I want to discuss the idea of being authentic.
It’s a word with lots of buzz. It’s searched for, sought after and even after a lot of trying to achieve, is often still elusive. Authenticity is so valued because in its most simple and pure form, it is what people cherish and connect to most in life – in people, places, experiences and things. It’s hard to define because it can often seem limiting or too small a notion for a complex, complicated person, life, brand or business. The fact is, that in order to go big, we have to start small – with an understandable, focused definition of who we are.
Once we know this, we start to get what we want.
Authenticity can’t be an illusion of reality – how you think you are or how you want to be perceived. It’s reality itself and because of this, it’s not something you can chase, seek or discover. It’s already there, within you. You have to feel it. You have to know it, for real, and be good – really good – with you, just as you are.
How many times have you said to yourself something like, “that feels like me.” Or “I think could get into that.” Or even, “I could be more like her, or him, or it or them.”
How many times have you looked to others to help define yourself? The answer is, for most people, a lot!
We’ve all done it and we all do it. And that’s OK because in doing this, we’re often led back to our authentic selves. Taking inspiration from the world around you is what we do as seeing, feeling connecting humans. It’s what we keep and what we don’t that defines our authentic self.
How Can You Find Your Authentic Self
I was looking at an old photo of me the other day that a friend emailed with the laugh-crying emoji. It was from the early 80’s when we just graduated from college. My hair was short and spikey. I was wearing an oversized, distressed leather jacket over a hoodie and sweats and big – huge – round pink tinted glasses. I was with a woman who had a parrot on her shoulder. I have no idea where we were. I can’t even begin to guess. I texted back a LOL.
After I dried my eyes from laughing so hard, the first thing that came to my mind was, “What was I thinking?” This looked like a version of me that didn’t make any sense. I wondered why I was wearing this outfit. In the photo, I had a drink in my hand – a cocktail with a little straw – so I was out someplace like a bar or a club. If I was out, why was I wearing a hoodie. This was the 80’s – you got dressed up in your biggest, baddest shoulder-padded jacket when you went out. I looked like I came from the gym; or a midnight run to the store to pick up something urgent that didn’t call for getting dressed. Like a gallon of ice cream. Chocolate marshmallow, to be specific.
Once I got over the initial shock of seeing my youthful self, wearing what obviously made me happy and comfortable, if not fashionable, I began to think about authenticity and how my authentic self looks and feels today.
I have a closet-full of office attire and cocktail-party clothes from my days as a corporate CEO that I rarely need now as I spend most of my time working and writing from home. Then, I have a section of drawers filled with leggings, sweats, jeans and t-shirts that are my go-to’s. Add a few baggy sweaters in the mix and that’s what I throw on every day. I inevitably head to town to shop and do errands and that, I noticed, is when my excuses begin:
“Forgive the sweats…I was too lazy to get dressed.”
“I just wanted to be comfortable today.”
“Stella McCartney designed these leggings.”
I took a deep breath and realized that the photo of me then and me now are the same person. And I would still go to a bar to meet friends wearing a hoodie. I would definitely seek out the girl with a parrot on her shoulder! So why the excuses? Age, social propriety and both recognized and unrecognized rules of appropriateness have a way of taking who we are and turning us into who we think we should be.
How You Can Tap Into Your Authentic Self
1. Look at photos of you from a time in your life when you felt free and comfortable with yourself. Think back to what made you feel this way and try to bring those elements back into your present.
2. Stop making excuses for your looks, body, weight, career or anything else you think you need to apologize for. You don’t owe strangers or acquaintances any explanations and your family and friends should already be aware and supportive of you being you! If you want to live in sweat pants, live in sweat pants. That’s your call.
3. Note the times, places and situations in which you feel or felt your best and happiest. Note all the details such as where you were, who you were with, what you were doing and even what you were wearing. Use happiness journaling to help you pay attention to what makes you feel calm, centered and effortless in being you.
You have a lot to offer the world and deserve to feel your best while you take it on! The best way to contribute to your overall health, happiness and success is to understand who you are and how to, truly, be yourself. We’re all waiting for you…