How Authenticity + Boundaries = The REAL you!
We often hear about people striving to be the most authentic versions of themselves. I’ve thought about what that means to me and I often ask clients what it means to them to be authentic. Recently, when I heard someone talk about being authentic, I asked myself, why is authenticity or being your authentic self something that is so important to all of us?
What I kept coming back to was the definition of authenticity, one of which is: “Authenticity generally reflects the extent to which an individual’s core or true self is operative on a day-to-day basis.” Basically, it means you can be free to be yourself, whatever that is, on a consistent basis. Sounds easy enough, so what is stopping most of us?
What comes up time and time again is fear. For many people, being themselves is scary. Being authentic may be scary because it can leave us feeling unaccepted, misunderstood, or even unsafe. Brené Brown is quoted as saying that it is better to “choose discomfort over resentment.” However, most of us choose resentment over discomfort. Why? The answer is easy. It is simpler and there is less fear involved. But, when we take a closer look at being inauthentic, is it actually easier? It depends. Let's re-examine the emotional account.
Emotional “dollars” are time, energy, and effort. It may seem that there is less emotional “money” spent being inauthentic, but long term, the time, energy and effort required to be codependent and endlessly giving from an emotional account that is constantly being used will leave you running on low, with rarely, if any emotional savings for emergencies such as unexpected stressors and emotional crises. In other words, you are typically always living the lyrics of “don’t push me cause I’m close to the edge.” Who wants to be living on the edge constantly? I don’t.
How can we become our most authentic selves? Consider the following:
Self-awareness: Who are you? What if someone asked you this question? How would you answer it? There are so many ways to answer, depending on who asks. How many of us can answer this question honestly, authentically? I know I have learned to give a very candid, socially acceptable, BS answer. But I challenge you to be able answer this honestly, even if it is just to yourself. We are often not honest with ourselves. We hide behind our masks so much that we forget what is behind it. We convince ourselves that the mask is us. Sit with yourself and identify your truth. How does that feel? What does it
mean to you and others? Does your truth feel freeing? What would you look and feel like if you lived in your truth? These questions can provoke fear. But let’s reframe this. Maybe the answer to these questions just be unfamiliar or uncomfortable? Maybe these questions, if answered honestly, could lead you to something even better. I find that the more I move in my truth, the better I feel and the better I show up in ALL areas of my life.
Positive, proactive communication: Being able to share your true self with others starts with clear communication. The easiest way to practice better communication is to start with I statements and explain yourself less. Communication is an area where less can be more. Enough said.
Notice & track resentment: Sounds strange, right? But, consider this when someone or something has you frustrated, seek to understand why. Often, when we are not being authentic, we may have failed to be honest with ourselves. You may blame someone else for these feelings of frustration and/or resentment, but dig deeper, did you overextend yourself in some way? Were you not honest with yourself or someone else? Did you say yes when you needed to say no? Did you fail to enforce a boundary? Did you not speak up for yourself? Be honest!
Personally, I have noticed that I can track most feelings of resentment back to myself. This is a harsh reality. It is much easier to blame someone or something else. That way you do not have to do anything but be upset. You are the victim after all! But with authenticity comes a willingness to see yourself without the mask and to acknowledge your truth.
Who are you? What do you want? Be honest!
In sessions, when clients are at any crossroad, I will ask them what they want. Inevitably they will say “I don’t know!?” I will gently reply, “Yes, you do. You are just afraid that the answer will be disappointing, maybe to others or even to yourself.”
Inauthenticity happens when we prioritize wanting others to be OK more than we want ourselves to be okay. But when we realize that the source of our wellbeing is rooted in understanding and becoming aware of our personal truths, maybe it will push us to get comfortable with discomfort. So, the next time someone asks you to share about yourself or you are tempted to hide behind your mask, try getting uncomfortable try being unapologetically authentic!