“Just be yourself!” How many times have you heard that phrase?
Personally, I think I must have come across it well over a hundred times!
But what does it really mean to be yourself?
Though there are lots of interpretations, I think the answer is simple: it means being authentic. Dr. Brené Brown defines authenticity as, “Letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and starting to embrace who we are.” She continues, “Authenticity is not a skill you have or don’t have, it’s practice – a conscious choice.”
I would like to explore this further by using the example of the myth of Proteus. Proteus was a god of the seas. He was able to transform himself into anything that existed on earth and then return to his original form. Just like him, we can all choose who we want to be and start the process of transformation today. If another human being is doing what you would love to do, then there is no reason why it is not possible for you too! We can also be sure that if we fall back into our old habits and beliefs, the kind of progress we’re striving for will be out of reach.
So where is the risk? What would you do if you knew you could not fail?
But hold on. It gets even better! There is more to this Greek myth! If you were able to catch Proteus in his original form, he would grant you ANY wish. The power that he gives you with this wish is enormous. And so is the power that you have when you live your life authentically. Because, like marketing expert Scott Stratten says, “If you are your authentic self, you have no competition!”
What are the benefits of living authentically?
I bet you can remember a time when you didn’t have an opinion of your own about something and you chose to adopt someone else’s. It seemed like the easy way to fit in and avoid conflict. I bet you can also remember that little voice that started screaming “This is not me!” or “ This is an act!” It’s an uncomfortable feeling and one of the negative side effects of not being your true self.
But let’s look at the positive side, the benefits of living authentically:
- You earn respect by living authentically
Many people spend their whole lives trying to meet other people’s expectations. Our parents have very high expectations of us. They might not have gone to college when they were young, for example, but expect you to do so. Living authentically might mean your are going to disappoint people. It takes a lot of courage and you will find out that not everybody will support you. If you are making an effort to start living your true destiny, it will remind others of the fact that they have been lazy and are not doing anything about their unhappy lives. To make these changes you need to feel the fear and do it anyway. In the end people will end up respecting you for having the courage to do so.
- Life is easy and you feel free
Imagine not having to pretend, not having to be an actor. Just being who you are is one of the most liberating things you can do. What you focus on is what will get bigger in your life. If you start to focus on living as your true self, life will bring you experiences that fit with that identity. Suddenly opportunities will come around the corner, that you would have missed before.
- You fear less
If you have a strong feeling of self-belief, a belief that you are on the right track, you stop being afraid of all the things that you might encounter on your journey. You are not fearless, of course, but you fear less. Wouldn’t that be great?
- You feel fulfilled and experience true happiness
If you are basing your decisions on a desire to live in harmony with what’s important to you and start to use your talents to make a difference in this world, you will experience a sense of fulfillment and true happiness.
How do you begin to live Authentically?
The fact that you are reading this article may be the first step to a new career and a new life! It shows that you are thinking about what might be missing in your life. And that is the most important step!
As with anything new you try to implement in your life, it’s always advisable to start with small steps:
- Keep a gratitude journal to see what already exists in your life that “feels right”, so you can start attracting similar things to your life.
- Meditation can enable you to envision what your ideal life might look like. Only when you have a clear picture of what you want your life to look like can you start making steps towards that ideal.
- Make a list of all the activities you enjoyed doing when your were a child. You might find some interesting clues there.
- Get a trained counsellor to help you on this journey. A counsellor can help people find out who they really are and what it is that they really want for their lives.
Often people come to see a counsellor because they are not feeling the way they want to feel, are not thinking the way they want to think, or their life is not going in the direction they want it to go.
A counsellor is able to offer expertise and is trained in a variety of approaches. Below are some of the most important:
- A humanistic approach, which is based on the idea that it is not the events in our lives that create problems, but rather how we experience these events and how we feel about ourselves.
- A client-centered approach, which sees the client as the highest expert on their own thoughts and feelings. This is similar to the idea that all the answers are already inside of us; we only need guidance to bring them to the surface.
- A behavioural approach, which is about changing the response to a certain event. You look at behaviours you have learned from past experiences and get help to change them. This leads to a more fulfilling life and can help you make positive habit changes.
While you are on your journey you might find out that helping others is something you would like to do yourself. Making a difference in other people’s lives is one of the most fulfilling things you can do.
If you are looking for inspiration, you might also be interested to know that transformation and authenticity are both themes of every single training program and every nationally accredited qualification offered at the IKON Institute of Australia.