All month long we are going to inspire you to be truer to yourself as you speak up for what you believe in, refuse to be driven by the desire for acceptance, and conquer the fear that holds you back. Studio 5 Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Liz Hale, provides ideas for living an authentic life.
Throughout the many stages of life, we have focused on pleasing others, like, our parents, teachers, ministers, bosses, and spouse. In an effort to get our needs met, we needed to learn to play by the rules of others. As we deepen in emotional maturity, we tire of keeping up appearances and care less about what others think of us.
I found this delightful quote the other day:
At 20, we worry about what others think of us.
At 50, we no longer care what others think of us.
At 70, we discover they haven’t been thinking of us at all!
Instead of seeking approval from the proverbial “them” out there, authentic living is about seeking a sense of inner peace.
Being authentic is like being an author. The words authentic and author share the same prefix. To be authentic is to be an author…the author of your own life. It is to dare to be an originator, a cause rather than an effect.
Authentic = Author
To be authentic doesn’t mean that you have to think only original thoughts or act in a way that is totally unique. That’s impossible! We are not separate from our genetics, our family, our culture, or our upbringing and socialization. We are more alike than we are different. After saying all this it may seem that there is no uniqueness at all. However, it’s what’s behind our shaped personality that determines uniqueness. It is our soul, if you will; an authentic life is built from the inside out….with attention to one’s inner wisdom. Take time on a regular basis for self-reflection. Tune into who you are, what you want, and what is best for you so you lead a life of dignity and self-respect. It takes courage to examine and embrace all aspects of ourselves…the light, the dark, the new, the old.
An Authentic Life Is…Life Lived On Purpose
A life lived on purpose is when you author a life where decisions you make and the actions you take are purposeful, deliberate, and in line with what’s most important to you. Now, it may not be a life that others admire or think is right for you, but it is a life that you know in your heart is right for you. It is a life that allows you to sleep most peacefully at night and awake with enthusiasm in the morning.
We are responsible…..and it never ceases to amaze me how often we want to absolve ourselves of responsibility. I remember being in my 20’s when it dawned on me, “I don’t really want to be held accountable for my life…I kind of enjoy blaming others.” I just remember the inner fear I felt when I contemplated taking 100% accountability of my life. Be honest with yourself when you ask, “Do I truly take 100% accountability for myself…without any justification, explanation or blame?”
Victimhood and authenticity are at opposite ends of the responsibility continuum. When we make ourselves victims of life and situations we deny our power, creativity, skills talents, trust, and responsibility. When we are authentic we accept responsibility for all that we experience. There is always purpose in our experiences…I don’t mean that everything happens for a purpose but that we are taught through our life experiences; no experience is ever wasted.
An Authentic Life Is…Making Choices Based on Values
This next tip is probably the most important of all. An authentic life is when choices honor values. When you live authentically, you know what you stand for and you make specific and deliberate choices to honor these values. Your highest priorities consistently get the majority of your time and energy. The energy that fuels an extraordinary life is harnessed from within your heart. I am gravely concerned when I see women (this has been my professional experience as of late), who pay lip service to their husband and children, and then make horrendous decisions that jeopardize their very fragile family unit. We are compelled by so many things in this world, from material goods, attention, fortune, and glory that we often make one poor decision based on another, based on another, and before we know it we are living not only inauthentically but miserably and hurting ourselves and those around us, as well. In order to say “No!” to the unimportant or even dangerous, you must first determine to what you want to say “Yes!”
An Authentic Life Is…Changing One’s Relationship to Self
The topic of change always comes up when considering self-improvement. But authenticity is not about changing behaviors but about changing something else. There’s a difference between imitation and authenticity. Imitation is changing external behavior; authenticity is changing one’s internal relationship to themselves and others. Too often we want change without changing. We want something different, “new and improved,” but we don’t want to give up what we have because it’s familiar. Change means disrupting the status quo – the way things are. The ego’s not crazy about change because it fears loss of control. When we believe and feel one way but our actions are different, the in congruency is disruptive to our relationships. You know that something is amiss but you just can’t put your finger on it. Years ago I worked with a darling young man who was struggling to be accepted by his family. The irony is, whenever he packed a suitcase prior to visiting his family, he packed clothes for them; clothes he thought they would accept. It’s as if we’re saying, “I want you to accept me but I won’t let you fully see who I need you to accept.” It is vulnerable to be honest and transparent; be honest and transparent anyway. Begin with yourself.
A little homework recommendation, if I may…the new movie “Fireproof” (in select theatres now) goes well with the theme of authenticity. It displays how one person’s changes can create profound changes in a marriage, for better or worse.
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Dr. Liz Hale is a licensed clinical psychologist and a regular Studio 5 Contributor. Your comments and questions are welcomed! Please visit www.drlizhale.com to add your thoughts to today’s discussion or learn more about her private practice.