Brené Brown defines authenticity as:
“The daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.”
So becoming authentic is about letting go of who we think others want us to be, and beginning to operate from a deep place that represents our truest self.
But when we have been programmed from an early age to care about what others think- it’s hard to let go of that. We struggle to embrace a new practice of honesty and forthright behavior.
And, as Brené describes it, it is a practice.
Much like learning to meditate or ride a bike or cook or learn a new language.
“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen” – Brené Brown
So it’s a practice and a series of choices.
The first part of being authentic is to let go of what others think.
And the second and sometimes more difficult part is to cultivate what you think. What you believe in and know to be true. This is where the work often comes in.
It means living purposefully from our values, and that takes some time and effort and contemplation, but I know from experience it is worth the effort.
When we can identify our 3 or 4 core values- and use those to make our difficult but daily decisions about how to live our life or allocate our time- our decisions become so much easier.
Authenticity Action Step:
Go ahead and take a moment to define your own core values…
Write down your 3 or 4 highest core values.
These might be things like love or social justice or integrity or family or relationships or hard work or honesty or a healthy lifestyle.
Keep it in a place you can refer to often.
Reminding yourself of your core values will keep you on track and grounded.
What to Watch Out For:
Where we often get into trouble is when 2 of our values begin to compete with each other.
For example one of my values is a strong work ethic and responsibility to my commitments.
But I also hold family as one of my top 3 core values- so I need to put family first and limit my commitments to work or outside activities to tend to that first.
This helps me plan my day and govern my decisions.
I can stand right inside my integrity when I have to say no to a volunteer opportunity or even the more difficult one of a promotion or assignment at work if it means taking away precious time that I have allotted to family.
We are so programmed to operate out of the “should’s” in our life that we sometimes don’t know what we would do if we “could.”
Making the Choice to be Authentic
The choice to be authentic is a difficult one.
It sounds nice but how do we begin to do it- when we are so influenced by others around us?
One of the big questions I often use to ask myself- what would I do if no one cared?
What if I didn’t have to tell anyone what my decision or action was?
What if I only had myself to please?
What would I do then??
Now that doesn’t give us license to just go around behaving badly—because that’s not who we really are at our core.
It’s not our “best” self or our “worst self – but rather our most honest self.
We might ruffle some feathers when we bring our truth forward. We might get criticized or judged or even (dare I say it?) “left out”…. which is our ultimate and primal fear- being ostracized by the group.
But the greater risk is to go through life living a lie. To live in ways that are outside our internal integrity. To cut ourselves off from our deepest feelings, needs , and truths. This is the road to the slow death of our vibrancy, vitality and joy.
As E.E. Cummings says:
“To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody but yourself—means to fight the hardest battle which any human can fight—and never stop fighting.”
The fight to become the truest version of yourself is so important.
Because if you don’t, the world will miss out on your unique gifts, talents and contributions.
But more importantly you will miss out on the joy, fulfillment and connection that comes with allowing others to truly see you, know you, and appreciate you- which is at the heart of feeling deeply loved and living Whole-Heartedly.