Authentic Living:  Why Authenticity Is Key to a Meaningful, Happy Life

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In a world teeming with all sorts of personalities, you’ve likely encountered people who come across as fakes or phonies and those who come across as genuine. Who do you prefer to spend time with? Who do you trust?  Who do you respect?

If you said “authentic people,” you’re not alone. There’s something so satisfying about being around people who are self-assured and vulnerable enough to be seen for who they really are — those who are fine with letting their imperfections show and who remain confident and comfortable in their own skin.

Living authentically is key to a meaningful, happy life. Yet so many of us have developed hangups and quirks — or have been criticized for so long — that we’re afraid to show up authentically. So, instead of living our lives wholeheartedly, we put on masks, hide our perceived flaws, and remain trapped in a self-image that doesn’t reflect the beauty and awesomeness of our true selves. But you don’t have to live that way. 

The authentic you is eager to be seen. It’s time to let that happen.   

There’s such joy and satisfaction in showing the world the real you — the authentic you. If you’ve been hiding the light that makes you unique, it’ll take a little practice and some tweaks to your self-image to step into authentic living. And that’s exactly what we will talk about in this blog. 

“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It's about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” ― Brene Brown,
“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It's about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” ― Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

What’s the Difference Between Authentic Living and Non-Authentic Living?

When you live authentically, you’re true to yourself, aligning your behaviors with deeply held values and beliefs. Authenticity expert Brené Brown emphasizes this leads to deeper satisfaction and stronger relationships. 

Conversely, non-authentic living involves putting on a facade, maybe to please others or fit in.  Living non-authentically often leads to stress, disconnect, and unhappiness. 

Traits of Authentic Living vs. Non-Authentic Living

Every day, you can choose to present the real ‘you’  to the world or a version you think others want or expect. When you live authentically, you embrace who you really are at your soul level — the you that you were put on this earth to be.

Self-Image: How a Positive Self-Perception Helps You Live Authentically

Scientific research tells us that self-image involves a person’s perception of themselves, including their physical appearance, personality, and characteristics (Morin & Racy, 2021). Experts in the field of psychology also say that interactions with others — from early childhood and beyond — can have a dramatic impact on one’s self-image.

I’m not a mental health professional — I’m just a personal growth and life happiness blogger — so here’s my non-scientific take on self-image: Your self-image is like an internal mirror, reflecting how you see yourself. Why you see yourself the way you do is complicated; your self-perception develops over time from life experiences and feedback you’ve received.  

When your self-image is positive, you feel free to live authentically and align your actions with your deepest values, wants, and needs. However, if your self-image is negative or distorted, you may act in ways that conform to others’ expectations rather than your own beliefs and needs.

It’s a big old red flag when you’re living your life in inauthentic ways just to please others. Your life belongs to you, and trying to be someone you’re not is never the path to true happiness and fulfillment.

Characteristics of a Negative Self-Image vs. a Positive Self-Image

To live authentically, it’s crucial to adopt a positive self-image that will give you the courage to let the real you be seen.  

Having a healthy self-image means seeing yourself in a realistic and positive light. You recognize your strengths and accept your weaknesses without harsh judgment. You cultivate self-compassion and practice self-kindness.   It’s like having a supportive friend inside your head, one that encourages you and keeps you grounded. This balance helps you face life’s ups and downs with confidence and resilience.

"The most common form of despair is not being who you are." - Soren Kierkegaard
"The most common form of despair is not being who you are." - Soren Kierkegaard

Your Your Inner Critic Is Keeping You From Being Authentic

One of the first and most important steps to living more authentically is to fire that inner critic inside your head.  That bully does NOTHING to lift you; it’s not the real you, it’s just the “you” you somehow convinced yourself you needed to be.

To prove my point, take a moment to imagine a small child standing in front of you. Do you think that child will grow up with a positive self-image if you constantly criticize them? Or would they have a better chance of becoming self-confident and self-assured if they received copious amounts of encouragement?  

You will never feel strong and confident if you always tear yourself down. Be your own cheerleader — encourage yourself more and criticize yourself less.

“Remember, you have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” - Louise Hay
“Remember, you have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” - Louise Hay

Self-Awareness Is Key to Living Authentically

Another step to living more authentically is cultivating self-awareness. When you’re self-aware, you can make choices that truly reflect who you are, not just what you think you should be. 

This awareness allows you to navigate life with a sense of purpose and direction, making decisions that align with your true self. Without self-awareness, it’s easy to drift into living a life shaped by external influences or societal expectations, leading to dissatisfaction and not living fully.

Here are a few ways you can improve your self-awareness:

  • Journaling: Regularly writing down your thoughts, feelings, and experiences can help you identify patterns in your behavior and emotions.  I have an e-book on Amazon called  The Self-Awareness & Self-Discovery Journal that could help you get started.  
  • Mindfulness Practices: Engaging in mindfulness exercises or meditation helps you focus on the present moment and become more aware of your thoughts and feelings without judgment.
  • Therapy: Working with a therapist can facilitate deeper self-exploration and help address unconscious biases or beliefs that affect self-awareness.
  • Educational Reading: Books about psychology or personal development can provide new perspectives and frameworks for better understanding yourself. I highly recommend starting with The Mountain is You by Brianna Wiest or The Art of Self-Awareness by Patrick King.
  • Reflective Questions: Regularly asking yourself reflective questions about your motivations, desires, and reactions can enhance self-understanding. Below is a list of reflective questions to help you get started.  

Listen to that Wise Inner Voice – Your Highest Self

Have you ever felt a voice inside you telling you to do one thing when your mind and the world around you told you to do something else?  That’s your higher self.

Your higher self is your wise inner voice with your best interests at heart.  Whether you call it intuition or gut instincts, you possess an inner knowing that’s desperate to be heard.  

Your higher self talks to you often, but it seldom shouts — mostly, it comes when you’re calm and peaceful enough to hear its whispers. That inner voice comes from the real you, the one that cares for you deeply and comprehends your needs and wants in ways your logical mind cannot fully grasp.  

The voices in your outer world will distract you from your hopes and dreams and tell you to be someone you are not. Your higher self will guide you towards the life you’re meant to live and encourage you to embrace your authentic self. Listen to that voice.

Vulnerability Is a Key to Authenticity

In her bestseller, Daring Greatly, author and researcher Brené Brown describes vulnerability as the unstable feeling surrounding risk, uncertainty, and emotional exposure.

When you’re vulnerable, you may face rejection, ridicule or defeat. You become vulnerable anytime you go outside your comfort zone or find yourself in circumstances outside your control.  

Being vulnerable is often misconstrued as a weakness, but to be human is to be vulnerable. 

It’s very difficult to be around those who pretend to be perfect and never have any problems. When others trust you enough to show you their vulnerable side, it’s much easier to form a stronger bond, affirmed by the knowledge that no one is alone in their vulnerabilities. 

Brown says, “The courage to be vulnerable is not about winning or losing; it’s about the courage to show up when you can’t predict or control the outcome.”

Being willing to be vulnerable is a sign of integrity, not a weakness. We all have imperfections; it would be a boring world if we didn’t.

There’s an Enormous Sense of Freedom in Being Authentic

Putting on masks and playing fake roles is exhausting. Living authentically can reduce pressure and lead to a more relaxed and less stressful lifestyle, providing a greater sense of personal freedom.  You make decisions based on what you genuinely want, not what others expect from you.

Authenticity allows for the expression of true emotions and thoughts. This emotional liberation fosters deeper and more meaningful connections with others, reducing feelings of isolation and strengthening bonds with people who add joy and meaning to your life.

Being genuine in your interactions enhances your social life and contributes to a more fulfilling existence. Overall, embracing authenticity clears the path for a life that is more aligned with your true self and feels more free and fulfilling.

You Deserve to Be Happy: That Will Only Happen When You Let Your True Self Be Seen

As Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrilll used to sing, “There ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby.”  The world needs to see the real, genuine, 100% version of you that you’ve been holding out.  Moreover, you need to show the world that person – your authentic identity craves to be seen.

It’s time to stop allowing other people’s perceptions of you (real or imagined) to control your life. It’s time to drop the notion that you’re not good enough because you are perfect, even in your imperfections.  

Authenticity is key to living a meaningful and fulfilling life. If you want to be happier and less stressed and enjoy all that’s possible for you, take a step today toward living more authentically.  

Learn More About Living Authentically: Book Recommendations

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Authentic: How to Be Yourself and Why It Matters
Authentic: How to Be Yourself and Why It Matters
daring greatly book by brene brown
Daring Greatly
brene brown gifts of imperfection
The Gifts of Imperfection
The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley
The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley

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