01 Jun ARE YOU BEING AUTHENTIC?
“To know what you prefer instead of humbly saying ‘Amen’ to what
the world tells you you ought to prefer, is to keep your soul alive.”
-Robert Louis Stevenson, Scottish novelist and poet
Are you being authentic? Perhaps a better question is: Are you living your life in an authentic manner? I asked that question of someone yesterday and he replied, “Doesn’t everyone?” I don’t think so.
According to Webster’s Dictionary, being authentic means “being genuine, bona fide, and veritable; being actually and precisely what is claimed, not imaginary or false.” Let me define it more precisely: being authentic means just being you – without pretense, without fear.
As straightforward as this appears, being authentic is a life-long process. Unfortunately, society doesn’t encourage you to be authentic, so you have to take charge by first making the decision that choosing to be authentic has a payoff. Let me assure you it does and the payoff is multilayered. At its most basic, living authentically gives you more energy, makes relationships more meaningful and provides you with tremendous emotional freedom. In a broader sense, you are more likely to get what you desire when you live your life authentically.
In the past I have – from time to time – been inauthentic and, in hindsight, my action or inaction was always a reflection of my fear. For example, I didn’t say “no” to someone because I was afraid of disappointing or hurting another’s feelings. There were even times that I said or did something in an attempt to impress another person. The after burn of my fear-based behavior was always the same: I was disappointed in myself because, at the heart of my not being authentic, lay the belief that “I’m not good enough.” “I don’t like myself” or “I don’t trust myself”.
The good news for me was that I always forgave myself and learned from the experience. The lessons I learned in each instance gave me the ability to recognize and mute negative “voices” from the past and shed cumbersome and limiting beliefs that have stuck to me since childhood.
I have helped dozens of my clients over the years learn to break free of some external authority – society, parents, peers, religious institutions and even teachers who have consciously or unconsciously dictated the direction and behavior of their lives. They had fallen into the trap of living a style of life in which they had erroneously embraced a certain kind of house, car, school degree, job, position or partner. In effect, they had created a socio-cultural prison for themselves.
The bottom line is that when you choose to live an authentic life, you live a life that resonates with who you really are. You let go of the habits, power plays, pretenses, manipulations, relationships and physical “stuff” that restricts you from leading an exceptional life.
I would like to focus on “relationships” since I really do believe that’s what living an authentic life comes down to. When someone is not authentic with you, how does it make you feel? I suspect that, if you are like the majority of people, you feel angry, especially if the relationship is a close one. Perhaps you don’t even consciously know when someone is being inauthentic but you will unconsciously “feel” it. You sense a tension in the air or you feel depleted or disrespected, lonely or noncommittal, unappreciated or uncomfortable. Think about this because when you are being inauthentic, others will have a similar reaction as you.
When you choose to be genuine, to be authentic, your life will be filled with relationships that enhance, because you will attract others who are also authentic. When you live authentically, you will find yourself surrounded by people who allow you to be you, who speak the truth and encourage you to speak the truth – people who are honest because you are honest – because you are true to yourself.
That’s why it is of utmost importance that you realize that you really are in charge of your life and that life truly does follow your lead and reflects back who you are.
If you want to be authentic, you must choose to change and grow and learn about – you. I think sometimes we forget that life lessons are repeated until they are learned and that – sometimes – we need to slow down just a little to become aware of what life is trying to teach us. It’s the lessons we learn that help us to become authentic.
It takes courage to be authentic because living authentically requires more than asking questions and being aware – it demands ACTION. It means doing and saying what is congruent with our inner awareness and sometimes what you say and do will not always be popular, but it will be – authentic. Being authentic is easy. Being fake is difficult.
Here are a few ideas to help you live an exceptional life by becoming more authentic:
1. Have Integrity: Just say what you mean and mean what you say, even when no one is looking. You are nothing more than your word and if you are authentic, your word will soon become known as “golden”.
2. Treat Others Fairly: No matter what your role in life, you are always dealing with other people. The biggest secret in being authentic lies in how you treat the people you come in contact with. Do you treat others with respect and love or do you demean them when they make a mistake? There is nothing wrong with getting upset with someone but there is a whole lot wrong with belittling another.
3. Sharpen Your Listening Skills: Everyone, regardless of their position in life, wants to be heard, acknowledged, respected and loved. Everyone wants to feel important in their own way. I’ve said this many times in many ways. Ask questions when you are engaged in a conversation and focus 100% of your attention on what that person is saying. An authentic person’s attention is laser-like, sharp and focused. You are being authentic when you honestly show your interest in others.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate: I cannot tell you how many problems would be eliminated if everyone communicated with one another. Life is full of uncertainty and fear runs rampant when people are left in the dark. Whether you are a business leader, a parent or a friend – communicate. Keep people in the loop whenever possible. Authentic people have good relationships at home and at work because they keep information flowing and keep others informed.
Begin to be authentic today and you will live an exceptional life. As the 19th century British novelist George Eliot (pen name for Mary Ann Evans) wrote, “It is never too late to be what you might have been.”