Authenticity...Will the Real YOU Please Stand Up!

There is a lot of talk and concern about being authentic, your true self; really allowing the real you to stand up and be present. Many articles and coaches discuss and write about how to truly find your authentic self. But what does that really mean? Do you know who you really are? Who you are to the core? What is your perception of yourself? And, is that perception true? All this can become a bit mind boggling! We all have beliefs and attitudes that shape our perceptions. Understanding where those beliefs stem from, how you got them, and taking an honest look at them can help you determine whether those beliefs, thoughts and attitudes contribute to your authentic self or if they lead you toward a false self perception.

Authenticity Thought Starters

Let’s start at the beginning. Honestly answer these thought starter questions to evaluate your thoughts and perceptions as a way to determine how authentic or false your internal thoughts are…you know it’s that internal voice you hear. Write down your responses to refer back to them. Ready to test your thoughts for their authenticity?

  1. Think about a belief or attitude that you have of yourself.
  2. Is it true? Is it a fact? Is that thought or feeling verifiably true? How do you know?
  3. Does holding onto that thought or feeling serve you in a positive way? Does it contribute to your feeling happy, fulfilled, calm and peaceful?
  4. Are your thoughts and attitudes about yourself helping to keep you healthy? Do your self thoughts push you toward actions that put your well-being at risk? Do these thoughts keep you from being your best?
  5. Does this belief and feeling get you more of what you want, need and deserve? Or is it leading you toward or keeping you from taking the actions that would give you what you need?

Now that you have some idea about which thoughts, beliefs and feelings may be self-limiting you may be ready to find your authentic self to live life to your fullest! Answer each question honestly. There is no right or wrong. These questions are about getting you to examine your core authentic self. Save your answers for further processing.

Where Does This Begin?

Typically you gain your perspective of yourself very early in life as a small child. With very little life experience or insight, you may have interpreted someone’s actions or messages to you, particularly a parent or other important adult, in a negative way. That often was not the intent of the person sending the message but it was how you interpreted it. How does this happen?

Ladder of Inference
Ladder of Inference

We grow up creating self-generating beliefs which we rarely truly test for truth. We simply adopt beliefs based on conclusions we made from observations/data. This phenomenon is called the Ladder of Inference (visual). We observe or hear a message “the data”, select some details about it and add meaning to it. Based on the meaning we attach, we then make assumptions about it. The assumptions become conclusions which we adopt as beliefs. The beliefs then drive our actions.

Without truly exploring we adopt this as our belief about ourselves. Over time we continue to infer others behaviors in this same pattern and do not even realize we are doing it. Now as adults, these beliefs, which often are self-limiting and not true, are deeply embedded in ourselves. We accept them without questioning. All too often this holds us back, we may believe we are not good enough, not worthy enough. It’s surprising, actually shocking, how many of us are walking around with those beliefs!

As a small child you “bought into” that negative message and labeled it….I am not good enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough, not athletic enough, I don’t deserve something better, I must be “bad”. The messages of our internal voices can easily turn into an inner critic. As a small child you interpret a situation or message without really examining it or questioning if it is true. This interpretation then leads to a feeling often inadequacy, lacking something, unworthiness in some aspect. Then when faced with similar situations, we quickly assign that same interpretation and feeling to it. This thinking becomes automatic without even being aware that you are doing it; it is subconscious. These thoughts and feelings become your beliefs, again without really examining it for the truth. You simply accept it as the truth. These beliefs can so easily become self-limiting.  You begin to expect this in your daily interactions and life. These self-limiting expectations (beliefs) get in your way to fully living your authentic self.

Authentic Self Questionnaire…Let’s take a deep dive into those and examine them!

Now that you have some idea about which thoughts, beliefs and feelings may be self-limiting you may be ready to find your authentic self to live life to your fullest! Answer each question honestly. There is no right or wrong. These questions are about getting you to examine your core authentic self. Save your answers for further processing.

  1.  What does your inner voice say to you? What is the message? Think of a time, a situation where you listened carefully to that voice. Describe the moment as specifically as you can. What was the circumstance? When was that? Can you think back to the first time you received that message of your inner voice? What was going on? How old were you? Who was giving you that message…at least from your perspective at that time?
  2. How does that message make you feel?
  3. Is that message true? Is that really you? Or was it a message you received early in life and have grown to accept as truth?
  4. What would you like to say to that person(s) who gave you that message? Speak from your heart and tell her/him/them what you know about yourself, what is true about you. Let it out!

Once you can pinpoint where those messages come from, it is easier to look at them and see them for what they are…simply our interpretations and assumptions, not necessarily the “truth”! To begin to live authentically you need to learn to be vulnerable. What??? You may be asking, who wants to be vulnerable? Doesn’t that just open myself up for hurt and pain? What the heck does that have to do with being authentic?

From Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, “What we know matters, but who we are matters more. Being rather than knowing requires showing up and letting ourselves be seen. It requires us to dare greatly, to be vulnerable.” Most of us would interpret vulnerability as weakness, when in fact it is just the opposite! And, it impacts us all! It’s not a choice. The only choice is how we each respond when we are staring at uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. We each choose whether we respond with our authentic self and the knowledge that we are worthy or shrink away, or pretend to be someone other than ourself.

From Brenne Brown’s Daring Greatly…..The 10 Guideposts for Wholehearted Living that point to what the Wholehearted work to cultivate and what they work to let go of:

  1. Cultivating Authenticity: Letting go of what people think
  2. Cultivating Self-Compassion: Letting go of perfectionism
  3. Cultivating a Resilient Spirit: Letting go of numbing and powerlessness
  4. Cultivating Gratitude and Joy: Letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark
  5. Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith: Letting go of the need for certainty
  6. Cultivating Creativity” Letting go of comparison
  7. Cultivating Play and Rest: Letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth
  8. Cultivating Calm and Stillness: Letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle
  9. Cultivating Meaningful Work: Letting go of self-doubt and “supposed to”
  10. Cultivating Laughter, Song, and Dance: Letting go of being cool and “always in control”

Wholehearted living (being authentic) is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.

Vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center, of meaningful human experiences. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable allows you to be authentic. Let the real you live your life.