Building an authentic life
Staying true to yourself is an important aspect of our mental health. When we stay true to who we are, what we believe, and what we truly think and feel we have a sense of being genuine, which aids in our own self respect. And when we are genuine, others can pick up on this well. When building and maintaining an authentic life, here are a few strategies to keep in mind
1. Consider what you truly think and feel. For some, it can be challenging to sort out their own opinions from the opinions of others. Notice when you might have a different perspective, and allow yourself to have a different view than someone else. If it is hard for you to speak up, but you believe it might be a good idea to do so, practice saying something like "I see it differently than that. I think ________" or, "interesting thought. my view is ________" If you agree with everything everyone says, people miss out on hearing your own unique perspective.
2. Sometimes people indicate agreement when it would be more wise not to do so. They might say "yes" or "maybe" when they really mean no. This might be done for a variety of reasons, but one common reason is avoiding conflict. They might believe a person will get angry or upset if they don't agree (which sometimes does happen!) Feeling more confident in your own ability to handle someone else's anger can help this fear to decrease. It can also help to remind yourself not to take disagreements personally. It is typically more effective to look at a disagreement as an opportunity to get to better understand differences between people as well as an opportunity to find common ground.
3. If you are not sure what you think, feel or believe about a certain topic, do your research! Take time to understand things you might not have thought much about before. Ask informed people questions, read, take a class, or even do some quick google searches (find quality sites!) to educate yourself. In an age of information, there are few excuses to not be informed about something important. It does take time, and certainly we can’t know everything about everything, but don’t use that as an excuse to not take the time to learn something.
4. Consider your “eulogy” virtues rather than simply your “resume” virtues. I love how David Brooks explains this concept in his book The Road to Character. He lays out that we can get caught up in our public image, and wanting to look “big” and important, while forgetting basic character traits like humility, kindness, gratitude, friendliness, etc. You can have both, and both have their place, but it is a good reminder to not let a big public image and getting ahead professionally to stand in the way of being a genuine caring person.
5. Catch yourself in performance mode vs genuine personal interactions. It is good to be aware of the difference. Performance mode is important, and necessary in many professional situations, and maybe necessary in some relationships. Meaning, we don’t need to share our more personal thoughts and feelings with everyone. However, we all need people we can truly let our hair down with and be real. Make sure you have at least some of those people in your life. George Washington said it well with “Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence.”
Authenticity can be hard, especially if you get stuck in wanting to look like you “have it all together.” Practice vulnerability and courage in small doses with the right people, and you will likely make truer, deeper connections with the right people than you ever had before.