You know the science maxim: every action has an equal and opposite reaction? Or how about Newton’s first law of motion? An object at rest stays at rest, and an object in motion stays in motion (same speed / same direction) unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.
Are you willing to live with greater vulnerability to show your authentic self in your words, decisions, and relationships?
The risk of being vulnerable: showing who you are
Being authentic shows others who you are – really, truly and deeply. Could you love yourself enough to show up with vulnerability courageously?
You can probably remember a time when you pretended not to care. Why? Because it was so much “easier” than actually being open and vulnerable. How often have you wanted someone to accompany you, and they’ve rejected your request, and you respond with “whatever”? As if it didn’t matter.
We all play this game of “Have it your way, I don’t care”, while a bit of part inside of us withers up and dies. Imagine if they knew how much we cared.
Speaking your mind
How often have you held back recently from speaking up? Perhaps in a work meeting, you had a good idea or an alternative and decided that this wasn’t the time and place to disagree. Worse yet, you might have held back for fear of offending or being rejected by your family or friends.
There is a place for tact and loving-kindness in all interactions with others. But we also need to have the courage to speak up and speak out. It’s never about “being right”, but there’s a fine line also between keeping the peace in a relationship and lying to yourself.
- When accused of being a know-it-all, watch your tone and learn to have more open conversations.
- In the case of difficult conversations, where there are heated positions and arguments, learn to have crucial conversations or negotiation techniques that work professionally.
The courage to speak your mind should be compassionate (kind) and wise.
Trusting yourself to experience your feelings
Perhaps you’ve already experienced the “but you shouldn’t feel like that”, and you have questioned the validity of your feelings. Who should you trust if you can’t trust yourself?
Could you remember that emotions are just that: energy in motion? They pass through you, usually not lasting more than ninety seconds. And whatever the emotion is, it’s valid at that time.
What might not be valid, you could legitimately question, is the meaning that you assign to those emotions. You might have more thoughts because of what you’ve experienced and felt. Perhaps you might be cautious with those thoughts and their resulting feelings. But the original emotion and response were yours. Own them.
Trusting your gut
In much the same way, we learn to trust our intuition and gut feelings. That little knot in our stomach says “there’s a risk”, while others say “just move ahead”.
Do you have the courage to say, “Wait, I need to process this for a moment?”.
I’m not talking about fear of failure or other worries here; I’m talking about that almost calm knot that is a deep knowing that something is off. Can you trust yourself with that?
And do you have the courage to stand up to others and say, “first, I need to consider the risks”?
Yes, you will feel vulnerable when you start doing this!
It takes courage to be your authentic self.
Take a moment and consider a relationship (work or personal) where you don’t feel that you are showing up authentically.
Do you have it in your mind?
Imagine yourself and this other person in a theatre, acting out your typical relationship on the stage. Sit yourself down in the crowd, and watch the interaction.
Now, consider how that interaction would be different if you were truly authentic:
- What would you do or say differently?
- Notice your posture and the placement or movement of your hands.
- What body language would you use differently?
Sit back down in the crowd, and watch this new scene and interaction.
What do you see in their reaction and posture? Notice what happens with their body language when you change your language, body language and posture. What is the energy of this new interaction like?
Now step back up onto the stage, step into your body.
Notice what you are feeling and experiencing with this interaction and these new reactions.
Was it all pleasant? Or did part of you feel raw and exposed to their reaction?
The deep knowing of authentic self
Have the courage to get to know yourself.
Over the past six months, I’ve battled with getting into the habit of writing morning pages consistently. What keeps happening? I start to get honest and vulnerable in my journal, and I immediately want to back away and drop it. I’m comfortable when my diary is full of brainstorming ideas and to-do lists. But what about when it all starts to get a little too real?
Using a journal (consistently) is only one way of getting to know yourself – it puts you in touch with your thoughts and feelings.
I also keep a “Book of Desires”, which is a little notebook in which I write all my random “I want” and “I wish”. Some of those desires are realistic. Others are fanciful and romantic. But keeping a Book of Desires helps me stay in touch with those unspoken needs and desires that I am often too scared even to dare to open up to.
Many mindfulness practices allow you to get to know your inner self:
- A body scan: just sitting comfortably and starting at your head or your feet, and working your way through each part, limb by limb, and each organ. Noticing whatever you notice. A somatic experience of just being present “in you”.
- Mindful thinking: when was the last time you sat in a calming place and just watched your thoughts—no judgement or analysis. Just sitting watching your thoughts, wherever they might go.
- Mindful feeling: have you done this with your emotions and feelings? Step one is simple “what am I feeling?”. Often, it’s a myriad of emotions (not just one). You might use an emotions wheel to identify which emotions you are experiencing.
- Values: Discovering what is truly important to you. I find this particularly useful if I’m upset.
Most mindfulness practices are not about analysing or understanding fully what you are experiencing. They are simply an acceptance of the experience: this is what I was thinking or feeling at this moment in time. To honestly know yourself, you need to practice radical self-acceptance.
Have the courage to sit in silence with yourself.
Courageous action for an authentic life
Doing the inner work will only take you halfway. To live authentically, you have to take action:
- plan your dreams, and then work on the plan
- invest deeply into your relationships
- speak up when appropriate and have meaningful (and even tricky) conversations
- make decisions and prioritise how you will invest your time and money based on your values, dreams and goals
- leave behind what is no longer suitable for you (habits, relationships and even places).
You will need the courage to live as your authentic self because it requires that you open up about who you indeed are. But I can tell you it will be worth it!