No matter who you are, I can assure you that the greatest gift you can give to others, and to yourself, is to be authentically you. To live a life of authenticity is to share your uniqueness with the world.
Out of all the people who exist, who have ever existed, you—yes you—have a unique combination of experiences, passions, thoughts, feelings, and dreams. All of which combine into a bespoke culmination of gifts that only you possess.
As we grow up, we are assigned socially constructed labels and boxes. To be accepted and fit in, we make ourselves small to fit neatly into these boxes. We suppress our true desires in exchange for acceptance. By doing this, we disconnect from our inner voice, our intuition, and allow the adaptive self to take the reins.
The Adaptive Self
We are social beings who need to adapt to live in communities. We learn certain social cues and rules to be functioning and contributing members of society. However, when the adaptive self takes control, we lose track of who we are because we constantly shift our behavior to please others.
When we make people-pleasing a priority, we subject ourselves to limiting labels and belief systems and live in a state of self-denial. By living as someone you are not, you tell your true self that who you are is unacceptable. This leads to disillusionment, pain, a deep sense of sadness, and even burnout.
Unmasking the Authentic Self
We are the only ones who can rip off the mask of inauthenticity and let the authentic self into the light. We need to free ourselves from the bonds of perfectionism and the limited persona this creates. We need to breathe life into the creative spirit and allow it to connect us with our authenticity.
Just like ripping off a Band-Aid can be painful, so too can ripping off the mask of inauthenticity. With some exceptions, most people don’t like standing out and being different. It makes us feel vulnerable. But there is strength and beauty in vulnerability.
Growth is an uncomfortable process—that’s how you know you’re doing it right. It takes courage to allow yourself to be vulnerable, to allow yourself to be uncomfortable, and to grow.
1. Let Go of Perfectionism
The best way to support yourself through feelings of discomfort is to be kind. Approach yourself with love. Be gentle. Let go of rigid, perfectionist thinking, as this only blocks you from expressing your authenticity.
Unfortunately, the times we live in make it hard to let go of perfectionist thinking as social media thrives on users creating perfect online personas. This increases the value of superficiality, while lowering the value of authenticity. But just because it may be more challenging, does not mean it is impossible.
2. Set Boundaries
As long as you are kind to others, you can say yes to yourself. It’s healthy to say no to things that you don’t want to do. Setting boundaries is one of the harder things to learn, but the rewards are worth it.
Simply saying no when something doesn’t suit you can create much needed space in your life. (A gentle but firm way to say no without actually saying “no” is “That won’t be possible.”)
When we do things that are not in alignment with our inner needs, we take away from our emotional, psychological, and spiritual health. Whereas when we do things that are in alignment with our inner needs, we feel a sense of fulfillment because we are nurturing ourselves.
If we get into a rhythm of constantly pleasing others instead of nurturing ourselves, we risk damaging our psychological, spiritual, and even physical well-being.
3. Think of Life as a Jug
A dear friend once gave me an empty glass jug as a gift. She explained that life was like this empty jug. We must make conscious decisions about what we put in our jugs, keeping in mind that the space is limited. Living authentically includes being mindful of the contents of our jugs.
If we are feeling overwhelmed, unhappy, anxious, etc., we may need let go of some unfulfilling clutter to make space for more positive things. But the only way to really know what is clutter and what is not is to be honest and allow the authentic self to be heard.
Evaluating your inner needs in this way leads you one step closer to living in alignment with your true self.
4. Live Your Values
One of the many bonuses about living in alignment with your authentic self is that you never have to explain who you are. This is because true authenticity needs no explanation; it becomes you. You live your values and beliefs. Your choices, the special way that you are, your voice, your mannerisms—all of it becomes authentically you.
The world needs more uniqueness, it needs your uniqueness, your gifts. Be brave. Be vulnerable. Be authentically and unapologetically you!