Are you living your authentic self?
Authenticity is a word we hear a lot about these days. In many ways, this is a good thing. More and more of us want to live life on our own terms, free from the burden of social expectations.
Nonetheless, unshackling from society’s pressures is easier said than done. After all, these expectations, standards, and conditioning is drilled into our subconscious since we were babies.
The good news is that with awareness and practice, living a life where you are truly yourself is possible. Indeed, it is possible to set your own standards, defy the odds, and live life as authentically as you want to.
But what does an authentic life really look like?
What does it mean to live life on your own terms?
How do you finally break free from social conditioning and walk the path less traveled?
This article will answer these questions. The goal is to help you let go of your false beliefs, get in touch with your true self, and live a fulfilled life.
How Social Conditioning Affects Us
Social conditioning is something everyone experiences. In fact, it is an inevitable part of our upbringing.
Starting as early as when we are small babies, those around us repeatedly convey certain messages about how the world works. After extensive exposure to these messages, we eventually come to believe them as the truth.
Unfortunately, quite a number of the things we grow up believing to be the truth are often not. Most of the time, these messages, passed onto us by family, peers and society, often lack any rationality.
In the end, most of the “truths” that were ingrained in us since childhood are actually false beliefs. The real tragedy is that many adults never question the beliefs they acquired from their infancy. So, we end up living a life dictated by other people’s expectations, opinions, and defective beliefs.
Sometimes, we may question some of the things we grew up believing. However, due to the weight of social expectations, many just choose to go with the flow instead of attempting to do the work of freeing our true self to live a life based on our own values.
Other People’s Expectations
But, here’s the thing: Living life based on other people’s expectations is one of the biggest obstacles to achieving your true potential and happiness.
Indeed, social conditioning can make you hate yourself because you do not look, behave, or live a certain way. The pressure to fulfill societal expectations can take away from your mental and spiritual wellbeing.
Just to be clear, not all social conditioning is bad per se. However, the problem with this process is that it leaves no room for critical thinking or rationalization. Therefore, many people end up living life and being who they think they’re supposed to be instead of really being who they truly are.
No one is completely free from social conditioning or its effects. If you consume any type of media, you are very much prone to sensational news, propaganda, as well as marketing and advertising gimmicks. All of these are attempts to shape your worldview and beliefs.
Certainly, politicians and religious leaders also condition us to think a certain way about deity, society, and other groups that are different from us.
Also, our parents and relatives knowingly or unknowingly, influence our core beliefs regarding issues such as gender, sexuality, ethics and morality, family, etc.
In addition to this, we try to meet the expectations of the friends and colleagues we hang out with every day. They might not overtly ask us to but we strive to be a certain way to earn their approval and acceptance.
What It Means to Live Authentically
As you can see, there are numerous sources of social conditioning all around us. Fortunately, with persistence and deliberate awareness, you can begin living less according to others’ expectations and more according to your own standards. In other words, you can begin the process of unearthing your Authentic Self.
In a world where we are bombarded with subtle (and not so subtle) messages about how we should be, what we should look like, and how we should move through life, it is easy to lose a sense of who we are.
Indeed, now more than ever, with the availability of popular on-demand media and social media, it is so much easier to live a life that is not your own.
Living authentically isn’t living a perfect life. It is about living in alignment with your truth, values, and beliefs. It is about living in a way that feels real to you, a way that honors your true wants, needs, and desires.
When you are connected to your Authentic Self, your life will be guided less by societal expectations and more by your core values. You will know because you will not feel as though you are living life the way others say you should. On the contrary, you will design your life exactly how you want to.
Why is authenticity important? Why is unearthing your Authentic Self a worthwhile cause?
What Would Make You Truly Happy?
Think about it this way: What would make you truly happy—living life on your own terms or living the way your parents, relatives, friends or society say you should?
Most of us would probably want to live life on our own terms and forgo the burden of social pressure and expectations.
If you have tried living according to other people’s expectations, you already know how burdensome that can be. The long-term emotional, spiritual, psychological, and even physical toll can take a long time to overcome.
Authenticity is key to your happiness. The more you live in alignment with your own values and beliefs, the more likely you are to experience deeper joy, fulfillment, and contentment. Your authentic self is far more creative, free, abundant, loving, kind, and less judgmental.
Begin the Process of Unearthing Your Authentic Self
Getting in touch with your true self is more a marathon than it is a sprint. It is a process of daily deliberate effort. Importantly, it is a series of choices.
The tips below are not the only way to live an authentic life. However, they are a good place to start regardless of where you are in your journey.
What beliefs do you hold about yourself? Not everything that was impressed upon you is true. Once you find your own truth, you begin to live authentically.
To begin the process of unearthing the truth, take a pen and a piece of paper and list down the beliefs you have about yourself. In particular, notice the negative beliefs you’ve held on to such as “I am not worthy”, “I am not good enough,’’ “I am not beautiful,’’ “Love doesn’t come to me easily,’’ etc.
Create Alternatives to Your False Beliefs
As you can see, these are limiting beliefs that keep you from experiencing, exploring, and putting your authentic self forward. Examine where they came from (it usually goes back to your childhood) and why you are still holding on to them.
Whatever the origin or purpose of your limiting beliefs, you have the power to replace them with new ones that allow your authentic self to shine through. So, replace “I am not worthy” with “I am worthy” “I am good enough” “I am loveable” “My ideal partner is coming to me.”
Without a doubt, positive affirmations bring a mindset shift. Therefore, As you continue questioning and replacing negative conditioning, you will begin to see yourself in a whole new light. You will be free from the burden of social pressure and expectations that do not favor you.
Practice Daily Self-Compassion
Self-love and compassion are at the core of the authentic self. In other words, only when you are truly kind to yourself will you start living life on your own terms. Negative social conditioning, imposed on us over many years, can make us behave unkindly toward ourselves.
Have you ever wondered why it is easier to prioritize, nurture, and love others ahead of ourselves? It is because many of us have been conditioned to believe that loving and being kind to ourselves, and honoring our needs first is selfish.
As a result, we end up living our lives suppressing our real wants, desires, thoughts, and personalities for the sake of others.
Living authentically doesn’t mean not being kind, loving, or nurturing toward others. In fact, the more authentically you live, the more compassionate you become toward others without feeling resentful or sacrificial. But, for this to happen, you have to start by being loving and kind to yourself.
Self-compassion allows you to accept your flaws without letting these flaws define who you truly are. When you are kind to yourself, you can forgive yourself easily; you can give yourself a break, and time to heal.
By doing this, you are able to emerge from the ashes of other people’s opinions, expectations, and limiting beliefs. When you practice self-compassion and love, you begin to see yourself for who you truly are; you can reconnect with your true essence and therefore live a more meaningful life.
Don’t Be Afraid of Building a New Circle
By now, you already know that the people you surround yourself with have a profound impact on your belief system.
They affect how you move through the world. They can be a safe landing ground where you can truly be yourself or they can be your greatest limitation.
Often, in your journey to uncovering your authentic self, letting go of old connections becomes necessary. You are rebuilding a new you; you are honoring yourself first before others. As such, you might have no choice but to remove yourself from circles that no longer serve this purpose.
Understandably, in some cases, severing some cords might be difficult. For example, getting away from close family members is not always easy. If this is your reality, you can try creating a safe space in your mind that allows you to uphold a connection with your Authentic Self—no matter what is going on around you.
Whenever you are in a situation where you find yourself behaving in a way that is less authentic because of someone else, take a step back and re-evaluate your own core belief (as opposed to that of others).
Unearthing Your Authentic Self
Indeed, unearthing your Authentic Self is really about reminding yourself what is important to you, what serves you, and then going ahead to honor these things.
Nevertheless, making new friends and building new relationships that honor your true self will not be easy. However, it is very possible.
Often, you will need to step outside of your comfort zone to make new connections. For instance, you might need to hang out at new places, engage in new activities, and make a point of meeting new people that align with your true self.
Express Yourself in Truth
Practice speaking your mind and expressing your truth at all times. This is not about being rude or insensitive. Rather, it is about committing to sticking to what you believe is true regardless of what others expect of you.
Instead of suppressing your feelings and thoughts, air them out when necessary. Absolutely, replace the urge to hide your wants and desires with a solid commitment to ask for what you want.
Is there something important you have always wanted to do? Definitely, take the bold steps and do it. Undoubtedly, the more you commit to facing and overcoming your fears, the more connected to your real self you will begin to feel. Indeed, fear is what makes us hide behind social expectations for so long. To live authentically is to face your fears boldly.
Your Authentic Self
Discovering and bringing out your authentic self can take some time. After all, the process of social conditioning takes place over many years. As you partake in this journey, approach yourself with compassion and loving-kindness. To live authentically, you must be ready to question everything you know. Better still, you have the power to let go of beliefs that no longer serve you and replace them with those that support your wants, wishes, and desires.