20 Ways To Be Authentic
By Starr Sites
What Is Authenticity?
Being authentic means that you act in ways that show your true self and how you feel. Rather than showing people only a particular side of yourself, you express your whole self genuinely.
To get started, here's a quick video on how to be yourself
How We Lost Our Authenticity
From infancy into adulthood, we are constantly balancing inner and outer aspects of ourselves in order to better fit in, to become more successful, or to find love. We all want to be loved, or at least liked. We want to find “our place” in society, and we want to be respected for who we are and what we have to contribute. Many of us are propelled even further, desiring to know and live our purpose, to find deeper meaning in our lives, and to feel the fulfillment that comes with becoming a more authentic person.
But how do we do that in a consumer-oriented world where marketing overrules truth and “image” is more important than integrity? We live in a society engorged with superficiality, where sex sells, hyperbole wins, greed trumps values, and our principles get stomped under foot. Yet we still want to be accepted and to fit in, and we may even promote “the lie” in order “to get ahead”. So how are we to be authentic in such a dysfunctional world?
Why We Stick To Inauthenticity
Psychology has taught us that we were molded as children by our parents, teachers, religions, and peers to become “acceptable” in their eyes, regardless of how that pressure may have distorted us. And while we were still dependent on others to survive, we were susceptible to their coercions as we tried to match their expectations and to become the person we thought they wanted us to be. As a result we developed behavioral anomalies and beliefs to help us “measure up” to their unrealistic expectations and to please those who took care of us.
Sometimes we also had to resort to coping mechanisms and protective measures in the face of abuse, exclusion or lack. Thus we adapted as best we could, depending on the patterns of behavior, habit, attitude and belief we were conditioned by, which are now buried deep in our unconscious where they remain hidden and hard to control.
This process has been further aggravated by social media, which encourages superficiality, competition, and peer pressure to further mold us into someone we want others to believe we are, while all the while it is somewhat out of focus with who we really are. As social pressures impacted us to form our system of beliefs, the "Adaptive Self" was born. It drives our beliefs, attitudes and behaviors to this day! If we are to rediscover our original and natural “Authentic Self”, we must first acknowledge that the “Adaptive Self” is currently running the show, and we hardly realize that we are programmed to behave in very specific ways.
Yes we can thank the “Adaptive Self” for getting us this far, but if we want to evolve further, looking behind the social mast to rediscover the "Authentic Self", then we must dig into the psyche to clarify which beliefs are really our own.
How to Rekindle Authenticity
1. Observe yourself objectively to rekindle authenticity
Learn to observe yourself like a fly on the wall. Become the Watcher who is stalking the "Authentic Self". In order to reclaim this “Authentic Self”, you will need to watch yourself as you live your life in the present, observing how your “Adaptive Self” behaves, what it believes, how it reacts under pressure, and how it responds to challenges. If you are to make any changes within the depth of your Being, you must first know what you are currently projecting in your life, and whether your actions and attitudes emanate from your true inner self or are merely mechanisms you adopted long ago in order to better fit in. By identifying those adaptive coping mechanisms, such as defensiveness, or attracting attention, or trying to please others, you will begin to notice the falseness and begin to see the glimmers of truth underneath.
2. Examine family belief systems to rekindle authenticity
Most people were raised in some sort of "family-style" environment during their earliest, most vulnerable years. These early years are where most of our false beliefs came from! Think back to episodes in your childhood especially, when extreme circumstances forcibly implanted certain beliefs into your impressionable mind. Or perhaps your behavior changed abruptly, but what happened to make it change? The past is where our fears and attitudes towards others come from. Our cultural beliefs about racism, poverty, religion, misogyny, xenophobia, etc. usually reflect the mores of the family and the society within which we were raised. Authenticity is about speaking and acting in accord with our beliefs, so by examining our beliefs, we can learn a lot about ourselves.
While some folks rebelled against the mores of the times they lived in, they usually suffered some consequence, so we learned early that if we did what we were told and spouted the "party line", whatever that was, we'd be OK. Of course, we also watched while some of our peers "got away with murder" because they belonged to an elite group, perhaps they were a star athlete or the son of important or wealthy parents, etc. Others were treated mercilessly because they were poor, or of a different race, culture or creed, or because they were handicapped or looked different from the rest. We took all that in, along with how we and others were treated in our past, and we learned to do whatever we thought would promote our self-interest. And in doing this, we lost our authenticity.
As we grew up we adopted mechanisms and beliefs that worked for us, whether they were based on anything genuine or not. In most cases these beliefs still lie buried within us, although we have probably outgrown most of them. When unexpectedly these false beliefs are blurted out for all to hear, it is only then that the false belief is revealed, even to the person who spoke it. Sometimes it's shocking to hear what emerges from our mouths!
It is also important to recognize that our subconscious often speaks when we aren't paying strict attention, and if we are honest with ourselves, inner investigation will reveal some beliefs and behaviors it is time to change. So examine your beliefs as you stalk your authenticity, questioning yourself until you are 100% resonating with your true inner principles.
3. Open a dialogue between the "Adaptive Self" and the "Authentic Self".
If you like visualization exercises, here's one to try. Whether you tend to see, hear or feel, use your imagination to invite two aspects of your psyche - the "Adaptive Self" and the "Authentic Self"- for an inner mind dialogue. Respectfully introduce both: thank the "Adaptive Self" for helping you function through some difficult and confusing times. Understand that there's no negative judgment here.
Now invite the "Authentic Self" to present itself. Apologize for not being completely true to yourself in the past and vow to do better, once you more fully understand how you may have "lost your way" in a sea of beliefs. If you sincerely wish to expand your personal authenticity, are you willing to hear what both sides have to say? In your mind's eye, invite both parties to participate in this discussion, between the Adaptive and the Authentic. Ask a question, mentally, while urging each side to express itself fully, and then listen patiently to the responses. Encourage dialogue so that you may comprehend both points of view. This may help you understand why you hold the beliefs you do, as well as which ones you no longer give credence to and are ready to discard.
4. Choose to be the adult to rekindle authenticity
When you were young, you were easily molded, but now that you are an adult investigating your own inner landscape, you will soon become aware of discrepancies buried in your beliefs. If you catch yourself making a racist, sexist or other derogatory remark, ask yourself whether you believe yourself to be racist, sexist or whatever. Be sure to look for the source of that attitude. It's often a racist or sexist friend or family member. Once you have identified the discrepancy between what you believe and the comment that just surfaced, know that you can change the false beliefs as long as you are not blind to them. If you acknowledge what is true for you now, then you can release the false belief. That means living one's life according to the needs of your inner being and not according to the demands of society, nor according to the programming from your childhood. That kind of authenticity requires the vigilance of an adult perspective.
5. Examine your doubts to rekindle authenticity
When exploring your past for seeds of divergence from your "Authentic Self", you may feel unsure of how to go about it. You may question whether it's even possible to change what feels so deeply ingrained within you or is invisible to you. But where there's a will, there's a way. If you are tired of feeling partly "fake", slightly insincere, or somewhat out-of-focus with who you know yourself to be, or you are shocked to hear comments you do not believe emerge from your own mouth, it's usually because some kind of pressure was exerted upon you in the past to make you believe and behave in proscribed ways. Such ways were acceptable to your family or friends, your teachers or preachers, your business associates or whoever was paying you for some service. You probably weren't aware of it at the time, but they did not have your best interests in mind. They were serving their own interests. Doubts can be like breadcrumbs that lead you to explore places within, where you may have felt impelled to develop adaptive behaviors. Once you identify adaptive behaviors, you can change them. So when doubts arise, follow them within to find whatever it is that is buried there, and resolve to change those beliefs consciously, now that you see how they no longer represent who you truly are.
6. Develop the courage to face your fears to rekindle authenticity
Humans tend to be most comfortable with what is familiar. The unfamiliar is often challenging, at least at first. Examining your inner core beliefs can be like exploring a foreign landscape you are unfamiliar with. When you touch upon a belief that is suspect, your heart may race or your hands could get clammy. You may naturally feel afraid to look too deeply into yourself.
Yes, it can be scary. Especially if there was any form of abuse in your past, you may find that you are reluctant to look at the most painful moments of your life. There is often fear attached to those memories, so you naturally avoid reviewing them. However, the secrets of how and why you lost pieces of your authenticity is usually hidden behind or within those fears. So as much as possible, courageously face your fears and the beliefs that trigger that fear. Remember, this is about expanding your consciousness by removing blind spots. Penetrate the veil of your fears and own them. Learn their secrets. As you reclaim the courage to examine your fears and what caused them, you are reclaiming parts of your "Authentic Self".
7. Explore your relationship with money to rekindle authenticity
At first this suggestion may feel unrelated to authenticity. But in this materialistic world, money drives many of our most important decisions. Would you apply to work for a company that pays well but behaves in ways you consider immoral? Would you work for a corporation making deadly weapons or pesticides, or doing work that aggravates climate change, or promotes drugs that lead to addiction, or rips old people off financially? Would you lie on your resume to get that job? Then, assuming you got the job, would you feel like you must do whatever is asked of you to justify the amount of money you receive from your employer? Would you speak up if some ethical breach were revealed? These questions are intricately related to money issues and how they can steal our authenticity, so reflect deeply upon them to know yourself better.
In contrast, integrity, ethics, moral character and being 100% truthful are measures of real authenticity. Such qualities may not bring you the biggest paycheck, but they may deepen your sense of meaning and contribution to your society in an honorable way. Please realize that if you choose the authentic path, you may have to sacrifice something along the way. It is a choice of character whether to take the material path or the authentic path. Ask yourself if you are willing to live a life of principle, and be honest as you explore imaginary situations where you might have to choose between great wealth or good character. This may require some deep soul searching.
8. Love yourself and have compassion for others to rekindle authenticity
Slowly deepen your breathing and when you are feeling fully relaxed and receptive, call love to yourself from your environment. Imagine each breath infused with loving energy. Whether as balls of energy, or bursts, or rays of light and love, invite love to enter your body via your breath. Draw love into your lungs and disperse it throughout your body, or send it to your heart if you prefer. Keep breathing consciously until you feel the lightening and lifting energy of these "love breaths". (You can imagine being helped by loving Angels or other higher beings if that assists you). Take several deep loving breaths, expanding and receiving that love energy gratefully into your being. Once filled with love, feel free to share some of it with friends or loved ones, or send some love to those who need it most. It won't diminish you. Sending love to others tends to augment the love within!
It is not easy for most of us to love ourselves, nor is it easy to acknowledge one's our "flaws", but if we can open our hearts and have compassion for others, it will be easier to have compassion for ourselves as well. We are now living in times of accelerated evolution, so we are capable of improving ourselves little by little over time. Keep breathing in love to fill yourself and your world with more love and compassion.
9. Recognize that developing authenticity takes time.
Examining our deeply-seated beliefs is a process, perhaps a life-long process at that. After you have spent several hours observing yourself and delving into your beliefs and behaviors, it should be clear that this process will take some time. After all it takes quite awhile to winnow out beliefs and behaviors that no longer serve you and replace them with more authentic memes over time. Authenticity requires self-awareness as you navigate your beliefs to be sure that you are in genuine alignment with your true self.
10. Release patterns and beliefs that no longer serve you to rekindle authenticity
When you come across an opinion or belief that you cannot support anymore, it is important to let the old belief go. Visualization is good for this. You can place the belief within a bubble or a balloon and let it rise until it disappears. Or if you are more hands-on, you can write the old belief on a piece of paper, cross it out and burn the paper in a little ceremony where you verbally ask that this old belief be lifted from you or released back to where ever it came from. If you prefer, you can bury it.
Perhaps you'd rather hunt for a stone to represent any false beliefs you come across. You could paint a symbol of the false belief or bad behavior habit on the stone and then bury it or plant a flower or a tree above it to exemplify further transformation.
Now write (or just think of) a corresponding positive statement of belief that you can live with now. Perhaps you choose to write this newly affirmed belief on paper and place it in a silver box, or tape it to a mirror or magnetize it to your refrigerator. Place it somewhere you can see it, or find it when you want to work on beliefs, and repeat the "new" belief when you do. This will solidify and anchor your new belief into your subconscious to replace the old one you released. This will also help clarify and affirm your "Authentic Self".
11. Ask yourself what you truly believe.
One approach to the challenge of authenticity is to root out anything that is not truly you. Another pro-active approach is to simply start with pad and paper (or it can be a mental exercise) and begin listing your beliefs about yourself, beliefs like "I am not good enough" or "Nobody loves me" or "I'm stupid, fat, ugly, etc." Keep adding to your list any negative beliefs that comes to mind and realize that the subconscious uses these beliefs as directives, so they become self-fulfilling prophesies. Then examine each one, expand upon it, and think back to how and when you acquired that belief, who gave it to you, why you continue to hold on to it, and whether it represents "the you" you want to put forward today.
Now create positive alternatives to those negative beliefs you unearthed, such as "I AM good enough", or "I am drawing to myself a partner who loves and respects me", or "I am perfect just as I am", etc. Is this new belief different from what you used to believe? If so, be sure to remove the old belief you no longer hold. Contradictory beliefs will cancel each other out. Consciously and purposefully let go of any derogatory beliefs (in ways described in the paragraph above). Repeat the beliefs you feel sure of and use them as positive affirmations for awhile. This is a good way to help rekindle your authenticity.
12. Take it slow to rekindle your authenticity.
Do not try to do too much all at once. Be aware that when working with buried memories and painful incidents from your past, these can trigger disturbing thoughts that can linger for days. Sometimes we are shocked by what we discover within our subconscious that has been hidden, operating on automatic pilot in secret. Such sudden new raw awareness can disrupt our lives in unexpected ways. So use moderation and proceed cautiously. When you discover a belief or memory that shakes up your world, allow a few days for you to adjust to your new realizations and view them with self-compassion. Becoming whole and authentic takes increasing self-awareness as well as continuing to work to rid yourself of false beliefs for however long a time it takes. An annual review of your beliefs is helpful as well. That will help you notice the progress you have made over time.
How To Maintain Authenticity
Now that you've got a better sense of how be authentic, here's how to stay authentic.
13. Tell the truth and make it a habit.
This is such a simple suggestion and yet it makes a huge difference! It's so easy to fall into a pattern of lying for convenience sake, to further some agenda, to cover up some embarrassment, to say we have already done something we intend to do, but haven't yet. These seem like "little white lies" that do not hurt anything. However, the more little lies we tell, the less truthful we are, which means dwindling authenticity. How can others respect us if we can't be trusted to tell the truth? So work on eliminating those little white lies.
14. Make statements and decisions consciously.
In this hectic world, we are making decisions all the time. Unfortunately, a lot of these decisions are made hastily in the moment with no forethought. But decisions can have substantial consequences. You owe it to yourself to consider impacts and consequences BEFORE you make a decision so that you don't have to backtrack later. Don't let anyone push you into making a consequential decision before you are ready.
15. Be accountable.
When you speak, you want others to hear what you say and consider it. But for others to take you seriously, they have to believe what you say. This only happens when you have been consistently authentic about who you are, what you value and where you intend to focus your energy and attention. When you have proven to others that you are responsible, that you can be trusted, and that your ideas have creative value and should be considered, perhaps along with other peoples' suggestions, then you are being accountable and authentic.
16. Develop your personal power in authentic ways.
When you are new to a situation, you may feel somewhat insecure or unfamiliar with what may be expected of you. By observing who does what and how well they do it too, by laying low until you have learned "the ropes", by offering input into conversations only after you have acquired a level of expertise that can add something valuable to the discussion, only then will you be prepared to offer your best. This way you will begin to earn respect from your superiors and peers alike because you do not come from ego or wanting attention, but from sincerity and authenticity. This will open the door for people wanting to hear what you have to say, rather than being shunned as a "big mouth" who adds little to the conversation. Your personal power is built gradually over time as you stand in your integrity and authenticity.
17. Continue to monitor yourself.
There are times when we are actively searching the self for clues about what is true for us, what beliefs need to be eliminated or developed, or how we can be our "best self", etc. During other times, Life simply takes over and we stop examining the self because we are busy living our lives, which can be very demanding at times. This is to be expected, but if we can keep a behind-the-scenes monitor that remains self-aware at all times, we will be in a position to catch those "off moments" when something is surfacing that we are not proud of. Even if we have no time to examine what's going on in depth at the moment it happens, we can bring it up for evaluation and review later, when we can take the time to more thoroughly examine what our 24-hour-a-day monitor has turned up.
So when you catch yourself saying or doing something that doesn't quite resonate with your inner truth, make a note to self to research the offending issue in depth, where it came from and whether it's time to replace that behavior or belief with something more authentic. Keep that mental watcher working in the background while fully immersed in life's activities so that you can continue to build your authenticity.
Take Authenticity To The Next Level
Ok, so now you know how to live a more authentic life. Here's how to keep digging to bring out your completely authentic self.
18. Develop Soul Stewardship.
Everyone starts this life with some sort of purpose, or at least certain lessons they will learn along the way. The more self-aware we can become, the more useful these experiences will be, because we can "learn our lesson" and move on, at least as concerns that particular type of situation. If we don't learn that lesson in one particular set of events, we may have to go through the same or slightly different versions of events as a "second chance" to learn that lesson. Some folks never "get it" and continue to require ever-more serious situations in which to learn their lessons. Unless they are committed to a personal growth path, they may continue to fail in a particular way. Yet if they grasp that they CAN change, and apply themselves to learning how to better cope with situations by acting with compassion and wisdom, they can master that type of situation. This is proper stewardship of their energies and beliefs.
Stewardship, or the proper management of resources, is easy to grasp in caring for the Earth. To be a steward of the Earth, you plant across slopes, thereby reducing erosion. If you water and tend your garden, your plants will grow. If you plant and properly care for your trees, eventually you will have fruit, shade and beauty around your homestead. This is good stewardship of the Earth. If you eat nutritious food, exercise, and maintain a positive attitude, you are likely to lead a long and healthy life. This is proper stewardship of the body. If you persevere on a project, you will eventually have it completed. This is stewardship of a business. If you continue to improve your own character, you will become a better person. This is Soul Stewardship, which is measured by authenticity. If you drink too much, smoke excessively, are a bully at work, you lack personal stewardship because you are not taking proper care of your body, your principles, nor are you contributing to your society.
If you want to progress, you will need to learn each set of lessons presented to you before you can move on to higher teachings. If you do not do your daily homework of paying attention to what life has to teach you, you will continue repeating the same kinds of misdeeds over and over again until the consequences become so severe you have no choice but to change. Then you will pass your test and you can finally move on. To become a Soul Steward you must live your life conscientiously, and yes, authentically.
19. Honor Soul Guidance.
Humans have been given a gift to help them through their lifetimes. This Soul that we spoke of above, is like your "inner Angel" who is guiding you. But it can be hard to distinguish if that "inner voice" is your Soul speaking or is it coming from instinct, desire, duty, an attached entity, etc.? The best way to judge is to ask yourself, "Which path is the highest? What is the right thing to do in this situation?" Again, the answer is not always clear. Sometimes we will ignore that inner voice and do whatever is easiest. Sometimes this is fine while at other times, someone will suffer.
When your actions or decisions further injures an outcast, aggravates a disability, attacks someone who is already down-and-out, it is likely the wrong decision. When you act from love and inclusiveness, it is almost always right. But everything in between can be tricky. There is an intrinsic goodness within most of us, if not all of us. And that goodness can drive you to do good deeds, to help others in need, to be generous when you can, and to be considerate of others. These good instincts reflect "Soul Guidance" and it can assist you on your quest for authenticity.
20. Answer the "Call of the Authentic Self".
As you discover your own authenticity, your inner calling is more likely to be heard. Authenticity and Purpose are linked so that a deep sense of purpose can help you to express your authenticity; while developing authenticity will often help you discover your Purpose! You may discover the courage of your convictions, and want to burst forward with passion to accomplish some worthy goal that moves you deeply enough to champion some particular sort of positive change. You may have an invention you want to promote, a tour company you want to develop, or you may want to teach art to kids. Each of us is wired to certain preferences and projects we would like to see succeed, and it just may be that your voice can make a difference that really matters. If you feel inspired to express your authenticity in some particular way, don't let inexperience stop you. Gather your courage and GO FOR IT!
Still looking to learn more about how to be authentic, check out this Ted Talk
About Dr. Tchiki Davis
Dr. Davis is the founder of The Berkeley Well-Being Institute. After getting her PhD in psychology at UC Berkeley, she started building online courses, apps, and products to boost well-being—products that have reached more than a million people. Now an author at Psychology Today, The Greater Good Science Center, and Shine Text, Dr. Davis's expertise on how to boost well-being reaches people all across the world.