Find the Courage to Be You: 4 Ways To Live Authentically

Feeling Free

“Live your beliefs and you can turn the world around.” ~Henry David Thoreau

Authenticity is a buzzword these days. We hear all kinds of advice on how to live it, breathe it, and get more of it. Maybe this is because we are actually drowning in inauthenticity.

Advertising bombards us with promises of bigger, better, faster, and easier. But the dream life of effortless comfort and problems that fix themselves is just a fantasy, a running away from the truth of life:

Everything is impermanent.

Right now, at this moment, this life is all we have.

More and more people are fearlessly embracing this truth. As a result they are living their lives in accord with what their hearts are telling them rather than what the dominant paradigm dictates as “safe,” “normal,” and “true.”

People are beginning to live their dreams with more passion and purpose than ever before. The focus isn’t on money or the accumulation of things but on living with integrity. And though it’s not the always the easier road, they are far happier for it.

This is the kind of happiness we all crave. I know I do.

We know in our hearts that there is something missing in our lives these days. But we also know that life can be rich, deeply satisfying, and meaningful.

I just got back from a yearlong sabbatical in India.

At the end of it all, I was riding the overnight bus from Dharamsala to Delhi on my way home.

In front of me were a dwindling savings account and an uncertain future. But as I looked out the window at the Himalayas shrinking into the distance, I didn’t feel one scrap of regret at all.

I had done what I has set out to do, and I felt more satisfaction and sense of accomplishment than I had at any other time in my life.

Five years ago, if you had told me I would be living in a foreign country, learning a foreign language, I would have laughed in your face. I was so bogged down with my own insecurities and fears that I couldn’t even have imagined such a thing.

I lived my dream of spending a year in India because I worked hard on making it happen. I set a clear goal and faced all of the challenges to that goal with an open mind and the determination to overcome them.

But most importantly, I listened to my heart.

My heart told me this: I had to do it. And what’s more, if I didn’t I would have regretted it for the rest of my life.

But learning how to listen to your heart takes practice and effort. It’s not as simple as it sounds. But it’s not impossible either.

So what are some steps you can take to start listening to your heart and living a more authentic life?

Here are four of them that work for me.

1.  Slow down.

Slowing down is a meme that seems to be (ironically, very quickly) working it’s way through the culture these days.

Supposedly, we need to be taking it easier, to be letting go of the compulsion to work ourselves to the bone every hour of our lives.

But one look out the window during rush hour traffic and we see that’s exactly what most of us are still doing.

It’s not that we shouldn’t work hard or be productive. Goodness knows, as a writer I’ve got to spend a lot of time in the chair.

But we need to honor the fact that down time is essential if we really want to get in touch with our authentic selves.

So listen to this: Finish this article then take a long, deep breath. Close your laptop and go for a walk. Go in a direction you’ve never taken before and just take your sweet time.

Give yourself some space to be you.

2. Unplug.

We live in a world drenched in information. Whatever we want to know, we can find out instantly. This can be very exciting and even useful.

But one of the things that prevent us from staying in touch with our true selves is the constant barrage of cultural programing we are dosed with everyday.

Advertisements, news programs, and television shows all tell us what and how to think, what products to buy, what opinions are in style, what life goals we should be achieving.

It’s not necessarily that Big Brother is watching us, but it’s good to unplug from all of this from time to time and give your own voice a chance to pipe in.

So take a break from the intake of information. Pick a time during the day, or even a whole day off during the week, to turn off the computer, the television, the radio.

Take some time to listen to what you really think and feel.

3. Explore and experiment.

Part of the reason that we live inauthentic lives is that we get stuck in a rut. We lull ourselves into a false sense of security by following the same old routines.

New ideas and experiences are what keep us fresh and alive. Our authentic selves thrive on them, and when we expose ourselves to new things we have the opportunity to grow.

Visiting new places, putting ourselves in new situations, exposing ourselves to new points of view can all challenge us to understand who you truly are.

So get out of your rut. Even if it just begins with ordering something different off the lunch menu, make an effort to keep an open mind to what possibilities are out there waiting for you.

4. Cultivate fearlessness.

Living authentically doesn’t always mean a life of comfort and bliss. Often it means just the opposite.

When we show our true selves to the world, when we dare to live our dreams, we might just run into many obstacles we didn’t expect.

We might experience ridicule. We might find that our authentic life isn’t what we expected at all.

We might even “fail.”

But what is “failure” but the opportunity to learn and grow?

If you are truly being authentic then you may find that even the falling down is more fulfilling than anything that’s normally considered to be “success.”

So work with challenges from a place of fearlessness. Know that even if you fall down, this is impermanent too. You can always get up and start anew.

Living authentically takes courage and bravery. During the past year in India I met a lot of inspiring people.

Some of them had packed up their families to pursue their dreams of traveling the world. Some were there were, like me, learning a new language only because they knew it would enrich their lives.

Many more were devoting themselves to a spiritual way of life that, despite its uncertainty and difficulty, was far more fulfilling than anything they had tried before.

I truly believe that we all have this kind of courage and bravery hiding somewhere inside us. And if you just take the time to look, you will find that you do too.

Photo by Summer Skyes 11

About Chris Lemig

Chris Lemig is the author of The Narrow Way: A Memoir of Coming Out, Getting Clean and Finding Buddha. He is deeply concerned with issues relating to the mental and spiritual wellbeing of modern culture and is looking for ways to bring happiness and contentment back into our lives. He writes about coming out, sobriety and Buddhism on his blog

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  • James

    This is a beautiful article, and you have recharged my inspirational batteries; thank you Chris!

  • David

    A really powerful message Chris told in a simple and effective way. Keep up the great work.

  • And thank you!

  • I think unplugging is very important these days because even if we find the time in our busy schedules to slow down and create some space for ourselves a lot of us fill that time on our smartphones playing games or skimming social media networks.
    Thanks for sharing, Chris!

  • But what is “failure” but the opportunity to learn and grow?

    How true! Thanks, Chris!

  • lv2terp

    Truly inspiring, thank you so much for sharing your insight! 🙂 Beautiful message and advice, it is exciting to see more and more people shifting to authenticity! 🙂

  • Alexey Sunly

    Great insight, Chris 🙂 Thank you for sharing it with others!

  • Thanks for reading, Alexey!

  • I agree! Thanks for reading!

  • And thank you Patrick!

  • Your welcome! Thanks for taking the time to read my post!

  • Thanks for the encouragement and for reading!

  • Nat

    Hi Chris, I enjoyed reading your article. I’m definitely on my way to living true to my inner voice. I do find it hard to hear, perhaps I’m not listening enough! In 5 mins I plan to take a meander outside in a new direction as you recommended. Thanks for the practical idea.

  • Hi Chris
    I totally enjoyed your post. I am tyring to live an authentic life myself and in the process, to be less concerned about what other people think of me.
    In this fast-paced society, sometimes it can be difficult and takes a strong will to slow down and unplug. It is as if I need to make an effort to stop all the incoming thoughts, negative emotions that go in and out of my mind constantly. But when I think about it, that’s the way that it should be if I intend to discover my true sane self. There seems to be no other alternative 🙂

  • I agree Mulyadi. This isn’t an easy process. But I think if we make some time to be truly ourselves, everyday, it will become easier over time. Good luck on your journey and please stay in touch!

  • Good for you, Nat! Thanks so much for reading!

  • crypticfragments

    It’s interesting that we never met in Dharamsala, Chris. I was there from autumn 2009-late 2011, with the exception of some time in Nepal.
    I have been trying to live an authentic life for years. However, it’s hard when you literally cannot afford food. I’ve been borrowing money from friends and strangers for a few months just to survive.
    I had to give away the last of my possessions (barring clothing) this week and borrow money to go to take a job in another state, which is the only way I can continue not being homeless.

    What advice do you have for someone in that situation?

  • We just missed each other as I arrived in McLeod just after Kalachakra 2011. Bummer! Maybe next time…

    In any case, it would be easy for me to give you some canned advice but since I’ve got a job (I’m a waiter to pay the bills) and food on the table, I won’t.

    Being out of work and financially dependent just plain stinks and my heart goes out to you. Believe me, I’ve been there.

    My teacher, Anyen Rinpoche, always gives his students good advice on this. If we want to practice Dharma (or live authentically, if you like), we need two wheels to roll down that road.

    We not only need things like devotion, faith and the teachings, but we also need to be practical. We need a good, functioning financial wheel.

    We have to take care of this wheel first so we don’t get bogged down with worry and fear. If we’re in this situation, we need to get ourselves out of it as soon as possible.

    Of course, this isn’t always easy (or what we want to do) but it sounds like you’re on the track by making the choice to take that job.

    BTW: Keep in mind that working a job that’s not your first choice (or even your 50th!) needn’t be an act of inauthenticity. If it gives you the stability to pursue your other goals, then really it’s part of the same purpose.

    I hope that was helpful in some small way. Good luck to you and thanks for reading my post!

  • Thank you Chris, this is a great article! I think your point about impermanence is key. Slowing down, unplugging, experimenting, and cultivating fearless all seem to share the qualities of embracing changing and releasing our sense of grasping. Whether we’re grasping for time, information, or certainty the illusion of permanence is a major roadblock.

  • Thank you for reading, and the the comment, Jeff!

  • Carl

    I too have had a massive shift in my life,To search for the truth and not be a sheep. I have read about many people who also search, and the path can be rocky and lonesome at times.
    I was travelling when my eyes started to really work, I started to see people for who they were and I felt deep human connections. Since coming home I have lost my path slightly and
    my mind has started to run the show. After reading all this great information the energy is feeling good again. we understand what is needed to progress but we get sucked back into the society thing, following the crowd and being a lemmon. Words cannot express my gratitude on reading this post
    Thank you and Peace out.

  • Chris Lemig

    Thank you for reading, Carl, and good luck on your journey!

  • msbrightside

    I guess being fearless is the primary thing we need to live the life şn our own unique way because people always prefer to stay in their comfort zones, me also one of them. I hope We all have that courage one day. Nice article and very interesting of you to go to india!

  • Chris Lemig

    I agree! Being fearless doesn’t always mean taming lions or jumping out of airplanes (or running off to faraway places!). We can be fearless sticking up for people and things we believe in. Maybe we can give fearlessly, too, of our time, money, skill and wisdom. It’s all up to us! Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day!

  • Pat68

    The sad part is, we do a lot of talk about personal transformation, but when people truly encounter someone who is, they want to fall back on old platitudes because deep down, they don’t really believe it’s possible. But real growth is more than just talk. It takes real work and a desire to move beyond.