Be a first rate version of yourself, not a second rate version of someone else. ~Judy Garland
We tend to base our idea of who we are on our everyday roles. We alter who we are based on our role as parent, spouse, friend, sibling as well as what we do in our jobs or what professional qualifications we possess. We may even change our personas in different social situations, acting out of character because we think we have to do so to fit it. Fundamentally changing who we are to fit our various roles hinders our ability to truly be our authentic selves at the deepest level.
Research suggests that authentic people are well-liked and benefit from social support and other positive outcomes associated with experiencing close relationships.
Being genuine allows us to always be a first-rate version of ourselves. At the same time, it is important to not hide behind a veil of authenticity as an excuse to avoid uncomfortable situations. There are always instances when we need to explore outside our comfort zone in order to learn and grow both personally and professionally. It is possible to be both authentic while evolving our personal style and identity.
Research on Authenticity
Being authentic also doesn’t necessarily go hand-in-hand with our personality traits. A study published by the Journal of Personality found that “being true to ourself” often means acting counter to our own personality traits.
Wake Forest University psychologist William Fleeson says, “Being flexible with who you are is okay. It is not denying or disrespecting who you are. People are often too rigid about how they are and stick with the comfortable and familiar. Adapting to a situation can make you more true to yourself in some circumstances.”
He also discovered that people who think of themselves as disagreeable and rude feel more true to themselves when they are agreeable, considerate, polite and kind. And, people who consider themselves careless feel more true to themselves when they are conscientious. At heart, even though these people act one way (disagreeable, rude or careless) their true core values are the exact opposite.
Discovering Our Authentic Selves
When we embark on a thoughtful process to become our authentic selves, we begin to experience the benefits of being happier and more satisfied in all areas of life.
Benefits of becoming our authentic self:
- Increased level of personal joy
- Feeling of fulfillment
- Decision making becomes easier
- Increased awareness
- Truthful to ourselves & others
- Doing things on our own terms
- Doing what we really want
- Doing what we love
- Satisfying our needs
- A sense of purpose
- Helping prioritize how we live
- Being in alignment with goals & dreams
Key Steps to Living Authentically
Identifying Key Values
Don’t let your role in life define who you are, take action to become your authentic self.
Knowing our fundamental values helps to understand what drives us—what we enjoy, what inspires us, and what we’d like more of. As mentioned above, they may vary greatly from our personality. These values are what move us and are things we desire to live by in all aspects of life. By consciously creating our life around our most essential values, we then live a life that is more satisfying and meaningful.
It’s important to be on the look out for values that are sabotaging time and energy. Those tend to be the ones we feel obliged to accept. Instead, when we live for the values that bring out our authenticity, we will find our lives more fulfilling.
Sample Values List
Create An Action Plan
From the values we’ve identified, we can create a plan to achieve the things that are important and a necessary part of personal fulfillment.
What things do we enjoy that add pleasure to our lives?
What things do we want to achieve, both personally and professionally?
These may include:
- Cultural exposure to the arts
- Regular date nights
- Get-togethers with friends
- Daily meditation
- Using a gratitude journal
- Learning a new skill
- Personal growth
- Giving back to the community
- …the list is endless!
For example, if family is a core value, an action plan may entail scheduling regular family dinners or gatherings, staying in touch with extended family through calls or visits, and expressing affection to those we love.
If career is a key value, a plan of action may include attending workshops and seminars to increase knowledge, networking regularly, joining key professional organizations, or possibly identifying a path of career growth.
If contributing time and talent to the community is a core value, identify the organizations that are appealing, finding out about their needs and scheduling regular times to volunteer are all great goals that align with this key value.
Values Are Not Set In Stone
Values change over time, deepening as we better understand our unique ourselves. As such, it pays to revisit this process every so often to recalibrate.
When we no longer have to fill many versions of ourselves, we can focus our energy on being the best version of us. By following our values, we live in a place of integrity and truth, fulfillment and growth.
As one of Shakespeare’s most famous quotes states, “To thine own self be true.”