In theory, being your authentic self means discovering, accepting, and loving the person you were created to be. That does not mean, however, that your behavior can be boorish, rude, and obnoxious, so says best-selling author and top-rated professor at Wharton College, Adam Grant, who claims that being your authentic self is bad advice for most humans. But Brene Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, and one of my favorite self-help authors, thinks that authenticity "is the choice to let our true selves be seen." So, is it okay to be "real" or not? This is a difficult question to answer and one that, ultimately, we must discover for ourselves.
It is currently believed that 40-60 percent of personality is biologically-based and the remainder is determined by other cultural and experiential elements. There are, however, a few tips on being more authentic that don't include saying, without any filters, everything that pops into your head...or behaving rudely to others because you're having a bad day.
1. Don't lie, but don't always speak the truth. Even white lies meant to spare another's feelings is a form of lying...which, technically, isn't being true to ourselves. Do I believe this? Yes, but only to a certain degree. If I receive a gift that I think is terrible, I won't lie and tell the person it's lovely just to spare their feelings. Instead, I might ask why they like it or why they thought it was perfect for me. This is especially true for close friends and family...those that I love and care about. Small lies, I think, are inconsequential. It's the big lies that hurt us and prevent us from being our true self. Big things like lying to ourselves: these lies might include working for years at a job we don't like or allowing others to abuse us because we don't like confrontation. For me, lying comes down to picking the issues that are important to my well-being. The ugly Christmas sweater from Grandma isn't one of them. I mean, why hurt her feelings? After all she probably truly thought it was lovely.....
Don't lie about the things that are really important. The small stuff? Use your best judgement. Remember, though, that being kind is always a part of who we are.
2. Let your body point you towards what true for you. Our bodies can tell us a great deal if we stop and listen to what they're saying. For example; think about your life the way it is now. Notice how your body is feeling. Is there stress and tension, pain in your gut, a shortness of breath? These are signs that something is wrong and you're not being true to your inner self. Now, think about the life you'd truly like to have. Look again to your body. Where is your pain and anxiety felt? It's probably gone. See the difference? As Christine Carter, senior fellow at the University of California at Berkeley and author of several books tells us, "What is true for us tends to make us feel stronger and more free. And lies tend to feel like constraints and constriction."
3. Stay in your own truth and out of other people's business. Most stress comes from living outside of our own business. When you think you know what's best for everyone else...you're in their business. Stick to taking care of yourself and quit worrying about what others are doing and thinking. For that is their own business. The exception to this is, of course, when it comes to your children. Then, it's your duty as a parent to watch over and guide them until they're old enough to take care of their own business. Taking care of and loving yourself is being authentically you.
4. Accept the ugly bits of yourself, including your difficult emotions. Being you is hugely different from being perfect. Humans (and a few of us frogs) are messy. That's just a fact of life. Humans can often be raw...and even wrong! Yes, I said it, WRONG! When we love only the parts of us that we deem worthy, we reject the vulnerable parts of ourselves that make us real. Beauty, intelligence, strength...these are all well and good. But what about those little unpleasant things about ourselves that we choose to ignore? Accepting and loving them makes us real...and authentic. That is being true.
When we come to love ourselves completely, even the flaws, anger, fear, pettiness, and sadness, then we can truly be authentic. Being authentic doesn't mean behaving badly or saying hurtful things. It does means loving ourselves...every single part. This makes us happier and healthier. And isn't that the the greatest gift we can give to ourselves...and to others?
To thine own self be true...this includes love, kindness, and compassion. Not only for all the other sentient beings we share the planet with, but for ourselves, too.