"Don't trade your authenticity for approval"
The term “authenticity” was first made popular about 15 years ago by two psychologists Brian Goldman and Michael Kernis. As it was then defined, authenticity meant “the unimpeded operation of one's true or core self in one's daily enterprise.” Doesn’t that sound super cool?
Basically, in kindergarten terms it means “be true to you”, a concept that most people struggle with. If we use the psychologists’ definition of authenticity, then one could say that in order to operate unimpeded in life, we kinda need to know what our true and core selves are, right?
Okay, so one of the things that therapists struggle with is being authentic and real in our professional roles. I mean, who wants a therapist that has more issues than you do right? Well, let me speak to this a bit. One of the most important lessons that I have learned as a therapist is that our own personal and authentic experiences can, in fact help us to convey an even deeper sense of understanding when working with clients.
Being true to yourself applies across the board and in all environments and settings. Now, I am not saying to speak your mind every chance you get, in fact, a little tact can go a long way with helping a situation. What I mean is to be true to your values (you know, those things we learned as a child and teen about what is right and wrong). This is much easier said than done and by virtue means that we are supposed to know what our value systems are.
So, what are our belief systems that lead to the values that we want to live our authentic life with? One phrase that speaks well to this particular conundrum is the following:
“You are a victim of the the rules you live by”
-Jenny Holzer; artist, thinker
Wow! I interpret this to mean that we live our lives based off of “subconscious” belief systems that most of us are not even aware of. As an example, I learned at a very young age that hard work was the only way to live. So, I worked very hard and still do. In fact, I would often go to work sick just because staying home made me feel guilty. I felt guilty because my value system was so strong. Now, let me just say that in order for me to live an authentic life, I had to give up what I thought I was “supposed” to do and do what felt right for me….trusting in myself. I had to learn that while working was by all means a great way to live my life it was not the only way. I learned to loosen up my belief system, to do what felt right and to make time to play just as much or more than I work.
I am gonna be real here though, it is a daily struggle to battle against those underlying belief systems and live a truly authentic life. Living authentically is not an end-goal….it is a journey, a way of being- not a destination. What belief or value systems are you living your life by? Are these beliefs based off of your authentic self or based off of a false sense of duty?
Stay tuned for more tips on how to live your life authentically while still riding the everyday struggle bus!!!
Samantha Mahon, M.S.,NCC, LPC
Samantha is usually the driver of the struggle bus but also thoroughly enjoys being a passenger on someone else's struggle bus.