I was a scared kid throughout my younger years. Overly-cautious and wildly unsure were just a few characteristics of my ways of being heading into adulthood. Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t present to many of the decisions I made in my youth about navigating life that I was blindly going along with.
As a result, I forced my hand. I either had to grow, or collapse into myself — the latter not being an option. What ensued was arguably the most difficult yet freeing process of my life, realizing my authentic self.
While every human being has their own distinct recipe for self-actualization, there are a few things that consistently show up for all of us to be cognizant of.
Let’s look at some of the ways we mask who we are at the core and how to distinguish them:
1. We feel a loss of power when we’re inauthentic
Whenever we feel a loss of power or self-expression within a conversation, it’s due to us not being true to ourselves. What keeps us from freedom is our attachment to a particular view or opinion, forgetting that opinions are not the truth.
We can restore our power by acknowledging where we are being inauthentic and pretending, taking full ownership and responsibility for where we’re stopping ourselves.
As much as owning our shortcomings feels like it looks bad, the humanity of it contributes to much of the contrary.
“Hard times arouse an instinctive desire for authenticity.” — Coco Chanel
2. Look at what you step over in conversation
Our word is our bond. The language we used tells a much deeper story that what may necessarily appear on the surface.
Often times in conversation, we will throw a blanket statement over something we actually have a natural inclination to share more about. Words such as, “anyway”, “nevertheless”, “regardless”, are transitional words that often step over what we were committed to sharing in the previous moment.
Why do we so quickly shift from one part of the conversation to another? What part of acknowledging this area with another person is uncomfortable for us? Answering some of these questions can shed a whole lot of light as to who we really are and what we stand for.
3. Acknowledge how many different personas you take on with the people in your life
We go through life like a play at times. It feels like everywhere we go, with whomever we meet, we’re putting on a performance. And while the stage can be empowering at times, it’s equally exhausting once the threshold is met.
The reason humans love and cherish their alone time is the chance for mental recuperation. There’s no one to look good for. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Looking in the mirror can be tough, but it’s far easier than looking in one with someone standing next to you.
As a result, we wear multiple hats throughout life. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with this, it can be taxing for the human spirit. While it may be difficult at first, challenging yourself to take on a universal way of being with everyone you interact with — one that you yourself are happy with — can shift your life to the highest degree of fulfillment.
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
4. Question why you are the way you are and if it’s aligned with what matters most
I spent my early 20’s identifying as a hyper-driven individual with an unmatched work ethic. The reason for this wasn’t because I was a man of integrity or honor, but because I thought that working hard and getting results in life would grant me the approval and support of others.
What I was actually committed to was connection, yet my behavior — the long hours, the nights reading at home while my friends went out — was hiding the very thing I wanted all along.
When I finally realized this, the breakthrough was as powerful as a hurricane. It completely reshaped how I organized my life and moreover, allowed me to finally let go of the suffocating pressure I imposed upon myself.
What you feel is missing in your life is a by-product of your own way of being. Begin to look where your ways of being are keeping you from experiencing what you want the most, at the purest source.
5. Examine your way of being when making requests
No one likes to be told no. What’s more uncomfortable, is requesting something of someone knowing they’re going to say no.
But we never really know what they’re going to say — so why do we make this story up? Sure, someone you’ve asked the same thing to three times and received a no each time may have a higher percentage likelihood to decline. However, how the request occurs for them is where the real difference-maker resides.
Whether you realize it or not, when we make a request with an idea they might say no, it effectively shapes and colors our request the same way to the other person. As we make said request, we feel this and overcompensate — attempting to influence the thinking of the whom you're asking, which is never a smart idea. The other person senses this, feeling the same pressure and discomfort we impose upon ourselves, totally oblivious to what we’re actually committed to.
By making every request as if the person were going to say yes, we focus on our commitment and the best possible way to articulate it.
And when it comes to being authentic, every action must be in correlation with what we stand for.