Being authentic means finding a way to live your highest values, day to day, moment to moment. It means identifying and honoring your feelings in a way that gives them credence, absent judgement. It means living in a way that allows those feelings expression.
Being authentic and self actualization go hand in hand. Living authentically means expressing your innermost thoughts, feelings and values, as you go about living life.
Being authentic often means being courageous. It means honoring your own opinions above the opinions of others. It often means going against the grain, refusing to accept the status quo, to not buckle under to the pressure of those around you who otherwise would impress their opinions and values upon you.
There is great value in taking the time to actually sit down, pen and paper in hand, to ascertain precisely what it is you value and prioritize most highly life.
Many of us stumble along through life, blindly moving forward, behaving in ways that really do not serve our highest values and innermost priorities. It's far too easy to get caught up in societal ideas about what an optimum life experience looks like, what we should and should not do. Taking time to intently examine what it is that brings you the highest degree of excitement, joy, well-being and sense of contentment is a valuable exercise that has enormous pay-offs.
Many years ago I came to see that my own personal values did not always align with those of mainstream society. However, actually honoring those values and living them, actually being authentic, actually having the courage to unabashedly live my truth, to go against the common grain, took some time. I often struggled with the idea of pleasing others, of letting friends and family down if I did not acquiesce to their ideas and opinions about how life should be lived.
The decision to quit my full-time job in rehabilitation services to pursue a singing career with a traveling rock band, in my early twenties, did not come easy. But I now see this as a pivotal point in my life in terms of truly being authentic to my highest values. It was called upon to move forward in the face of disdain and judgment of my parents. Living my highest values at that time, also meant making sacrifices regarding money, living conditions, even food. I also had to overcome social anxiety and shyness. Getting upon on stage to perform challenged me in ways I'd yet to be challenged.
I went from living comfortably, shopping for frivolities on a whim, to rationing meager weakly earnings that barely covered one decent meal per day. Plain and simply though, my interest in singing could not be quelled. I recall feeling that if I did not heed and follow this interest, I would crumble and die. In effect, It seemed I had no personal choice in the matter.Thus, in this case, being authentic was actually not so much a choice, but more a calling.
Through this I came to see that to ignore our highest values is to turn our backs on our highest callings. Absent authenticity, all you're really doing is going through the motions of living. A life lived trying to please others, is hollow.
With age generally comes a greater ability to be and live authentically. Plain and simply, we have greater awareness of our values and we've come to see that resisting or rejecting those values results in emotional suffering.
What age has brought for me is the ability to honor my own feelings more consistently. In the past, I often struggled with the social aspects of life. I am by nature an introverted personality who has rare sporadic moments of mild extroversion. I deeply enjoy more brief interludes of socializing with friends, but moreover I cherish and thrive on alone time or time spent with immediate family. This personality trait appears to grow even stronger as I grow older. And I find when I do not honor it, I pay the price. To those looking on, it's very likely I appear to be a consummate homebody to the point of being a hermit. In the past, this would likely have bothered me. These days, I embrace the way that I am.
In the past, I often found it quite difficult to honor this trait, knowing full well I was disappointing, perhaps even hurting friends and acquaintances of mine who were more extroverted, more interested in socializing than I was.
In the past it seemed as though I had greater tolerance for honoring another's interest over my own. But in looking closely I can now see I simply was in denial of or lacking the awareness of what was in play.
These days, the choice is plain; Either I honor my own interests or I pay the price. And that price can run the gamut from physical pain, fatigue, to emotional/mental exhaustion. It's simply no longer worth it to try to make someone else happy, while putting my own interests on the back-burner.
Being authentic becomes the default position when we are no longer willing to pay the price for pretending to be someone or something we plain and simply, are not.
Being authentic begins as an ideal that we try to attain and maintain, but in mastery, it becomes a natural way of life.
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