The word"authenticity"is the new buzzword. Everything from jeans to potato chips to historical tours is given the label"authentic,"which really just means real. But there is something behind the concept of authenticity, or realness. In our busy, very superficial world, there's a lot of fakery, deception, and contrived perfection; we're all trying to live up to certain images and ideals and in the process lose something of our"true selves."But it is possible to be true to yourself and the people around you and in the process celebrate those messy, real, and authentic parts of yourself that make you who you are.
Method 1 of 3:Understanding Yourself
1Understand what authenticity means. Psychologists define authenticity as manifestation of a person's true self in their everyday lives. Basically, it means that your core self is reflected in what you believe, say, and do everyday. People who are real accept themselves and all of their strengths as well as their weaknesses. They behave in ways that align with their values and avoid behaviors that do not fit neatly with their values. At its core, authenticity is about being real and genuine.
The first step to being real begins when you actively decide to be genuine. This has to be a conscious decision. You will also have to commit to acting in accordance with who you are even though sometimes this will be challenging and you will feel vulnerable. Realness may require you to do things that will be unpopular with other people. You may also have to acknowledge aspects of yourself that are less favorable, but this is important because acknowledging what you value or do not value about yourself leads you to live an open, honest, and more real life.
Being real has benefits for your mental health. Research has shown that authentic people feel better about themselves and are more likely to show resilience in the face of personal challenges and less likely to engage in self-destructive coping mechanisms like alcohol abuse or other risky behavior. Authentic people also tend to demonstrate more purpose in their choices and are more goal-directed and committed to seeing things through to success.
2Cultivate a commitment to be more self-aware. The key to realness is self-knowledge and self-awareness. It's important that you take time to know yourself on a very deep level. Being real means living your own life, not the lives of others. Throughout our lives, and particularly our childhood, we pick up messages based on what other people and say and do and incorporate these into our own belief system. Eventually, we assume that these thoughts are our own. The project of becoming more self aware works to assess all of these beliefs and values and see which ones are really your own and which you've incorporated simply because you saw them reflected in others.
The benefit of self-awareness is that once you know your values, you can then determine your actions in order to ensure that these two things align. This is how you really become real. For instance, if you decide you believe in God, then perhaps going to church every Sunday is a way of affirming this belief and means something important to you. However, if you decide you don't believe or are unsure, maybe you stop formally attending church for a while as you figure things out.
Realize that self-awareness is a constant pursuit, not something that you can really master and then not think about again.
One way to practice increasing self-awareness is to frequently evaluate what you're feeling. You can set 5-10 random timers to go off throughout the day, to remind you to check-in with yourself.Expert SourceAmy WongLeadership & Transformational CoachExpert Interview. 30 April 2020.
Try to put your feelings into specific words. Are you simply sad, or are you feeling vulnerable? Are you happy, or are you feeling emotionally fulfilled?Expert SourceAmy WongLeadership & Transformational CoachExpert Interview. 30 April 2020.
3Write to and about yourself. To discover your true self, reflect on and write a list of everything that is important to you and what truly resonates in yourself. The process of choosing and writing words might help you clarify what exactly your inner values are.
Consider writing in a journal. A journal helps makes you more aware and also provides you with a direct means to look back on and reflect on the past. It can also help you track patterns or trends in your life.
If you have troubling journaling and find yourself"writing around"the big issues, you can also consider writing with a series of prompts, such as"Things I love"or"Who am I right now". Set a timer for 10 minutes and write about that topic for the duration of the timer. This exercise helps you focus in on what you're trying to discover about yourself.
You can also try an exercise where you fill out the rest of this sentence and either share it with a friend or keep it to yourself:"If you really knew me you'd know this: ___________."This exercise invites introspection and helps people boil down who they are to those most essential values and components.
4Ask questions constantly. Embark on a journey of curiosity and ask yourself questions to recenter yourself and decenter other people's views and scripts for your life. These questions and/or hypothetical situation can help you think about really matters as you develop your answers and provide the motivation needed to steer your life on its true course. Questions might include: If money didn't exist, what would you be doing with your life? If your house was on fire, what three things would you make sure to grab? What do you think you have to lose? What sets you apart from other people?
These questions can also be more direct. Try not to think too much but just to follow your intuition. For example, are you patient or impatient? An introvert or an extrovert? Do you take responsibility for your mistakes? Are you someone who says 'yes' or 'no'? Do you prefer mornings or nights?
Try reexamining some of your 'core beliefs' that you've had since childhood. Immersing yourself in other cultures, philosophies and religious thought can help you make a unique, informed decision about what is authentic for you.
5Evaluate your self-talk. Self-awareness means to listen to yourself. Think not only about what you say and do in the world, but also what you say to yourself. How do you talk to yourself? What's going on in your mind? Is a negative diatribe where you lament how you do things and criticize yourself for not being smarter, prettier, nicer, and the like? Or are you generous with yourself and try to focus on the positive and move forward from mistakes? Assessing how you talk to yourself internally will give you a sense of how you truly feel about yourself and your life course because it is that interior world that is your most real self.
Every day set aside a few minutes to sit quietly and listen to your inner voice. Try taking deep breathes and tapping into your mind and its thoughts. Alternatively, you could also stand in front of a mirror and"confront"yourself by talking out loud. Say everything that you think out loud.
6Take a personality test. Although each individual is undeniably unique, psychologists who study personality also belief that there are certain personality types that share characteristics in common. Knowing which personality type applies to you might help you understand why you think, feel, and act like you do.
Though there is no shortage of personality tests online and through social media, the best-known test is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which identifies four psychological scales: Extroversion-Introversion, Sensing-Intuition, Thinking-Feeling, and Judging-Perceiving. The test suggests that each person has a preference for one of the two sides of each scale.
It's important to note that personality tests, while interesting and useful to some extent, cannot fundamentally tell you who you are. Keep in mind that some have low statistical validity and reliability. Moreover, your identity is made up of much more than just four factors on a personality test, after all. However, such tests may give you some food for thought as you ponder and reflect on the results.
7Become more aware of your feelings. Our feelings and emotions are our spontaneous reactions to our life experiences and can provide useful information and feedback about ourselves and our place in the world. Not everyone likes tuning into or thinking about their feelings, but it is a useful exercise because it tells you what you like and dislike, what makes you happy, sad, uncomfortable, anxious, and so on. One thing you can do to try to be more aware of how you feel is to reflect on the physical manifestations of emotions. For example:
The feeling of butterflies in your stomach might signal nervousness or anxiety.
A heated feeling in your face might indicate embarrassment or anger.
Clenching your teeth or jaw might be a sign that you're upset, frustrated, or angry.
8Do something for and with yourself. Take a day off and go for a hike by yourself. Eat at a restaurant alone. Or, better yet, travel by yourself. Some people find that some alone time is the best way to learn about themselves. They learn about what they can and can't do and what they want and don't want and usually emerge from a temporary solitary experiment feeling stronger and more in tune with themselves. Maybe, for example, you discover that you really enjoy"getting lost"in cities and prefer wandering around as opposed to scheduled tours.
Sometimes it can seem in our modern world that to want to be alone is weird and unsettling. But some alone time can have several benefits; it can help you build your confidence, realize that you don't need the validation of others, learn to value your own opinions (as opposed to those of others) as well as invite opportunities to reflect on recent changes and"rearrange your mental furniture"to adjust to your changing life. Alone time can also help you home in on what exactly it is you want from life and give you that sense of purpose and direction so many of us crave.
Method 2 of 3:Keeping It Real
1Redefine your values. Keep in mind that being real is a constantly evolving process. Life changes, and so will your values. You're not the same person at 30 years old as you were at 15. Over the years, you'll likely suffer from cognitive dissonance, a psychological term that refers to the stress or discomfort experienced when you hold contradictory beliefs or your beliefs and actions do not match, at some point(s). So you will constantly need to be learning about yourself, sorting through your beliefs and discarding what is no longer relevant and embracing what matters in the moment. Being real is a constant process of redefinition of yourself and who you want to be.
Maybe, for instance, when you were 13 years old, you wanted to be married and have children by 26 years old so you could be a young mom. However, if you're now 30 and neither married nor a parent, you may need to reevaluate that goal and belief. Maybe you decided that your education and career are your top priorities, or maybe you just didn't find the right partner. Or maybe your beliefs changed and you no longer believe in the institution of marriage. Reflecting on your life and your interior self (those thoughts and feelings from within) can help you redefine what it is you believe and your identity at different stages in your life.
Note that it's hard to be real at any age if you don't know what your fundamental desires, wants, needs, and values are! You have to be willing to realize that things change and, most importantly, that YOU change over time.
2Foster an open mind. Be open and expose yourself to new ideas and multiple perspectives on things. Binary (e.g., good-bad thinking) can trap you in a cycle of judgement and really limit to your ability to be your true self. Embrace life as a constant cycle of learning; as your opinions, ideas, and values change, so will your interior and real self.
Being open can mean different things. Read a book or take a class on a subject you don't know much about or even a subject you think you already have mastered. This can help you answer questions you have about the world around you and develop your own set of beliefs.
For example, a lot of university students undergo a transformation in their self-identity as they learn and are exposed to new things and are separated from their parents really for the first time. Learning is one way to open your eyes and discover what resonates with you. Maybe you have questions about religion, so you decide to take a university class on the different religions. Maybe you want to know about your position as a woman in the world and so you take an introductory class on women's studies.
Remember that maintaining a sense of curiosity about the world is one way in which to keep yourself excited and energized about life.
3Let your past self go. It can be comforting to assume that life - and by extension our own selves - stays the same over time. Although there may be elements of your identity (such as being creative or an extrovert) that are consistent across time, there's also a lot that changes and that can be scary and unsettling.
For example, maybe as a child you were taught not to support gay marriage, but now you feel conflicted because you've changed your perceptions as you matured. That's okay. Change is good. Change can be transformative. Let go of your past self and embrace your new self. Embrace who you are in the moment and what feels right to you NOW. It's scary, but that how you become your most real self.
4Cultivate courage. Being real means being courageous. Sometimes you make yourself vulnerable to the criticism of others if you go your own way and don't conform to who everyone expects you to be. Moreover, being more introspective may cause other shifts in your life that you need to be prepared for. For example, perhaps in the process of self-reflection, you realize that you are not happy in your current relationship and that you spend much of your time trying to pretend to be the perfect girlfriend who does all the expected and correct things. It takes strength and courage to fight against social pressures and the reactions of others.
Remember that you are always deserving of love and acceptance. You are who you are and if people can't love you for that, then perhaps they're not the right fit for your life.
To truly overcome your fears, try digging deeper into what might be fueling them. That way you can address the true problem. For instance, if you think you're afraid of success, maybe what you're really afraid of is trying and failing, or of not seeming as smart as people think you are.Expert SourceAmy WongLeadership & Transformational CoachExpert Interview. 30 April 2020.
Avoid shaming yourself. Becoming more self-aware means also realizing that you are an imperfect human and that you have flaws. But no one is perfect. Perhaps you are a control freak or bossy. Instead of shaming yourself, accept those imperfections and try to find ways to cope with and alleviate them. Also consider how those flaws can be thought of as positives in some situations; your control freak nature, for example, means that you are never late with assignments or meetings. Moreover, because you have flaws, this makes you better able to empathize when other people make errors. All of the different parts of yourself - flaws and all - make you who you are.
Method 3 of 3:Being Real With Others
1Don't go along with the crowd. In all too many situations, we end up acting like everyone else or doing what everyone else is doing in order to fit in. This happens especially in high-pressure situations like a party where you don't know any one or a business meeting where you feel expected to impress. Usually our desire for social acceptance outweighs our desire to be our real selves. However, this defeats the practice of being real. At its core, being real means being yourself and saying and doing things that reflect who you are as a person.
Pretending to be someone or something your not just to fit in with others only promotes that sense of fakery that you're trying to fight against. Moreover, it's important to note that most people find they end up with more and closer friends when they are themselves and that they achieve more success when they stick to the things they like to do. You find truer satisfaction in your social circle and career when you fit those things to who you are not the other way around.
Peer pressure can be a very real and dangerous phenomenon. Remember there are many harmful things that people have done to themselves and to others (from smoking to bullying to genocide) simply because they cared so much about the opinions of others and felt that their reputations would be harmed if they didn't. Don't do anything you don't want to do. Remember that at the end of the day, only you have to live with yourself all the time. Listen to and follow your inner spirit.
2Avoid surrounding yourself with toxic individuals. Toxic people are those people who masquerade as"friends"who pressure you to do things you don't want to do (like drink alcohol, make fun of others, or skip out on work) or who make you feel guilty or shameful for who you are.
For example, if you have friends who make fun of you for wearing black all the time and for not dressing like a 'proper girl', this is not healthy for you. Your friends should make you feel positive about yourself and help make you your best self, not tear you down for not conforming.
3Be willing to say 'no' - and sometimes 'yes' - to others. When you don't want to do something that other people want to you to do because it challenges your values, you have to be willing to stand up for your beliefs. All of us have the natural urge to people-please, so it takes courage to say 'no' to others. Even though at first you may feel unsettled and a bit nervous to say 'no', you will eventually like the feeling of staying on track with your genuine self.
At the same time, you should also say 'yes' sometimes when other people invite you to try something new or unexpected. This also takes courage because we're all afraid of disappointing or failing other people. For example, maybe your friends invite you to try Ethiopian food or kayaking one weekend - go for it! Being real also means trying out new things and learning about yourself in different ways, even if you may fall or fail along the way. That's what makes us human.
4Know that you don't have to prove anything to anyone. All people want to be validated by others. We want others to feel proud of us and want to be connected to us. But you have nothing to prove; you don't have to show the people around you or the world in general that you are a good person who does good things. Similarly, you don't have to hide those flaws that make you human. Guess what, if you're late sometimes, chances are that other people have been late at some point in the past. Being real means not only accepting your own strengths and weaknesses but letting other people see those as well. Trust that if you can forgive and accept yourself, others will too.
It's exhausting to constantly pretend to be someone you're not for the benefit of others. Be real with people and they'll probably accept and embrace you to an even greater extent because they can see that you're just like them - a normal human being who makes mistakes sometimes but also does great things and has lots to offer. For example, maybe you have a tendency to be late, but you always insist on finishing a job before you leave the office.
5Be a good communicator. Be mindful of how you communicate with others and what and how you say things. Be honest with your thoughts and opinions but remember that you can be real without denigrating the thoughts and opinions of others, particularly in situations where you don't agree. Remember that what we want to say is only valuable and constructive if we can express it thoughtfully and well. It's usually best to use"I"statements that focus on your values and actions, rather than focusing others since"You"statements are often perceived as accusations.
For example, if you are a committed vegetarian, you can communicate your beliefs about it without having to call your meat-eating conversation partners"vicious murderers."Instead, let them know why YOU are a vegetarian, without condemning their own choice to eat meat. Being real means being true to yourself, but this doesn't mean that you shouldn't respect other people's own version of realness.
Always, always think before you speak. This is a good rule for life in general, but is especially useful in touchy or difficult situations.
6Tell someone about your commitment to be real. Designate someone close to you who you love and trust and who helps center you as a person. This might be a partner, a family member, or a close friend. Whenever you are entering into a situation where you might be vulnerable, such as a work meeting with your difficult boss, call on that social support to help bolster your confidence and avoid falling into the trap of inauthenticity.
When you're feeling anxious, call your designated person and let her know how you're feeling. For example, you might confess that you've actually been prepping what you think your boss wants to hear and not what you actually want to or should say. Just telling someone else that you've been going the wrong way can help you stay conscious of your behavior and readjust as needed to stay on the path of realness and honesty. In most cases, supportive people will tell you to"be yourself"in difficult situations. They're right. Listen to that advice.
7Develop a power anthem or routine. There are a lot of social situations where our nerves fail us and we feel like caving in our promises to ourselves. For those moments when you feel uncertain in the face of others or the world, such as going to a party or wedding where you don't know anyone or starting at a new school or job, get yourself pumped up and feeling good about yourself. Write of a few key words that you use to define yourself and repeat - or even yell! - them. Read one of your favorite, inspiring poems out loud. Make a playlist with a few of your favorite songs that inspire you to be you.
Whatever it is that you choose to do, make sure it helps you bring you back to yourself. Finding that focus will remind you who you are and what's important to you.
8Accept the realness of others. Remember to treat others as you wish to be treated. What is real for one person will be very different than what is real for another person. It is important to not assign value or judgement; after all, for each everyone of us, it is what it is. Everyone is different, and that's okay - and in fact, it's what makes the work exciting and dynamic!
Differences between people - whether they be sexual, spiritual, professional, physical, and so on - should not frighten us. Instead, accept honor the differences and realness of others and they will do the same for you.