The word “authentic” is a combination of Latin and Greek words meaning “coming from the author” and “one who acts independently.” I interpret this as, “You are the author of your life.” It also means “of undisputed origin” and “accurate, trustworthy, reliable.” When your authentic voice can be trusted, there is no need to look elsewhere for guidance. No guru, therapist, teacher, or best-selling writer can give you better answers than the ones you find within. There can be no permanent peace of mind without an awareness of oneself as unique in this world. And because no two people will ever think or feel or live exactly alike, the authentic voice will always be more accurate and more informed to your situation.
Many of us mistakenly believe that if we just conform well enough to what others expect from us—if we please them and fulfill their wishes—we will be loved and will receive the validation we so desperately need.
Removing our masks and dismantling our false selves takes time and a lot of work, but with just the slightest push in the direction of authenticity, you will be amazed at the difference you feel. You may uncover old cherished hobbies, old dreams and hopes, and sides of yourself you never knew existed, such as humor, empathy, or creativity.
Being authentic means returning to that childlike state of complete honesty, when we had nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed of. It means not letting any person, place, or thing influence us to shut down or turn our back on our own values and opinions. It means making decisions based on our finely honed intuition and our deeply rooted connection with ourselves and the Universe, rather than out of fear that others won’t like us or will abandon us.
The price for not living an authentic life can be very high indeed. It can result in physical illness, aches and pains, depression, boredom, and anxiety. It can take a heavy toll on the quality of our relationships, which inevitably lack intimacy when we’re pretending to be someone else. It can keep us from finding fulfilling, joyful work, and thus from prospering and living a life of financial abundance. It can thin the fabric of our peace of mind and interrupt our spiritual growth.
Learning to understand and dismantle our defense mechanisms so that we can begin living authentically—either once more or, in some cases, for the first time—takes dedication, patience, and supreme compassion for oneself. It isn’t easy, especially in a competitive, materialistic Western culture where we’re always subtly influenced by advertising to have more, be more, and do more. Living in an environment of 24/7 social media doesn’t help matters either, as we’re constantly in danger of comparing ourselves with others.
But it can be achieved, and when you’re finally living in a state of authenticity, the benefits are immeasurable. You will feel as though the whole world is an open, magical adventure to explore, and you will start to make the sorts of positive contributions to this planet that only you are capable of.
This reminds me of an amazing quote by the modern dance genius Martha Graham, who said, “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”
If you are serious about learning to live in authenticity, it might be a good idea to print this quote and hang it where you can read it and see it every day. Remember just how special you are and how much you have to offer the world.
My book, The Rewired Life, discusses how important it is to identify your truth and values. The first step to living a more authentic life is to really define, in detail, your core values. These can include compassion, kindness, honesty, belongingness, peacefulness, strength, healthiness, being in good physical shape, adventure, achievement, education, courage and bravery, love, culture, travel … you name it. What matters is figuring out what really drives you in life, and what you care about the most.
This process creates a tremendous amount of internal confidence, because you will be able to hold every person, place, or thing up against your inner standard and ask, “Does this match with my core values?” If it doesn’t, then it’s not right for you.
If one of your core values is peacefulness, for example, and you’re dating someone who is constantly picking fights, you might have to face the fact that this relationship isn’t serving your highest good. If one of your core values is creativity and you’re sitting in a dead-end corporate job, it might be a wake-up call that it’s time to search for more stimulating employment.
When we start to live by our core values rather than the values imposed on us by society, our family, our schools, or our jobs, our courage can have a ripple effect. Everyone we meet becomes emboldened and inspired by our authenticity. We see how we can make the most difference in the world just by being true to who and what we really are.
Journaling and reading books that support your growth and beliefs can help bring you back to yourself as well. Take time to start a morning and evening routine that helps you feel more balanced and healthy. These are some things we can do to start our journey to a more authentic life.