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“The greatest discovery of all is your true authentic self buried deep inside of you.” ~ Richard Krawczyk
We all know we should be our authentic selves.
However, the majority of us don’t know what being authentic even means.
We only understand being socially acceptable, and that’s natural because as humans, feeling safe, secure, and connected to our fellow beings is extremely important for our survival.
The only problem with that is that we get stuck at this level and either keep struggling to move up or never move up at all.
We might be familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs where he talks about five core needs that each human being has:
>> Physiological Needs
>> Safety and Security
>> The Need to Belong
>> Self-Esteem Needs
>> Self-Actualization Needs
In my understanding, we all have the potential and are meant to reach a level of self-actualization. Perhaps that’s what the journey of life is all about.
When we’ve reached a level where we can fulfill these highest needs or at least can work toward them, that’s when we move toward our authentic self.
Being authentic then means that there are no masks, no pretenses. You are who you are and you embrace every aspect of yours with acceptance, respect, dignity, understanding, and compassion.
We know what we stand for and refuse to settle for just anything.
We are no longer denying or feeling afraid of our own truth and certainly not running after any kind of validation.
We feel secure in our own skin and are at ease with our traits, preferences, states, strengths, and areas of improvement.
Then our choices and decisions don’t stem from any kind of fear or compulsions. We are aware and feel well-equipped to face the consequences of those. We’re not looking to pass the buck to someone else for things that don’t work out because we know we might fall at times and know how to pick ourselves back up—with or without support.
“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” ~ Brené Brown
We are true to ourselves and our relationships at every step.
And all this is only possible when we’ve done the work on ourselves i.e. we’ve undergone the pain of removing the layers that we’ve been using as shields to make ourselves “acceptable.”
Layers such as people pleasing, seeking validation, overcompensating, ignoring your inner voice to make someone else feel important, making yourself absent from your own life, and investing in everything else except your own self.
In my understanding, we can either be acceptable or authentic.
“The core of authenticity is the courage to be imperfect, vulnerable and to set boundaries.” ~ Brené Brown
Living and presenting ourselves in ways that make us feel acceptable or liked will be at odds with being our authentic self because being authentic means being at the risk of not being liked, accepted, validated, and understood; that’s a place we generally don’t want to go to.
I mean who are we if we are not liked or validated by someone else?
And that’s what each of us needs to learn in our own time and pace: our journey is not about running after anyone.
It’s about turning toward our own self, unearthing who we are and holding that sense of self with gentleness, compassion, and ease, and in that process we might piss people off and we need to be okay with that.
Interestingly, everyone wants to be their authentic self, but no one wants to pay the price associated with it and there are no free lunches in the world.
Being our authentic self (or even working toward it) is great! However, there are some costs associated with it that we all need to be able to afford.
If we can’t, then we’ll remain stuck.
So either we make the choice of living a life that is more in accordance with the outside world but makes us feel empty and hollow from within or we move toward a life that feels more aligned with who we are and want to be, at the cost of it not being acceptable to some people in the world.
“When someone says ‘you’ve changed,’ it means you’ve stopped living your life their way.” ~ Anonymous
Being authentic would then require us to be okay with the fact that:
1. We will outgrow people. As the need for validation and holding onto others’ perception of who we are begins to go down, we might realise that a lot of people, conversations, and behaviors about others will stop making sense. We won’t be able to relate to them as much as we did earlier simply because now the color of our lens has changed. We need to be okay with the idea that as we begin to remove these extra layers defining our identity, some people and relationships will become redundant.
2. People will not understand us. As we come closer and closer to who we are and stand our ground, we will see that a lot of people will not understand us, our choices, preferences, and decisions. Remember, throwing a tiny stone can cause ripples in water. Hence, one small change in us is enough to disturb the equilibrium of our relationships. However, with time, patience, and consistency a new equilibrium will set in that could feel more aligned with who you are. And that would be totally worth the effort.
3. People will label us. When our boundaries become well-defined and we no longer allow people to do as they please with us, people might not like it. They will do whatever they can to push back because their comfort has been disturbed. So we might hear terms like “unreasonable,” “difficult,” “selfish,” and so on. That’s because when we are focused on being acceptable, it is all about them, all the time. Being authentic would mean that we also know when to make it about us and that would make those who are used to being treated like royalty all the time uncomfortable.
4. We will feel lonely and misunderstood. But we will be at ease with it because we will know that life is better with those who genuinely feel aligned with us instead of being with those who don’t.
5. We will not do things for the heck of it. Nope. We will look for meaning, purpose, and alignment in everything that we do because that’s how we will honor our self-esteem and self-actualization needs. We will focus on our highest good and all that brings a sense of purpose.
6. We will have fewer people in our life who are close to us.
7. We will have to make some tough decisions and that may not be approved by others. We will find ourselves leaving or getting into situations and relationships that would be intimately tied to who we are. However, they may not be understood or supported by people around us. It will not be comfortable at all. Yet, we will have to take such steps if we want to lead an authentic life.
There is a price for everything. When we are focused on being acceptable to others all the time, it ends up costing us our own self.
When we choose to be authentic and work toward our highest good and purpose, it will cost us the approval and validation of others.
However, when we are true to ourselves, the right kind of opportunities and people will find their way to us. We will know whose opinion, approval, and understanding really matters, and adjusting here and there wouldn’t feel like a mammoth task. It would actually flow from a state of alignment and choice.
At some point in our lives, this oscillation between the self and the world needs to end. We will have to move to one side and make our peace with it.
I made my peace with being authentic some time ago. I have and continue to pay these costs every now and then, and I’ve learnt to embrace these costs in the interest of my highest good because I understand in my heart that it shouldn’t have been about “me” or “you.” It’s always about me and you.
When I have found my comfort with my own self, the ones who matter have found their way to me and now we are in our own little world. For the others, we all coexist in our own spaces with respect and acceptance.
I choose to be authentic instead of running after a false sense of acceptance by just anyone. I choose to be loved, understood, and fight for the understanding of those who truly fill my heart and soul and I am at peace with not having certain others in my inner circle because we are not aligned.
I choose to be authentic and do it every day.
What is it for you?
“Put on your colorful wings, sweet friend and allow yourself to show the world your authentic self. This way your tribe can find you.” ~ Anonymous
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