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What does it mean to be your ‘authentic self’?

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Have you ever felt that there’s a part of your personality that you keep to yourself? That, for one reason or another, you don’t reveal to other people, as much as sometimes you’d love to let it loose? Perhaps it’s out of fear of judgement. Or it could even be down to the ideals that society has projected onto you about how you should or should not behave.

This part of your personality that’s hiding within waiting to be set free is your ‘authentic self’ and there is true power in knowing and allowing yourself to be your real self.

Hiding behind a mask

As we grow up, we all create an identity for ourselves based on all sorts of influences, from our family and friends to religion and society. But a great deal of us will admit to suppressing certain elements of our authentic self. It could be said that we create a mask that we hide behind – or perhaps even multiple masks for each area of your life. 

For example, as children we want to please our parents, as parents, we want to be a positive influence on our children, as employees, we feel the need to be seen as professional, and as a member of the public, we simply want to fit in and be accepted. We’re also programmed to place labels upon ourselves based on race, gender, religion, occupation, etc. which all contribute to the persona we exhibit.

Sure, in the main part, you may develop a persona that you are perfectly happy with the world seeing and knowing, based on who you think people want you to be. But the problem is, your authentic self is the one thing that makes each one of us truly unique.

Discover who your authentic self is

Perhaps you don’t actually know what your authentic self looks like. It’s possible that you won’t even be aware that you haven’t been living authentically until you’re put in a certain situation.

You can identify your authentic self by taking the time out to do some self-reflection. Think about where you feel the most comfortable – is it surrounded by other people or in a peaceful sanctuary? Who do you feel at ease around – and what are their common traits? What clothes do you feel your best is – not the ones you think other people like, but the ones that reflect you as a person? What makes you genuinely happy – or, on the flip side, what makes you sad?

By doing this, you can identify your true values in life – for example, family bonds mean more to you than a high flying career, or standing up for your beliefs is more important than being widely ‘liked’.

So many of us make the mistake of making decisions and shaping our lives, not based on our core values, but on public opinion, the actions of other people in our lives, and pressures from society.

Living authentically

Self-awareness is the cornerstone of authenticity. Once you have identified who your authentic self is and what your core values are, you can take the steps to live your most authentic life possible.

Learn to feel comfortable in your own skin and free to express yourself in the way you feel the desire to. On the other hand, observe your own behaviour and make note of the times when you feel yourself acting inauthentically. You can then identify the triggers of this behaviour, whether they be fears of judgement or beliefs about how you should be behaving in that setting.

The more you appreciate yourself and learn to be the person you want to be, the more others will appreciate you too…