“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
~ William Shakespeare, Hamlet
I was bored, ambivalent and felt no passion for life. My business was going through tough times, and my kids were growing up so fast that they had little time for me.
I was getting regular bouts of flu and was just not feeling good about myself. I looked closely at the mirror. I didn’t like what I saw. How had the last 20 years flown by? Why couldn’t I recall any great moments?
The truth was that I had become a robot, a man tied down to responsibilities and tasks. I wore a straitjacket and labeled it My Life. I found myself in an existential crisis.
Has everything I’ve done in my 40-year existence not been what I wanted?
Who am I?
What am I living for?
I didn’t have any answers, but at least I now had the will to search and ask. And my search inevitably led to one word—
Authenticity doesn’t just mean being honest about ourselves. It doesn’t just mean living a positive and giving life. It doesn’t mean being a new-agey person who doesn’t eat meat and meditates all the time.
Authenticity is becoming the master of our lives. The word authenticity has Latin roots that today means “author.” This mastery of life we choose is based on our values, principles and aspirations.
The world-renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow says: ”What a man can be, he must be.” He later went on to call this concept the need for self-actualization.
For me, it means recognizing that:
We are spirit, a part of a supreme being coming into human form to have this Physical experience on earth.
We are here to shed layer after layer of our density, to become lighter and find our inner core, or in other words learn and grow.
We have a unique gift or talent and we must find it and work on it, as it will give us the greatest platform to be who we must be and so serve humanity.
These are some ways to start our self-discovery journey into becoming authentic:
1) Look in the mirror.
We start by questioning, reflecting and analysing the way we are living our lives. We must realise that our only goal in life is to live authentically.
We need to recognise that suffering comes from us not being authentic, not awakening and not connecting to our real selves. We can’t allow the ego and its many faces such as anger, greed and fear to sidetrack us from our true path.
We are lulled into a false sense of belief and remain in a comfort zone that paralyses us into seeking an easy path but not the right way. We do things because we have to. We take jobs to survive. We follow the herd and get caught up in living a life that is not meant for us.
My journey started almost seven years ago when I decided I needed to change and seek a more meaningful life.It all started with an intention and the right books,teachers and lessons quickly came my way.
2) Tame the ego.
Often, the only way to awaken to our authenticity is when it’s forced onto us, and where the ego is finally shattered into submission and the chattering mind subsides, allowing our hearts to take a more active role in guiding us to our authentic path.
When we fall hopelessly in love, the mind’s hold on us eases, and our heart starts feeling and creating a new path for us. People in love are often in an inspired mood, get a spring in their step, or see the intensity of colours they never saw before.
We start recognising our values, formulating our principles, and it’s often the time when we allow ourselves to dream those big dreams. Our hearts are purring, and we get a glimpse of our true selves.
Other times, it could take a traumatic event that subdues the ego. I went through a few horrible years where my business was failing, and my nephew had a near-fatal accident. These events led me to drop my egoic armour and see that what used to work for me, doesn’t anymore. It was the pain that I suffered that finally forced me to start questioning my life.
3) Get inspired by heroes.
There are many heroes, famous or not, who inspire us to live an authentic life. Buddha’s enlightenment and his clear, logical dogma, making us directly responsible for our lives, or Hemingway’s larger than life existence where he coupled great writing with wonderful real-life experiences are the two who inspire me most.
However, our biggest heroes are those who live amongst us, in our families and communities, where we see them first hand doing what they love effortlessly. We see them in their element, enjoying what they do and we feel it viscerally and our hearts scream with joy.
I was inspired by my grandfather’s final years. At the age of 83, he would get up early, pray and then set off in collecting monies and food from those people who could afford it, to give to those who didn’t—the poor and the homeless. He was relentless, and I saw his eyes light up when he set off, and his energy never wavered, often coming back very late at night.
4) Know yourself.
Authenticity requires self-knowledge and self-awareness. We must accept our strengths and weaknesses and know that they connect with our values and desires. And most importantly, we need to act deliberately in ways that are consistent with those qualities.
A journey of self-discovery is also one of self-enquiry, so the more information we gather on ourselves, the better.
Over the past seven years, I did all kinds of personality, strengths and behaviour tests that helped me in understanding myself. I asked my family and friends to identify my strengths, weaknesses and what I represented to them. I went back to my childhood to investigate what I was like. I experimented on what piqued my interest to see if it was worthwhile pursuing.
I’ve found that I need a lot of solitary time; I’ve found writing to be the best way to share parts of me in this world and recognising that what my soul needs more than anything is inner peace and presence.
To be authentic is to be in a place that feels right, where everything you think, say and do are the same. It’s like we’re a river flowing effortlessly downstream, maneuvering easily around any obstacles that get in our way.
Authenticity means being willing to sacrifice any relationship, situation or circumstance that violates your truth. It doesn’t mean you don’t have bad days, but at least you are fully alive to handle them.
Authenticity is not something that when acquired means you need not do anymore but rather a continuous process.
Author: Mo Issa
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Hartwig HKD/Flickr