The world today is moving towards digital expression where social media dictates the norms of self-presentation. This is a world where being normal is called crazy and crazy behaviors are normalized! Thus, it is essential now more than ever to be your authentic self.
Unfortunately, self-expression today is all about presenting a desirable version to the world. Needless to say, this is self-limiting and stagnating. And unless we make a conscious choice to change these norms, curb the expression of our egos, and let our authentic selves shine, our society will become dysfunctional beyond repair.
Authenticity is about accepting things for what it is and not for what it should be.
Who is Your Authentic Self?
Your authentic self is an honest representation of you. It includes all aspects of you that you often shy away from expressing. Because of our innate desire to belong as a part of a group we display a persona to become more appealing to society. When you suppress aspects of you that demand expression you are in fact strengthening our shadows. This in intense cases can have major repercussions.
Take for instance a woman whose inner calling of the soul urges her to be a writer. She finds intense joy in writing but has been constrained by her corporate job to pursue it. Over the years, this resentment can result in an imbalance of her internal energies because it was restrained from flowing. Naturally, she will be unhappy and dissatisfied in life.
The first step to discover your authentic self is to know who you are on different levels of your psyche. Our personality is like an onion with many layers.
Different Layers of Personality
When there is a disconnection between your inner and outer layers of personality it results in inauthenticity.
The first outer layers represent the way you present yourself to the world. It constitutes your appearance, attire, body language, and leadership style which are shaped by the beliefs you have about yourself.
Underneath this lies your strengths, weaknesses, needs, and desires. They strongly shape your beliefs. Your personal strengths define your confidence which in turn defines your body language and the way others perceive you.
As you go deeper still, there lies your values and motivations. They help to create a sense of direction in your life. Values define your moral standards and motivations dictate your life path. Together they help you make a stance in the world.
Further deep you have shadows, vulnerabilities, blind spots, and the life story that shapes your personality. Shadows and blind spots are aspects of your personality that you are unaware of. They are deeply influenced by your life experiences, especially during childhood.
For instance, you may happen to miss a few important classes of a particular subject and were later unable to follow it resulting in a belief that you are weak in that subject. This is a simple example of how the meanings we associate our experiences with define us.
At the heart of the onion lies our authentic selves. It is your true and genuine nature before societal conditioning molded you. The authentic self is innocent, it is pure and full of love. Your childhood dreams and desires still matter to your authentic self. It is also connected to the source of all things.
People refer to it with many names. Some call it the bull brain, while others call it the inner friend of our soul. It always has your best interest at heart. However, we often ignore our soul callings and regard them as worthless. Unfortunately, second-guessing ourselves is humanity’s first nature.
How to be your authentic self?
Your authentic self is at all times communicating with you. The idea is to be consciously aware of your true nature so that we can make better judgments and decisions.
Following are the ways in which you can reconnect with your authentic self.
Self-acceptance is one of the most important virtues crucial for connecting with your authentic self. To become it, you have to shed your old beliefs that have not been serving you and embody those that are.
“Acceptance is the road to all change.” – Bryant McGill
In other words, self-acceptance is like shedding light upon your shadows and illuminating them. Once you know what needs to change, you can consciously focus your energy to change it.
The idea is to acknowledge that everyone is good at something either naturally or acquired over time. And there will always be certain things that you will never be good at. What will make you authentic is when you focus on maximizing your strengths and not ponder too much upon your weaknesses.
How can you be truly authentic when you are not even aware of your dreams, talents, and values? Self-discovery is the process of evaluating your life to figure out what really makes you happy and taking steps to get there.
Authenticity is the vibration of love which is the highest state of being and happiness is the quality that elicits it. Any activity you engage in that makes you unhappy is an indication that you are not being true to yourself.
The first step to self-discovery is to visualize your ideal self, someone that you would love to be given all external conditions are satisfied. Secondly, you have to take steps to try out something new that is in alignment with your passions and your ideal self. Another great way to get in touch with your authentic self is to journal about your feelings and desires.
Authenticity is about being aware of who you really are and not of the mask your wear and self-awareness is crucial to achieving this. Most people do not engage in cultivating self-awareness because it elicits aspects of yourself that you do not want to face.
Daniel Goleman, the author of Emotional Intelligence, describes it as “knowing one’s internal states, preferences, resources, and intuitions — and then monitoring that inner world information as it comes up.”
When you become aware of yourself, i.e., of your thoughts, intentions, and beliefs you basically stop the autopilot mode of your brain to control your life. The default mode network (DMN) is the neurological network that fuels the auto-pilot of our brain. DMN forms habits by assessing patterns of your behavior. Those who are not self-aware let their lives be controlled by this autopilot mode which can be detrimental if your habits align more towards maintaining your persona rather than being your authentic self.
4. Integrate your ego, persona and self
Ego, persona and self are the three aspects of your psyche as described by Carl Jung. The ego is your identity, the persona is the mask you wear to present yourself to society and the self is the whole of your personality that is beyond your conscious awareness. The “self” can also be regarded as the authentic you.
More often than not these three aspects of our personality are out of sync. We get so invested in maintaining a persona and fuelling our egos that even the existence of self is a mystery to most of us.
The root cause of the problem lies in the fact that you do not know who you really are. For this integration to take place, you first have to learn to accept yourself wholly which includes accepting your strengths as well as your weaknesses. Once you are comfortable being who you are, you will not require a separate persona to define you. This will lead you closer to your authentic self and the outer version you present to the world will be in sync with your inner version.
The Crux of the Matter
Being authentic does not mean that your identity is static and you do not embrace change. Rather, authenticity is about being true to yourself so that you can become what Nietzsche calls the “higher man“. He is the man with the highest power and splendor possible. Higher man is the archetype of the ideal man that humans will achieve after self-actualization.
The crux of the matter is that when you are authentic, other’s opinions and perspectives do not define your choices in life. You become invested in your own life instead of being insecure about the lives of others.
In other words, authenticity is the key to attaining the optimal state of your psyche, i.e., to get in touch with your “self” – that which makes up your total personality. Carl Jung calls this process individuation or what Kurt Goldstein calls it self-actualization.
George, B., Snook, S. A., & Craig, N. (2015). The discover your true north fieldbook: a personal guide to finding your authentic leadership. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley.