The idea of being true to who you are is hardly new or novel. In fact, a quick Google search of “common phrases about being true to yourself” gave me 968 million results.

Shakespeare was talking about it centuries ago—“to thine own self be true.” We’ve got songs about loving yourself, we hear about it in podcasts, or we read about it in books.

Clearly, the idea of authenticity, or being yourself, has been around for a long time and is on the minds of many.

How Authentic Am I?It seems like we know that it’s important, but it can be hard to come by. The noise and voices in our world all tell us how to look, how to live, how to measure our success. These are all a threat to authenticity.

If you struggle to be yourself, that’s ok—you’re in the right place. We are going to take a close look at those threats and start to challenge them in order to live more authentically. To be more you.

But first, let’s take a quick look at why living authentically matters.

Why Be You?

It seems fairly intuitive that if you’re living authentically, you’re going to be happier. No one wants to spend their life pretending to be something they’re not.

A whole body of research confirms not only that you’re going to be happier when you are authentic, but that people who have a clear idea of who they are and who live authentically enjoy a number of other benefits:

  • More confidence in who you are[1] and more positive feelings about yourself [2]
  • Lower likelihood of mental health challenges such as depression and anxiety[3]
  • Less stress[4]
  • More satisfying romantic relationships[5]
  • Finding more meaning in your life[6]
  • Fewer physical health challenges such as headaches or stomachaches[7]

How to Develop Emotional Intimacy in a RelationshipIn short, knowing who you are and living accordingly can really have a positive impact on your life. Living authentically doesn’t magically take away your challenges in life. Life can still be difficult. But it does help you find more peace, more personal growth, and more connection and intimacy with others.

Even though it may feel daunting, it’s worth taking some time to explore your own authenticity and consider ways to improve it.

Wondering where you’re at in this process? Let’s check how authentic you actually are.

Here are some clues that your authenticity might need a boost:

Are you a perfectionist? Is it important to you (whether you openly recognize it or not) to try to make everything perfect—or to make everything appear perfect?

Do you ever measure your worth by your achievement, your productiveness, or how successful you’ve been at checking items off your to-do list?

Or on the flip side, are you ever so afraid of not measuring up that it’s easy to underachieve? If you don’t put yourself out there, you can’t come up short, right?

What about those of you (us?) who are people pleasers? You say yes, even though you don’t want to because you “should” or because you don’t want to let others down.

Or maybe you’re the “nice guy” who does whatever anyone asks, even if it isn’t what you really want to do, and you’re starting to feel a little bit like a doormat.

How’s your body image? This is a big one—for sure for women, but often for men as well. Do you think you have to look a certain way, weigh a certain amount, wear the right things in order to be good enough?

Do you ever worry about what other people think? Have you driven home after a party and replayed the things you said and thought “why did I say that?!”

How comfortable are you with intimacy and vulnerability? Are you willing and able to let people see the whole you? Can you enter into an emotionally intimate situation and feel comfortable sharing truly personal and vulnerable feelings with another? Can you allow someone to serve you? To give you a compliment or tell you something great about yourself without getting uncomfortable?

What about sex? That’s a highly intimate and vulnerable experience that is often fraught with challenges. Are you able to remain present and engaged in that connection?

How often do you compare your own experiences, talents, life with another’s?

Do you ever find yourself so uncomfortable with a situation, so stressed or overwhelmed that you self-medicate or numb yourself to the difficult emotions by staring at screens, shopping, drinking, or other behaviors that are ultimately just intended to escape the difficulties in unproductive ways?

Finally, what about your relationships. Do you ever define yourself by your relationships rather than just being yourself? Have you ever felt like you lost your identity because it was so tied up in your relationship with someone else?

We Can Overcome This

Whew! Take a deep breath. That list was heavy. If you found yourself in some of those items (or many) you are not alone. I see myself in many of them too—and that’s in spite of years of studying and researching about this and trying to be better. It’s normal to be challenged by any and all of these things or others.

That’s ok!

What’s important is

  1. Recognizing what’s happening
  2. Seeing where you are losing your authenticity
  3. Then working to improve it

Next, let’s take a look at some common obstacles to authenticity—specifically, ways that you might be allowing others to define who you are and begin to challenge those.

Then, we will take a deep dive into figuring out who you are and who you want to be so that you can enjoy the benefits that come with authentic living.

Read this next:

How to be authentic

Living Authentically: Am I the Real Deal?

References:

[1] Neff, K. D., & Harter, S. (2002). The authenticity of conflict resolutions among adult couples: Does women’s other-oriented behavior reflect their true selves? Sex Roles, 47, 403–417.

[2] Andersen, S. M, & Williams, M. (1985). Cognitive ⁄ affective reactions in the improvement of self-esteem: When thoughts and feelings make a difference. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 49, 1086–1097.

[3] Wood, A. M., Linley, P. A., Maltby, J., Baliousis, M., & Joseph, S. (2008). The authentic personality: A theoretical and empirical conceptualization and the development of the Authenticity Scale. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 55(3), 385.

[4] Ryan, R. M., LaGuardia, J. G., & Rawsthorne, L. J. (2005). Self-complexity and the authenticity of self-aspects: Effects on well being and resilience to stressful events. North American Journal of Psychology7(3).

[5] Lopez, F. G., & Rice, K. G. (2006). Preliminary development and validation of a measure of relationship authenticity. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 53, 362–371.

[6] Schlegel, R. J., & Hicks, J. A. (2011). The true self and psychological health: Emerging evidence and future directions. Social and Personality Psychology Compass5(12), 989-1003.

[7] Ryan, R. M., LaGuardia, J. G., & Rawsthorne, L. J. (2005). Self-complexity and the authenticity of self-aspects: Effects on well being and resilience to stressful events. North American Journal of Psychology7(3).

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2 Comments

  1. Hi Amber! I don’t know how you find the time to do the wonderful things you do. I’ve followed you since you started on the I/T and always enjoy your comments and clear instructions for sewing. You’ve often given me good ideas and I appreciate that so much.

    This new undertaking will be interesting and already I see how seriously you take journalism with all your sources listed so that we can go further if we want to. That’s the mark of a good writer! Thank you again!

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