Searching for Authenticity?
Have you arrived at this place in your life where you wonder whether you are who you were meant to be or simply who others think you should be? Finding your authentic self may be a lifelong quest, and you’ll never achieve it 100%. But the insights you’ll have along the way and the greater happiness you’ll enjoy are well worth the pursuit. We’re each unique beings, and the more we can uncover our authenticity, the more we can bring our special contribution to the world and feel really good about our lives.
Reconnecting with your authentic self can be a long process that will happen in steps, so be patient with yourself. Enjoy the hunt and celebrate each new insight. Keep in mind that this is not just about work. While the things you discover about yourself may lead to a career change, they don’t have to. It’s also about making time for the things that feed your soul, whether it be music, art, a sport, reading a good mystery, building furniture, knitting, taking a class, gardening, spending time mentoring a child or volunteering for a favorite charity.
But, how do we begin our search? Consider the following:
Your body is speaking…
~ Pay attention to your body. What messages is it sending you? Which activities allow your body to feel relaxed and open? Which ones make you tense or uncomfortable? How can you stop or change the stimulus that causes your stress? It’s like eating food that makes you itch. Medications may eliminate that irritating itch temporarily, but if you keep eating that particular food, the problem is going to recur. In other words, if you hate your job, sitting on a beach sipping Ice tea won’t stop you from hating “Back to work Monday!”
Capture your dreams…
~ Take another look at your dreams from earlier times in your life. While you may not want to do the same things you did back then, looking back will provide some great clues. Identify the origins of your passion and develop a new spin on it. For example, if you loved treasure hunts, you might enjoy doing research. If you were notorious for taking apart your toys, being an electronic guru or becoming a mechanic might be quite pleasing for you now. If you dreamed of acting on a stage but never had the nerve to pursue a professional career, joining a community theatre could be a very satisfying.
What works best for you?
~ Take note of the various ways you function with ease and confidence. Are you a morning person or a night person? Can you change your schedule to take advantage of this? Do you like working alone or on a team? Do you prefer a quiet place to work or an active busy one? Are you trapped in the fast lane when you really want to slow down to a more leisurely pace? Part of rediscovering your authentic self is giving value to your needs and preferences and simply learning to honor them. It may be hard to be different as a teenager, especially when everyone just wants to fit in. But as an adult, we can find the strength to be different and champion our uniqueness.
~ Look at yourself in new ways. Have you ever just stopped and considered why you’re doing the things you do? Is this activity something that used to serve you but no longer does? Is it something you’re doing only because someone wants you to? Is there another way you can spend time together that you could both enjoy equally? Is there something else you can do that would be more pleasant and beneficial? Our needs and preferences change over time, and it’s useful to periodically reevaluate the things we include in our lives.
What really matters to you?
~ As you come more in touch with what’s truly meaningful to you, start to make room for it in your life. Take time to do things that are pleasurable. Reconsider your priorities. Begin to eliminate things that you do solely because you think you should. This doesn’t mean turning your back on responsibilities you have to yourself and your family. So many of our obligations tend to be self-imposed and you can negotiate some of the other ones with your loved ones. It may be a little scary to do this, because people have come to expect you to be a certain way, so expect to meet up with some resistance from those close to you. Talk to them about your search for authenticity so they don’t felt left out or left behind. They might even want to join you in some of your new activities and make some changes in their own!
Flip the Script
~ Start to incorporate your new found authenticity into your creativity. When you’re faced with a challenge at home or at work, instead of resorting to your usual tactics, try brainstorming some new ways to address them. How would the person you are now (or the person you want to be) handle this challenge? Include some options that seem out of the box and let that outrageousness expand the boundaries of your usual thinking. If you’re a creative, how can you approach your work in a fresh, new way? If you’re a teacher, you may have ways of working that are habitually comfortable to you. Try something new. Isn’t that just the kind of thing a teacher might suggest to her students? You may not stick with it, but it can open up new doors of expression for you. Try a different medium, create a different style, develop a totally different approach and see how it works out for you.