Saturday, February 26, 2011

Your Authentic Self

Happy weekend... sorry it's been awhile since I posted.  I had food poisoning earlier in the week, so not only was I recovering all week, but it was a busy one at that.  I'm back now though and feeling much better.

I wanted to share an article I read in the March issue of SELF magazine about authenticity - the cover line reads, Make Today Happier: 4 Steps to More Joy, Deeper Calm.  It seems like in today's fast-paced world, we are all looking for joy and calm.  And sometimes in the rush of life, we skip over those moments.  But if we make sure our actions and tasks are in line with our authentic selves, our truest selves, we can find joy and calm more often in each day.

So what does it mean to live authentically?  In the article, Marjorie Ingall writes of "knowing yourself" - which sometimes I feel like I do and other times I'm not sure who I am and what I want.  The trouble comes in when who we are does not align with society's expectations or when we have conflicting desires internally.  SELF gives these four keys to living authentically:

1) An awareness of what makes you tick
2) The ability to gauge your weaknesses
3) A willingness to act in accordance to your values
4) Honest and sincere relationships

Then the article guides you through a few exercises to hone in on these points.

Pinpoint what matters to you:
What makes you happiest?
Next, consider what upsets you most.
What are your deepest fears?
What gifts do you want to share?

Know your weaknesses:
Think of a time you ignored your gut.
A time you tried to whitewash one of your flaws.
A time you blamed someone else for your mistake.

Align your values and actions:
Think of a time you didn't act in concert with your values.
Reflect on the possible consequences of your new vision.

Dare to reveal your true self:
Consider whether you express your true emotions.

photo from SELF

The examples and explanations used in the article really bring each of these steps to life.  (You can read the full article on SELF's website here.)  Ingall cites a time she didn't speak up against an elderly relative making racist comments, a time she took a job others viewed as fabulous but just didn't fit with her true self, and a time she decided to move across the country to live with her then-boyfriend, now-husband - all examples of when she struggled to live according to her values, needs, and beliefs.

Opportunities to live authentically come up in daily conversations as well as in life-altering decisions.  We each have such different motivations and needs, so we can also come to accept that authenticity is a personal thing.  I had some trouble thinking of being authentic as living according to your true self.  I mean, it seemed so me-focused, so... selfish.  (The article points out that women especially have a hard time with this concept because we are so wired to fit in, follow an accepted path, and nurture others rather than ourselves - it's evolutionary.)  But I also realized that I value the relationships in my life.  The things that make me happiest are spending time with the people I love, developing my faith, thinking creatively... things that involve other people.  I can share my gifts with others and in turn, live authentically.

How about you - what does it mean for you to live authentically?  How do you do so in your daily life?  How does it affect your "big" decisions in life?

Okay, enough with the deep questions... I'm going to go enjoy Saturday with my husband, some reading, yoga class, and a fun evening with good friends (we'll see how good/bad I am at trivia!).  Hmm, sounds like a pretty "authentic" day for me after all.


I'd love to hear from you!


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