The world has a lot to offer. Opportunities and options pull us in different directions. The influence of culture and our surroundings shape our thoughts and opinions. Our culture expects us to have a career we can be proud of. Money, popularity, dominant leadership. Possessions … Not to mention the social media communities that “demand” us to display bright and cheerful selfies. A perfect family. Dream travel destinations. An exotic holiday trip … But wait … are these things really us?
One key to living a fulfilled life is authenticity. By that, I mean “living from a real place”, where our actions and words are congruent with our beliefs and values. It is being ourselves, not an imitation of what we think we should be or have been told we should be. There is no “should” in authenticity.
When you live authentically you will notice the following benefits:
- You’ll feel self-confident and have more self-respect.
- You’ll find that others respect you more.
- You’ll develop greater resilience.
- You’ll develop more enriching relationships.
- You’ll start living a more passionate life.
- You’ll avoid regret later in life.
- You’ll simply be happier and more optimistic.
As we start moving towards a new year commit to digging deep and turning inwardly. Get real about who you are and how you want to show up in this world? You will begin to see that even your afflictions can be used to grow and strengthen you. You have much to offer so dive deep and begin to let go of what holds you back.
Here are 5 ways you can start living an authentic life today!
Cultivate Real Relationships
It’s hard to behave in an authentic way if you do not know what you value and desire. Often, we hold tight to the same values we grew up with. We feel that we need to be who our parents or teachers said we should be. There may be situations where we let others bully us into taking their position on issues, even if we don’t agree with them. At times it can be easy to be swayed by the crowd because you don’t want to risk a confrontation or deal with the guilty feelings of disappointing someone.
Understanding your values is a big step in the direction of cultivating authenticity in your relationships. When you know what your core values are, you can recognize requests, opportunities, or situations that are not aligned with your values and you can say no to them, and yes to the things that are aligned and make you happy. I have included a journal to support you as you work towards living your most authentic life. You can access it HERE.
I completely understand the fear behind not wanting to rock the boat. You may hide your thoughts and feelings for fear that you will ruin things or that the person you open up to may think differently about you. Does the following scenario sound familiar?
Your significant other does or says something that you did not like. you want to say something, but you are afraid of their reaction. You do not want to feel disconnected from them. You don’t want to “ruin” things so you say nothing. A few days later, an opportunity to bring it up presents itself but again you say nothing for fear of rocking the boat. A few days go by and resentment starts to settle in, leaving you feeling upset and disconnected from your partner. After a week or so you don’t even want to talk to them and have built up a wall between you. Your partner notices and asks you what is wrong. By this point, your feelings have built up to such a point that you erupt in a fit of anger and frustration and now the two of you are having a full-blown argument.
Have you ever been in a similar situation?
Next time this happens, try asking and answering the following 4 questions:
- What am I afraid would happen if I shared my experience right now with this person?
- How will I feel if I don’t share what I’m thinking and feeling?
- If I weren’t afraid, what would I most want to say to this person right now?
- How can I share this with even more vulnerability?
Pausing to think about these questions will help you work through the fear instead of letting it paralyze you into silence. Exploring these questions will help you to think through your thoughts and feelings and how you can communicate them effectively. Thinking through what you will say and how to say it clearly will reduce the risk of a full-blown argument and allows you to share authentically with your partner.
This doesn’t only apply to romantic relationships. It can be applied to all relationships
Create Your Own Blueprint
You do not have to create or model your life based on someone else’s life. You can create your own blueprint and live a life that is real and authentic to who you are not what you think you should be. So much of social media culture makes us feel like if we are not living like others then we are not living well, but who decides on the standard we set for ourselves? What if we blaze our own trail and live lives that are based on values, beliefs, boundaries, and priorities that we set for ourselves? The social media stars and the Internet Guru’s do not have to set the standard for our lives, we get to do that for ourselves. That’s not to say that we can’t be motivated and inspired by the innovation, creativity, and individuality of people around us; we most certainly can. What I am saying is that we can use that motivation and inspiration to tap into who we are and live from that place.
- Did you see a Pinterest board that inspired you? How can you use that inspiration to decorate your own space in a way that brings you joy?
- Did you see a fun twist on a comfort food classic? How can you use that creative spark to spice up your own recipes?
- Is there a company or a brand that motivates you to get more involved in social causes? How can you use that motivation to add social activism or to support social causes through your business?
You were created as a unique individual with a unique purpose. Developing your signature strengths to overcome barriers leads to a meaningful life.
Creativity isn’t only about being able to paint or draw. Your creativity shines in the way you find solutions to problems, share ideas with your co-workers and in the creativity, you need to parent your children. This creative authenticity comes from a place of listening to and embracing different perspectives on things and finding creative solutions to the problems you face. Authenticity flourishes when we experience the world wholly, from every perspective.
This is one of the key benefits of therapy. Being able to talk through things with another person, having them ask you challenging questions – this will help you shift your perspective and see things differently. Many times that small shift in perspective is exactly the thing you need to help you start living your best life. We are more open to adventure, we embrace new opportunities more readily when we embrace the creative authenticity within!
- What risks, if any did you take this year?
- Were you open to new ideas and different points of view?
- In what ways did you expand your mind this year?
Light Up Your Life
As I was thinking of the new year, it made me think of fireworks and sparklers and how we need things in our lives that light us up and ignite our passion. Do you have hobbies or activities that light you up? Plan to do more of those things in 2021.
How can you reignite some old passions this year? What about discovering new hobbies or activities that light you up? I love that living an authentic life is about having fun and finding happiness. It is about allowing yourself moments of joy and doing things that give you energy. You deserve it!
Initially, there can be a fear of judgment and what other people will think. I have found, however, that (a) the more authentically I live, I tend to gravitate towards other people that have the same interests as me and (b) someone will have something to say about whatever it is I do, so I might as well do the things I am passionate about. For example:
Perhaps you like knitting, sewing, or crochet – some people may think that these are old-fashioned hobbies and there is no place for them and yet there are thousands of online and in-person communities of crafters all around the world.
We don’t all have to do the same or like the same things. Variety is the spice of life after all. You have permission to have a differing opinion or a different hobby from those around you. It is part of what makes you special. You add spice, a different perspective, and fresh ideas to the mix. So embrace your quirks and break out from the box people keep putting you in. Cookie cutters belong in the kitchen, they are not the standard for your life. So be the most authentic you can be!
We all Win Together
I am so grateful that life is not a solo effort! I take comfort in knowing that we are all in this together and that when I live my most authentic life, it allows others to show up as their most authentic selves as well. That thinking has led me to ask and answer the question: How can you help those around you? Like you, the people in your circle have goals and dreams. By supporting each other, everyone can get closer to living their best lives. Even with so much of our lives consisting of virtual/digital communications due to the pandemic, we can still support each other.
- Support your friends’ business ventures. Show up to their virtual events.
- Connect by phone with those you care about. Not just text messages that go back and forth, but allow 10-15 minutes for a real talk.
- Write a physical letter or card and pop it in the mail for a personal note to let them know you are thinking of them.
- Get involved by donating or volunteering to a cause, charity, or ministry that means a great deal to you.
- Find community projects, outreach, or organizations you can get involved in.
Living your most authentic life is far from selfish. It is about picking topics or causes that you are passionate about and using the skills, resources, and tools at your disposal to make a difference in those areas in your community.
Don’t allow yourself to get swept up in what others think of you! It’s okay to have a different talk, walk, and style from everyone else. Don’t spend your energy duplicating someone else’s footprint instead invest your energy exploring your own. Stop comparing yourself to others. Have you ever stopped to think about how spending your time wishing, wanting, and negatively evaluating yourself affects you? What would happen if you used that time to create the meaningful life you want? Time can’t be recycled and it’s a precious commodity! Learn to use the time to move into spaces that make you happy. Dance to the rhythm that makes you feel your best!
Living authentically is constantly shifting and taking on new forms. If we truly believe in living an authentic life, then we must be open to the continual exploration of who we are, challenge old beliefs, and sort through our baggage. If you find yourself struggling to navigate a sea of negative thinking or you feel like you are drowning in the wake of past experiences, please do not hesitate to reach out by email to info@ZRCounselingServices.com or by telephone at (703) 267-5703. Our team of clinicians is here to help you.