We all crave an authentic, meaningful life filled with joy and purpose. But what does it take to turn this dream into reality? Authentic living is a process of self-discovery that requires intentional effort and the courage to be our true selves. It requires us to reject the pressures of society and follow our own unique path, trusting that it will lead us where we need to go.
Authenticity is a complex concept with many layers, but at its core, it involves being true to who you are and remaining true to who you are over time. Authenticity is not about changing yourself; it’s about being true to your authentic self. For example, if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll tell yourself the truth about your limitations — and you’ll accept this because it’s who you are.
“Living authentically suggests that you’re being your true self in relationships — that you’re acting, behaving, and feeling in ways that reflect your values and internal states,” reveals Sally Theran, PhD, an associate professor in the psychology department at Wellesley College in Massachusetts.
Zahara Williams, a licensed clinical social worker and co-founder of Ivory Park counseling therapy services in Texas, agrees that authenticity occurs when you put more focus on being yourself and not a version that others expect.
“The path to living authentically begins when you decide to embrace the journey of self-awareness, intention, and being free from the notion that others have to agree or approve of the choices you make,” she says.
Williams states that authenticity involves:
- being in tune with your values and passions
- being fulfilled
- navigating life with purpose
- prioritizing what brings you peace
- having tenacity and flexibility
But being authentic to yourself doesn’t mean shutting yourself off entirely to others’ opinions or advice.
“It’s a delicate balance between being open to constructive feedback to help achieve growth, but not allowing it to dictate one’s perception of self, their abilities, or the possibilities that may exist beyond what others can see,” Williams notes.
It’s also important to recognize, states Theran, that it may be easier to be more authentic around some people than others.
But this doesn’t mean that you have to be perfect, or to have only positive characteristics. Often the most authentic people allow themselves to be human, and to have the full spectrum of emotions.