In my past life, I was a chameleon. I always shifted my colors to blend in with the environment surrounding me. I had lost all sense of who the “real me” was.
I did what I thought everyone else wanted or expected me to do for so long that I didn’t even know what it was that I wanted anymore. Little by little, my catering to other people had chipped away at my identity until I became unrecognizable to me.
After a while, I wanted my true colors back. Don’t get me wrong; it was a lot of fun trying on all different colors. I tried on beautiful shades of magenta, tangerine, gold, coral, and periwinkle—but none of them felt quite right. None of them felt quite like me.
Here are 10 things that we can do to be more authentic:
1. We don’t apologize for who we are or what we love.
We love what, and whom, we love. We don’t apologize for who we are. This is the person we were created to be, for the most part. When we apologize for who we are or what we love, we send the message to ourselves that we are not enough and need to be fixed. I used to spend a lot of time apologizing for who I was; I felt like a burden to other people. Today, I realize that I don’t need to apologize for the fact that I struggle with depression and anxiety, just like someone who has cancer doesn’t need to apologize for that. What I now understand is that I am exactly who I am and it’s beautiful at times, chaotic at times, and more often than not, both.
2. We indulge in our curiosities.
We are curious about things we are told. We are curious about what we hear and see. We don’t need to accept anything as the “one and only truth.” I used to let what other people said affect me a lot. I would even let other people’s opinions of me dictate my sense of self-worth. I laugh at this now because I realize that there is no “one and only truth,” and then very often, what people say is more about them than it actually is about you. We stay curious about others and about ourselves.
3. We regularly ask ourselves what our motivations are.
This is something that I have to do regularly. My ego can look like a thousand different things, and if I don’t slow down and try to understand what my motivations are, it can run the show. I have a history of being a people-pleaser. I always wanted people to like me and to think I am a “strong person.” In order to preserve this image that I portrayed to people, I used to do things that I thought they would like or want to hear. Authentic people ask these questions: Is our motivation one that is true to who we are? Or is it ruled by a need for approval? We are constantly checking in with our motivations.
4. We pay attention to our gut.
If something feels wrong, there’s a reason. There have been many times where I have ignored my gut feeling, and regretted doing so later on. Specifically, I have ignored my gut feelings in past relationships. I felt something wasn’t right but just carried on until one day it could no longer be ignored. If something doesn’t feel right, there’s probably some truth to that. Our bodies are intelligent and can sense when something isn’t right for us. We pay attention to our gut feelings and trust that our intuition is onto something.
5. We spend time alone.
In trying to get back to my true colors, I spent some time alone because I needed to stop absorbing other people’s energy for a little bit. I regularly need alone time to gather my feelings and thoughts. When we are constantly surrounding ourselves with other people, it is nearly impossible to know what our own beliefs are. We make time for ourselves. We meditate. We go for walks by ourselves in the park. We get to know ourselves, by ourselves.
6. We speak our minds and are heard.
Always holding back what we want to say is painful. We need to speak our truths and be heard. This doesn’t mean we need to always speak our truth, but finding one space where we can honestly and openly communicate is key to being our true, authentic selves. Maybe it’s a journal, maybe it’s a close friend, or maybe it’s a support group. I personally am a big fan of writing, support groups, coffee dates with friends, and therapy!
7. We surround ourselves with people who accept us.
It is really difficult to be your authentic self when people around you don’t accept that version of you. I remember a time in my life when I had discovered something new about myself and chose to change my way of life. There were people who judged me for this, who didn’t accept me for it. I had to find people who did accept me. We surround ourselves with people who accept and respect our true colors, most of the time. We let go of people who are judgmental and disrespectful of who we are.
8. We assimilate information.
We are not designed to just swallow information whole, yet often times we do. Authentic people make information our own. We don’t absorb everything around us. We ask ourselves: What does this mean to us? Why is it important to us? These things are what make the information relevant to us. These things are meaningful.
9. We know that it’s okay to let people down sometimes.
We are human beings—meaning we are fallible. We will continue to make mistakes and let people down at times. Being authentic means that we are okay setting boundaries with others, even if it feels like letting people down. People that we want around are people that will accept our boundaries and opinions, anyways.
10. We accept ourselves entirely.
The key to being loyal to our true colors is accepting what they are. We are beautiful, messy, and lovable creatures—every single one of us. Sometimes we are the most beautiful colors in the rainbow and other times we are different shades of gray and black. Our greatest challenge is accepting the whole spectrum of ourselves and of those around us. It’s a journey of a lifetime; not one that can be easily mastered overnight. But the one thing I do know is that it’s entirely worth it.
Author: Ali Mariani
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Michael Benz/Unsplash