Living an authentic life is a concept that is easy to understand, but often challenging to implement. This year has presented more challenges for the general population than the typical year. Thus, living an authentic life today is even more challenging than ever.
In the simplest terms, living an authentic life means being who you really are. This means that you let go of who others say you are and who they want you to be. You are also honest with yourself about both your positive and negative attributes.
You can start by defining basic attributes that someone might use to describe you. Perhaps you are tall, have medium skin, blue eyes, and brown hair. You can dye your hair, wear contacts that change your eyes color, and go to a tanning salon. Still, your DNA will indicate that you are tall with medium skin, blue eyes, and brown hair. You can pretend to be different, but that isn’t who you are underneath.
Additionally, when living authentically, you recognize your achievements, give credit to others where credit is due, and take the blame when appropriate. This relates very much to the concept of taking 100% responsibility. Taking too much or too little responsibility never leads you to authenticity or happiness. If you take responsibility or claim credit when someone else should be doing the work, did the work, or is to blame, you are cheating the other person and yourself. Thus, 100% responsibility is a key ingredient to living authentically.
Under the best of circumstances, living an authentic life takes work. 2020 has added challenges that make it even more difficult to maintain the focus and internal personal view that is required to create and maintain an authentic life.
COVID-19 has brought out interesting behaviors in people. Most of which have been brought about because of fear, as we discussed in a recent article, “Why Fear?” The combination of fear, ever-changing rules, and unknowns present challenges to people. As a result, people end up with differing opinions and different interpretations of the rules. Some of these people choose to chastise those who see things differently than they do.
Even when pressure is applied with the best intention, it often results in the other person fighting back – at least mentally. You may find that although you are acting and even believing things that are not aligned with who you really are. You may even push back against them although you agree with the person in principle.
Likewise, the COVID rules may drive you to behave in ways that are not aligned with your experience or desires. For instance, if you are an extrovert or a person who likes lots of physical touch, you may not be behaving in alignment with those qualities. It is important to recognize those attributes of yourself and find a way to honor them.
The History of Our Country
Protests, riots, and destruction have also created pressure to destroy our past and for the country to become something it is not. Like it or not, the country was not formed by people that simply came together, sang “Imagine,” and lived in perfect harmony. Instead, it was a hard fight. People had different perspectives, but in the end the people came together as one country.
Like it or not, our country’s history is our country’s history. Owning up to the country’s history is just as important as owning up to your own personal history. Without both, you can’t live an authentic life. Like with historical statues that have been dismantled, you can ignore and take your history out of sight, but it is still part of who you are.
Pretending that your past isn’t your past never leads to an authentic life. Now, you can do internal work to grow from your past and it is something that you don’t have to outwardly share in all situations. However, you should never hide from it.
In addition, there is pressure to see our country in the midst of a race war despite the fact that people of all backgrounds have many positive interactions each day. This is not to say that prejudice does not exist. It does. Our article “Retraining the Brain” discusses bias and how it plays a part of everybody’s life.
With awareness, everyone can make better decisions and limit how bias affects decisions that they make. This does not, however, mean that anyone needs to denounce their ethnic background – even people of European heritage with a long history in this country. Instead, consider that each person has their own story that is made up of many attributes. A portion of that story is the history of their ancestors. But, the most important part of their story is their personal story and the life they have lived. Facts of the past cannot be changed.
Similarly, an African American police officer can be proud to be African American and simultaneously be proud to serve as a police officer. According to some people, these officers are “no longer black;” they are blue. Again, their heritage and their occupation are both facts. They are what they are.
A person who is authentic will not apologize for facts about themselves. Additionally, an authentic life does not include guilt or victim-hood for events that occurred years before the person’s birth. They can be considerate and can make good decisions in their life with regards to people of all backgrounds. No one needs to take on the burden of the past. It is fact and it cannot be changed.
The current trend toward “cancelling” anything that someone dislikes also pressures people to be less than authentic. People are afraid that if they don’t outwardly support certain opinions that they, too, will be cancelled. They know that in today’s world, they don’t even have the option to remain silent. It is almost as if the right to remain silent has been stricken from the law books.
This pressure is very strong, especially for people in the public eye. Yet, according to Psychology Today, “The authentic person will not . . . let others bully them into taking a position they don’t agree with.” They go on to say, “Authenticity requires us to be able to overcome our desire to fit in and be part of the crowd.”
So, if you are feeling like you need to take up a position that you wouldn’t have considered taking up six months ago, you might want to ask yourself if you are being authentic. It is possible that you have become aware of an issue and now feel driven to support that position. However, it is also possible that you are simply being intimidated into a position that you don’t really support.
Leading An Authentic Life
It is more important than ever to focus on who you really are at the core. Act based on your life, your beliefs, your values, your opinions, and your knowledge. At this time, it is critical that you really think things through. Know that you are 100% responsible for your life and your decisions. However, you are not responsible for other people’s life choices.
You can be compassionate and empathetic. Listen. Learn. Those are good things that enhance our lives and help us to be more authentic. Just be careful of the trap of taking on someone else’s view of who you are. By doing so, you nearly always become less authentic.
If you would like to work toward a more authentic life, consider our “Finding Your Authentic Self” coaching sessions.