This is an article about how to become more authentic in life.
Because that’s what’s really awesome.
How do we measure our authenticity? We could use these four ‘benchmarks’:
Awareness – How much we are motivated to understand ourselves.
Behavior – The extent to which we act in accordance with our values and beliefs.
Relationships – How open and honest we are in our relationships.
Self esteem – How accurately we can evaluate ourselves without being influenced by outside factors, including the opinions of others.
So why bother becoming authentic?
Because in a world of airbrush and gloss and pretense, being authentic is going to make you as wildly refreshing and interesting as a person with developed social skills in 21st century dating.
But that’s not the most important reason. Living an authentic life is pivotal to feeling fulfilled. (‘Happiness is when what you think, say and do are in harmony’ – Gandhi). There is even research that suggests that being authentic protects us from loneliness.
The qualities of the authentically awesome
Here’s what people that keep it real do most of the time.
1. They’re self aware
We can’t be authentic without being ourselves. And we can’t be ourselves without knowing ourselves. Therefore, being authentic all starts with self-awareness.
To do this, you can perform a kind of human S.W.O.T. analysis. What are your perceived strengths and weaknesses? How do you show up for other people? What would they say about you if you weren’t in the room? What are the words that those closest to you use to describe you? If you’re not sure, then you should ask.
It’s true that being externally-validating affects our happiness and fulfillment levels. But asking the people in your life about their experience of you can be really useful. You’ll learn the best stuff from people who don’t want something from you – i.e. those with no agenda.
When we learn when doing this might not correlate with how we imagine ourselves to be. This is actually a great position to be in. The reason is because when we have the information we need, we can actually do something about it. In other words, it becomes possible to redefine ourselves.
Because what we forget is that ‘self’ is completely made up. We construct it over the years with stories and things that other (usually older) people said. When we remember this, it means we get to create ourselves with intention, followed by action and word (the ‘tools’ of authenticity). In other words, we create purpose and we set standards (more on this below).
That’s authenticity in action.
2. They’re comfortable with what they are – and what they’re not
This is otherwise known as confidence.
Part of the process of self discovery involves becoming aware of your woeful inadequacies as a human being. (Not really; you’re not inadequate. No-one is.)
What I am getting at is: when we can get comfortable with what we are and what we are not, real confidence emerges – not the pretend kind that rests on your career or the way you look.
We might have some self esteem/love stuff work to do before we can get here. Read this post on how to help yourself to love you more.
3. They’re the CEO of their lives
Taking responsibility for life is a practice that we get better at over time. Some examples of how it might look:
- We acknowledge responsibility for stuff that happens. Bad and good.
- We take initiative in actually mastering being a great friend, lover, parent, son or sister.
- We don’t make excuses for being mean to our colleague, being late or having a mediocre physique.
- We are focused on our contribution and value.
- We don’t put stuff off.
- We deliver when we say we will.
- We don’t criticize.
- We dump emotional baggage that isn’t serving us.
- We stop freaking out about minor inconveniences.
- We monitor what we say, because we appreciate the significance of our words.
4. They’re aware of (and usually doing) the thing that makes them forget to pee and eat
Otherwise (and more dramatically) known as ‘finding what you love, and letting it kill you‘.
Having purpose is having drive and energy. In addition to being awe-promoting, these qualities make us sexier!
Still don’t know what your purpose is? Here are some weird questions that you can ask yourself to help you to discover yours.
Other things that can help you to know where best to devote your energy:
- Know what pain you are willing to sustain in order to fulfill your designated purpose. For example, you might think entrepreneurship is for you, but have a low threshold for uncertainty.
- Try new experiences. This needs to be ongoing. If your life is a rewind of the same thing over and over again, how are you supposed to know what you like?
- Focus on mastering one or two things that are already within your skill set. Faced with the choice of being a great writer or a mediocre oral presenter, the choice should be an obvious one.
Once you are clear on your purpose, you will naturally waste less time on much less awesome trivialities.
Subtlety #1. You might need to upgrade your hobbies
We aren’t being our most inspired and inspiring selves if we spend a lot of time deadening ourselves with our escapism of choice.
We all do this from time to time. But when we are connected with purpose, we generally indulge in escapism less regularly.
If you routinely seek escapism, then it’s possible that you are delaying and procrastinating from uncovering purpose.
It helps to consider it from the flip side: the opposite of passion and purpose is indifference. We need to be aware of how often indifference shows up in life (in our attitude to work, or to family and friends). When we are indifferent, we are afraid of the world and the repercussions of our own choices – and so we make none.
Subtlety #2. Read, for goddsake
Authentic people never stop seeking to learn about themselves and others.
One way to do this is by reading. If you don’t enjoy reading, then find another way to learn.
5. They have standards – and they hold themselves to account like a drill sergeant
It is virtually impossible to be authentic without being committed through action to personal wellbeing, growth and excellence.
You might not need to raise your standards. But you probably do in some way, because we all do.
You might need to dress better or execute better hygiene. You might need to improve your communications skills, so that you don’t offend people every time you speak.
Developing the capacity to follow through on the things we have decided are important is what integrity and life mastery are all about.
It’s so awesome because it’s so rare.
6. They’re perpetually ready for a portion of pie
If you aren’t humble, then you’re going to cap your ability to self improve.
Not having an over-inflated ego (which flows from fulfilling on #1) puts you in the powerful position of being able to develop your skills.
Being humble helps in all areas of life. For example, having humility in your personal relationships means you are unlikely to become complacent or let things stagnate.
Humility is something that naturally comes from having self love.
7. They’re light
There is often a lightness of being that comes naturally with being authentically awesome.
Partly that is because, once you really appreciate how meaningless everything is (or rather how it is you that attributes the meaning), nothing is quite the same ever again.
There is a something subtle about awesome people that are in touch with who they are. They can easily see the funny side. They are all a little bit hilarious in their own, kooky way.
So: we need to try not take ourselves and our lives too seriously.
Summary: It all starts with a choice
You probably aren’t going to bother trying to be authentic unless you are currently, or have been, suffering. Pain is what gives us the impetus to seek to live a more authentic life.
The key thing to appreciate is that we are all born being our authentic, happy selves – we just need to remember how to do it.
And becoming self aware is the catalyst for that.
What quality/qualities do you associate with the highly awesome? Get in touch!