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?
Well 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?
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.
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:
- 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.
- Don’t take anything personally. It’s not all about you.
- 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.
- 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.
Mr. Ruiz also offers 5 questions to find your authentic self. So let’s give this a go.
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.
- It’s not as simple as eating healthier or exercising more. Yes, going to the gym has been a fucking HUGE help for me. But that is just me. Sometimes the gym has triggered my depression cycle. Sometimes it’s just the band-aid covering what I really need to deal with. So eating better and going the gym help, but aren’t the end all be all cure for it all.
- I know you do not always understand why this is the way it is, chances are, I also don’t know why I’m feeling this way. I know that having me in your life and hearing about things that trigger my depression aren’t what anyone signed on for in my life. But put yourself in my place. I don’t ask for these times in my life to happen. Sometimes they just do. Sometimes I can see this row of switches in my head. Imagine the ones you see in movies. Long rows of red switches on a control board. Each one of these is marked with a different trigger. Ideally, I would love to have them all in the down position, but sometimes, rarely like this past summer, they all flipped up to on. When that happened it was almost too much to handle. But now, they are all reset and I know what to look for when one is about to switch up. This is why I went back into therapy. I needed help to deal with these triggers. Sometimes I don’t know why it is happening or what brings it on. Sometimes it’s something unseen or knew. All I can do is ask you to bare with me and give me time to figure it all out.
- Sometimes there is no emotion, sometimes there’s too much. Sometimes both at the same time. Sometimes I’m just quiet. I don’t have a reason, it’s just that sometimes my depression means I need to be quiet and just gather myself.
- I really want to be better, please stop telling me I’m just not trying hard enough. No one asks to have depression. No one wants to feel the weight of the world on their shoulders. No one wants to be told I need to try harder and just snap out of it. If I could just snap out of it, I wouldn’t be where I am now.
- I can’t just snap out of it. Like I said, you can’t just snap out of it. Cher isn’t going to come in and slap me across the face and yell “Snap out of it.” If that were the magic cure, she’d have one sore hand and amazing arm strength.
- I do not want to hurt you. I’ve said things in my depression episodes that have been hurtful. I can only hope that your love for me can over rule my actions and accept my sincere apologies when I lash out.
- I constantly feel like a burden. This burden feeling led me to believe you’d all be better off without me in your lives. Telling me you love and support me may not always solve the problem, but it can help me trust and open up to you.
- We appreciate every effort you make to help us. I may not always sound sincere when I say thank you for your help, but please know that I do appreciate it and I don’t always know how to express my gratitude.
- We are not by definition, asking you for an immediate fix. You can’t fix me. I’m not sure if I can be fixed. I know I am trying and that just having your support and you don’t have to do anything but just be there.
- It’s not your fault.It’s nobody’s fault. Nobody did anything that specifically leads to this problem It’s an illness. There can be contributing factors, but it’s nobody’s “fault”.
- I really appreciate it when you ask me if you can do anything for me, but sometimes I’m not sure what I need from others. Sometimes, I just need to have a cup of coffee, or a walk or just nothing at all.