A new approach to living for the new year
Around eight percent of us who make New Year’s resolutions keep them. If, like me, you’re ready to try something different for a change, consider living in authenticity. Sifting through articles on mindfulness, cultivating self-awareness, and living in the moment, I ran across information about living an authentic life. It spoke to me in a meaningful way because it’s foundational—it gets down to the core of who you are as an individual.
Getting Real with Yourself
Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology, said, “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” A few years ago, psychologists Brian Goldman and Michael Kernis expanded on this with the concept of living in authenticity, which they define as “the unimpeded operation of one’s true or core self in one’s daily enterprise.” In a nutshell, living authentically involves understanding your real essence, defining what you believe in, and then making your actions and words congruent with your beliefs and values.
This business of living authentically made me wonder how I measure up on the authenticity scale. While I have overcome many disconnections between what I believe in and how I act (age has helped me with this), one troublesome area remains—I cast a jaded eye toward judgmental people. Yet in doing this, then I, too, am being judgmental and thus my actions are not consistent with my beliefs. Ouch… a tough admittance for someone who strives to be fair and accepting. So, I have some work to do, but it’s good work that will make me more content and balanced in life, and a better person.
The Rewards of Living Authentically
By now you’ve probably surmised that embracing authenticity is a dynamic and evolving process, and the effort is ongoing because we tend to stifle our authentic selves to fit in or to become what we think we should be without even realizing it. We also have years, if not decades, of thoughts and behaviors to overcome that are not in sync with our core beliefs and values.
Although living authentically takes commitment, introspection, deliberation, and work, the rewards are substantial. Kernis and Goldman found that people who score high on the authenticity profile are also more likely to respond to difficulties with effective coping strategies rather than resorting to drugs, alcohol, or self-destructive habits. They often report having satisfying relationships, and enjoy a strong sense of self-worth and purpose, confidence in mastering challenges, and the ability to follow through in pursuing goals. Sounds great to me!
Discovering, Defining, Living, Evaluating
How do you begin to live in authenticity? Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is living an authentic life. Here are a few pointers, not necessarily in any order, that may help you get started and then stay on your path.
It’s difficult to behave in an authentic way if you don’t know what you truly value and desire. Call it honest soul-searching or letting your inner light be your guide, but your journey begins with grasping a deep self-knowledge and then acknowledging all the good things as well as those that need work.
Embrace what you love about yourself and build on these elements, and change what you aren’t thrilled with. To accomplish change, you will need to let go of rigidity, judgement, limitation, rationalization, self-deception, and self-aggrandizement. And when these things seep into your thoughts—as they will—recognize and acknowledge them for what they are and simply set them aside. As you move closer to identifying and honing your values, be deliberate in your efforts and seek to understand the seeds of change you need to sow. Let go of your defenses and self-serving biases.
Foster an open mind and evaluate your goals and intentions. Strive for objectivity and decide if your thoughts and actions are aligned with who you are and whom you want to be. Listen to your inner voice and to the deeper conversation. Pay attention to your intuition and to the serendipitous moments that remind you of what’s important to you.
Practice self-awareness. Notice when you are being inauthentic and insincere, or acting in a way that is misaligned with your core values. Then explore the fears and beliefs that may create those barriers to your authenticity.
Lastly, love and nurture yourself. Don’t expect perfection and don’t beat yourself up when you stumble. Living in authenticity is a life-long journey. There will be peaks and valleys, rocky roads and smooth sailing, but with self-awareness and a genuine desire to live authentically, you can stay the course and maybe even set an example for those around you. Will you come join me on this journey?
By Annette Brooks