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Authentic Thriving: The Ultimate Guide to Being You
Learning to live authentically isn’t some grandiose life hack. It's not about becoming flawless or confident or successful.
To be authentic means to come home to yourself.
It’s about tuning in to what matters to you.
And then having the tools to stay calm and resilient while you live your own deep and meaningful life. Even if (especially if) it goes against the status quo.
In this post we’ll be taking a deep dive into what it takes to be authentic.
- what you need to learn first, before you can truly live authentically;
- what authenticity is (and isn't);
- three steps to living an authentic life;
- plus some extra resources to inspire your journey
What is Authenticity?
The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are. ~ Carl Jung
Here at the Seekers' Sanctuary, we believe that another word for 'home' is 'you'. That you are your best sanctuary. And that an important part of thriving, is to live as your true self.
To feel as though you belong as the true you is both liberating and secure.
However, authenticity isn't a quality. Authenticity is a practice.
It's a conscious decision to live how you choose to.
It's letting go of who you think you should be and embracing who you really are.
It's living as your beautiful, imperfect, messy, brilliant self.
What Authenticity Isn't
While it's important to define what being authentic is, sometimes it's helpful to discern what it is not.
Here are three common misunderstandings about authenticity:
1. You'll always behave the same way
There's a difference between hiding who you are and being socially appropriate. It's perfectly acceptable to present a slightly different you in certain circumstances. Perhaps you're very serious and professional at work, but you're more relaxed around friends. This doesn't mean you're fake.
2. Your values never change
A key part of growth and self development is that you change. You learn new information, you become more self aware, and your priorities shift. Which means that as you grow and change, your values will change too. True authenticity means adjusting your life so you can live according to your updated values.
3. You get to be brutally honest
Speaking your mind without any kind of filter doesn't make you genuine. It makes you unkind. You can still be authentic and considerate. In fact, treating people with compassion (even when you don't really like them) speaks volumes about the true you.
The Pros and Cons of Authenticity
Authenticity is invigorating.
When you are courageous enough to live true to your desires and values, you liberate an enormous amount of energy. And with this energy, you can dedicate your life force to the things that matter to you.
But hiding who you are? Comes at a price.
By constantly shaping who you are to fit in, you trade authenticity for a false sense of belonging. And this trade-off can lead to anxiety, depression, a sense of suffocating pressure, loneliness and resentment.
There is a cost to not showing the true you.
However, being authentic can also be dangerous. If your identity is marginalised or under threat, then expressing your true self can become truly dangerous, even fatal.
Historically, many identities have been suppressed and the spectre of oppression continues today.
First Nation peoples have been violently suppressed by colonialists and ongoing White supremacy. Black people are in peril from police brutality, ongoing White supremacy and misogynoir. Transgendered people face extraordinary rates of discrimination, homelessness and physical violence.
And of course any intersections you face within these identities can compound on each other.
Safety is the bedrock of authenticity for marginalised people. Finding safe spaces where people like you and allies can congregate and belong is vital.
Remember, it always takes courage to be authentic, but privilege may make that journey easier.
The Precursor to Authenticity
Authenticity is rooted in worthiness and self acceptance.
You need to believe you are worthy of love and belonging, right now, exactly as you are.
When you believe you are worthy, you are more comfortable living as your true self.
As Brené Brown says:
Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it. Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.
But struggling to be authentic around others could be a trauma response.
People pleasing, shape shifting and hiding who you are to fit in are common ways we to try to gain love, approval and safety.
Especially if you had to change or hide who you were when you were a child in order to feel secure with your primary caregiver.
If you yearn to be authentic but you worry a lot about what people think, the best place to start is by soothing your nervous system.
Creating a sense of safety in your body is the first stepping stone towards authenticity. Once you feel safe and secure, then you can practice self love, self acceptance, and self compassion.
How To Live An Authentic Life
According to positive psychologist, Stephen Joseph there are 3 main steps to living authentically.
- Know yourself
- Own yourself
- Be yourself
In order to know yourself you need to:
- Understand your purpose and your values
- Understand what is truly deep and authentic to you
- Work out what your own priorities are and what success means to you
- Know how to practice mindfulness and connect to your own inner wisdom
When you know yourself. You can start owning who you are. Which means you can:
- Stop comparing your life to everyone else's
- Let go of trying to live up to other people’s expectations
- Start believing in yourself and develop healthy self esteem
- Have good boundaries around what is okay and not okay for you
- Have the confidence to step out and live the life of your dreams
And finally, when you own yourself, you can be yourself. Being yourself means you can:
- Build deeper relationships
- Connect with kindred folk
- Stop worrying about what other people think
- Let go of the fear of rejection and being judged by others
- Love yourself and brave the wilderness of your own belonging
Living authentically isn't always easy. However the costs of being inauthentic are very real. When you make the conscious decision to live each day as your true self? That's when you start to thrive!
Resources for Living Authentically
The Body Is Not An Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor
The purpose of this book is to get us to stop treating our bodies like cars, to stop acting as if our minds are not part of our bodies. Reading this book will move us beyond these fraught and compartmentalized lives, where we easily forget that we are whole humans having whole human experiences in our bodies.
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown
Popular writer, researcher, and educator Brené Brown offers an interactive guide that helps us embrace our flaws and live an authentic life. Her “ten guideposts” are benchmarks for authenticity that can help anyone establish a practice for a life of honest beauty - a perfectly imperfect life.
Accepting our belonging is the key to facing the many challenges currently impacting our world. Using ancient philosophy, multidisciplinary research, exquisite storytelling, and razor sharp wit, meditation expert Sebene Selassie leads us in an exploration of all the ways we separate (and thus suffer) and offers a map back to belonging.
This honest, outspoken and thought-provoking memoir by award-winning writer and appearance activist Carly Findlay will challenge all your assumptions and beliefs about what it is like to have a visibly different appearance. This is both a moving memoir and a proud manifesto on disability and appearance diversity issues.
The Enneagram by Don Richard Riso & Russ Hudson
The Enneagram is an extraordinary framework for understanding more about ourselves. It is an ancient psychological system used to understand the human personality. However, unlike other personality typing systems, it is fluid, dynamic and shows the spectrum of human behaviour from neurosis right up to actualised enlightened states. This book will help you unlock the secrets of self-understanding, and thus self-transformation.