core self in one’s daily enterprise.”
Translated by moi to mean: when you’re authentic you’re operating from who you are.
It’s no surprise that most of us want to live from this place of self-knowing. It takes a lot of the pressure off. If we’re being real and honest without ourselves first, then we don’t have to worry about being found out or discovered to be a fraud. We don’t have to hide or tweak or manipulate things to support some ideal image that we feel we need to live up to. Instead we can put our energies into living and playing and learning and growing.
It’s no wonder, then, that authentic people report greater vitality, self-esteem, resilience, and well-being. When you are living from your truth you’re also bound for happier relationships too. This makes sense. Don’t you enjoy people who have fewer pretensions? Authentic people are also more likely to complete their goals, according to research.
When you’re trying to be something you’re not, or you’re not yet sure who you are, you will feel confused, edgy, overwhelmed. But, authenticity isn’t a panacea, either.
To live authentically, you’ve got to take a clear look at who you are, including all that psychic garbage that you keep hidden in the closets when the guests arrive. Not only do you have to see your imperfections, you’ve got to let them out, accept them, and sometimes even use them. Though, this can be hard to do at first, (I’ll tell you more about how to do it in Wednesday’s post), it’s actually easier than living a lie. In fact, it’s downright liberating to live truly as yourself.
Three ways to live a more authentic life
Here’s how to do it:
Create. Come up with a new solution, develop an innovative product or idea, paint a picture or cook a new recipe, coordinate a social outing with friends. Make something from nothing. This is fun, and essential to our character. We were all born creators – so broaden your definition of creativity and get going. Self-expression in any and all ways is a great way to get to know yourself.
Quiet down. To be authentic you’ve got to know what that looks like for you and it’s hard to get to know yourself during the noise of daily life. Find some time each day – even if it’s five minutes – for solitude. Mindfulness, paying attention to your body, environment, or breath, can help you see your thoughts in a detached way. That leads to insight and awareness. Mindfulness meditation or meditation in other forms is another powerful way to discover who you are.
Get going. Engage in life, don’t just ride the bench. Time spent watching and listening to others is an important way to learn about your own unique qualities. But, you also need to be involved in the world. Help others, try new things, seek out awe and inspiration. Your self-awareness will expand in the context of community.
Authenticity also requires you to live well with your imperfections. We cannot be authentic, if we’re always working to hide an aspect of who we are. In Wednesday’s post, I’ll write about how you can use your flaws to launch a more authentic life.
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