“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” ~E.E. Cummings
For most of my life, I was a chameleon. I stayed under the radar, hoping I’d blend in and not draw attention to myself. I was full of self-doubt, so I molded my personality and beliefs based on my company. I traded my authentic self for the security of being liked by my family and friends because of my fear of being judged.
By suppressing my opinions, I was perceived as easy going, but at what cost? I disrespected myself by allowing others to influence major decisions in my life. I didn’t trust myself to make choices for myself.
I withheld what I needed from others and was unable to communicate my emotions. My frustration of not being heard turned into anger whenever I did share my feelings with my family and significant other. In return I experienced anxiety, guilt, shame, anger, and self-loathing. That was a huge price to pay so others would accept and like me.
I become addicted to my story of the “broken girl” who compromised her integrity because her voice and emotions were neglected by her parents. I used my victim story to serve as an excuse for my bad behavior.
If I was “perceived” as a victim, I didn’t have to be held accountable for my bad choices.
I learned how to use others to get the love and attention I didn’t give myself. I defined my self-worth by comparing myself to others. I tried to be perceived as “perfect,” so I created unattainable standards that left me disconnected.
During my mid twenties I became exhausted of worrying about being inconsistent and acting differently around different people. I became disconnected to others and wasn’t able to cultivate meaningful relationships.
It requires real vulnerability to be authentic. What if I show my true colors and people don’t like the real me? Honestly, even as I write this article and think about people reading about my flaws it scares the bejesus out of me.
By 27, from the outside my life looked great, but on the inside I was on the verge of a breakdown. I was ready to create a more meaningful and fulfilling life.
I realized the world needs us to show up and share our gifts. There is more risk hiding our gifts from the world than expressing them. Our unexpressed ideas, dreams and gifts don’t go away. They destroy our worthiness and confidence.
There is no shortcut to authenticity. It requires commitment and real inner work. I dove deeply into my emotional mess and started feeling the pain I had repressed. I made the daily commitment to take the following steps to be more authentic:
Step 1: Forgive and love yourself.
I had to forgive myself for my past mistakes. My ego enjoyed replaying my bad choices and punishing me by making me feel unworthy of love. By cultivating kindness towards myself, I honored and accepted the past, learned my lessons, and started loving myself.
What Can You Do: Consider how you can learn from your past so you can do better going forward. Always be kind to yourself because you can only ever do your best. Be content with that.
Step 2: Be willing to make a change and own your mistakes.
I found the willingness to embrace my imperfections and shared them with others. I started speaking and writing about my challenges through my vlogs on my website. I had to acknowledge some unpleasant truths about myself. The biggest one was admitting I enjoyed my “victim” story. I felt it served me by getting me sympathy and attention from others. By humbly owning my mistakes, I repaired my self-worth and confidence.
What You can Do: Commit to making a change. Get clear and admit why you hold on to your pain. Why do you think it serves you?
Step 3: Create a daily practice.
I created a daily practice of living authentically. I took care of my mind, body, and spirit and nurtured a loving relationship with myself. I looked to those who already lived authentically and noticed a pattern of traits they master. Below, I’ve listed the most common attributes all authentic people share.
What You Can Do: If you feel disconnected or unable to speak your truth, identify which traits you need to cultivate in your life and create an intention to become authentic. Do the necessary inner work to reconnect to your truth and your authenticity will radiate through you.
The traits I’ve identified as common to authentic people:
Authentic people accept their life experiences and feel the emotions that arise. They don’t repress their feelings and let them fester up. Anxiety and guilt arise from not being present. If we doubt our ability to handle challenges in the future, we create anxiety. Guilt results from feeling bad about past mistakes or people we have hurt. Authentic people experience life challenges from a place of love, forgiveness, and gratitude.
Authentic people are impeccable when they speak to themselves, about themselves and others. They are mindful of the energy behind words and believe they are worthy of love and peace of mind. They have a healthy approach to life by knowing there will always be naysayers, and their opinions don’t matter.
Authentic people create their own rules based on the standards that resonate with them. They have the courage to live their lives based on what they believe is right. This type of empowerment gives them the inner strength to withstand temptation and build self-confidence. When you have the courage to share your shame and guilt, they no longer have power over you.
Authentic people don’t allow their fears to prevent them being themselves. If you are focused on being true to yourself in every moment, you are less concerned about the potential for rejection from others. Nothing is more liberating than being yourself as fully as you know how.
Being authentic is a daily practice. It is a moment-by-moment choice of embracing your truth and being fearless enough to share it with the world. When you have nothing to hide and you can freely be yourself with everyone, there is a profound peace and confidence you will exude to the world.
Photo by Stella Dauer