My Authentic Self

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What does it mean to be your “authentic self”? I was asked this question at my latest session. After realizing with all my friendships and relationships, I altered myself to like what they liked and do things they liked, am I finally being my authentic self?

quote-to-thine-own-self-be-true-and-it-must-follow-as-the-night-the-day-thou-canst-not-then-william-shakespeare-26-72-54Well first of all, who is my authentic self? How do I know that?  The labels that identify me are wife, mother, daughter, sister, teacher and hopefully a friend. I’m Irish American. I’m no longer a Catholic, I consider myself Agnostic. I’m a Democrat. I’m a pet owner. I’m a frustrated writer. I’ve been called an athlete, but I stumble on that one. How many of these labels did I give myself and how many have been placed upon me? How many are points of view? Aren’t these just categories that I’d check off on a sheet? All of these things tell people who I am, but how do I know who my authentic self is? I’ve spent so much of my life trying to get people to like me based on what they like. I’ve tried to make myself interesting so that I’d have their approval. But did this actually bring them closer to me or just me to them?

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To find my authentic self, I need to know who I am. What can I change and what I can’t. What are my personality traits, my values, and my beliefs? What are my needs and my goals? What is my signature strength? Who I am and what I do have to line up if I’m going to find and be my authentic self.

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Don Miguel Ruiz shares centuries of Toltec wisdom in his book The Four Agreements. To apply this wisdom, choose to create these profound agreements with yourself:

  1. Be impeccable with your word. Think before I say something to other people and mean what I say. The same with what I tell myself. If I wouldn’t say and mean it to others, I shouldn’t be doing the same to myself.
  2. Don’t take anything personally. It’s not all about you.
  3. Don’t make assumptions. Readily acknowledge what you don’t know and have the courage to ask questions. Carefully examine the evidence. Don’t attribute intent to others. Retain a healthy skepticism as you avoid cynicism. Develop, refine, and constantly apply your own well-founded theory of knowledge.
  4. Always do your best. Do all you can while you recognize you can’t do it all. All you can do is all you can do. When you have truly done your best, there is no reason for shame. It’s ok to goof off if you do your best when it matters the most. Apply your time and effort toward your well-chosen and enduring goals.

 

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Mr. Ruiz also offers 5 questions to find your authentic self. So let’s give this a go.

1. When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?  When I was little I wanted to be a Veterinarian or a teacher. I remember being so excited when my grandmother’s friend, who was a teacher, would give me some of their classroom supplies that were left over and I loved playing school on my porch.  Mr. Ruiz says that when we picture ourselves in our childhood dream, we can see that smile we had and the positive energy we encompassed. That can be our life.
2. What makes you laugh? Laugh at what you find funny. Who cares if the person next to you is laughing. Laughing feels good, makes us happier people and sets us free to enjoy the life we are living. Laughter is a powerful tool that can change your mood and your perception of what is happening in the moment. Enjoy the smile and the feeling of happiness rising inside of you.
3. What clothes do you feel comfortable in? This is a serious question. It doesn’t matter if you like dressing in suits every day or prefer cotton shirts and no shoes, wear what makes you comfortable. Clothes are a way of expressing yourself and what you wear should be comfortable and should reflect the true you.
4. What activities do you enjoy? Discovering these activities will help guide you towards a place where you want to spend time. By finding and immersing yourself in this place, you will feel happier and more energized. Ultimately you may find that you want to work in that place, or at least create the possibility to spend more time there.
5. Who can you be yourself around? We are social creatures by nature, so it is important to spend time with people who make us feel good and accept us for who we really are. When we are with people who do not judge us but accept us, then we are able to express our authentic self.

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So, who is my authentic self? I’m working on that. I need to start by asking myself “Who am I?” What does it feel like to be me? If I could see myself from an external point of view, how would I describe myself? What are my gifts, my talents, my characteristics? Next, I need to think about who I admire? Who are my superheroes? People I’ve met in life and those who I admire that I may not have ever met. What is it about them that I admire? Finding out what my natural talents and abilities would follow. Maybe next time I write about this subject, I’ll have some answers to share.

 

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