Authentic living comes from within and can only happen when your actions align with your values and beliefs. When you get stuck on the hamster wheel of life, just going about your life because you have to, not because you want to, can lead to unhappiness. Worst of all, it can mean not living the life you were meant to. If you want to be true to yourself, you need to live authentically.
What is authentic living?
According to philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, authenticity is fundamental to living a free and fulfilling life.
When you live an authentic life, you are listening to that inner voice in your head. You know who you are and what you want. Instead of ignoring your gut feeling that you’re in a deadbeat career that doesn’t give you joy, you look for ways to make your life align with your values. That can be through your career, volunteering, or even who you hang out with.
But this is easier said than done. Stephen Joseph, author of Authentic: How to Be Yourself and Why It Matters, suggests that as humans, we naturally gravitate towards being authentic, but it can be difficult assessing others' needs as well as our own.
Everyone will do what they can to survive. It’s when we have our needs met in a positive and nurturing environment that we can thrive.
What are the benefits of authentic living?
Authentic living is a continuous process rather than an end game. It can lead to what psychologists call eudaimonia; a term often used to refer to happiness.
Being happy and having a fulfilling life leads to people taking on other meaningful tasks, such as volunteering, being mindful, expressing gratitude, donating to charity, and engaging in challenging activities.
In fact, some studies suggest that these types of positive activities can even be beneficial for one’s health.
5 Ways to live an authentic life
When it comes to authentic living, here are 5 ways you can get started today:
1. Define your values
If you want an authentic life, the first step is to identify what’s important to you. It's not uncommon to hold onto the values we grew up with. While there's nothing wrong with that, it's important to make sure these values still align with who you are. After all, people change, and you may find that your values changed as well.
Find some time to meditate, reflect, and journal. Or spend some time in nature, which can relieve stress and anxiety and help you focus your mind. What gives you your drive? What makes you excited? Next, what did you want to do when you were younger?
Alternatively, what do others do that angers you? Is there a social justice issue you feel strongly about? Answering these can help you identify what’s important to you.
2. Keep an open mind
Authentic living is a lifelong process. That’s why it’s important to keep an open mind. Tell your inner critic to go away. Stop judging yourself or being harsh on yourself for past or present mistakes. Exercise compassion for others but don't forget to first find compassion for yourself. We are often our own worst critics.
Being open-minded doesn't just mean accepting others- it also means being open to new ideas and experiences. But that doesn't mean you have to give up on your values. Authentic people live by their code of ethics but are always open to listening. For example, maybe you're having dinner with a friend who is really into physics.
Maybe you don't care about physics. In fact, you might even find it boring (I know I do). Being authentic means listening and paying attention to what your friend is telling you, regardless of your personal opinion on the subject.
3. Be honest with yourself
If you want to be authentic, you need to be honest. Are you living an authentic life right now? Express yourself and let yourself say what you need to say, especially if it’s coming from a place of honesty. Dig deep inside yourself. Being authentic also means being a deep thinker and transposing your innermost thoughts to those around you.
My dad is a good example of someone who is authentically honest. He can take forever to make a decision, whether that's what t-shirt he wants to buy or what he wants to eat. But when he makes a decision, he knows it's the one he wants and the one that others will benefit from.
Instead of just ordering something for himself, he'll order a plate of something I enjoy as well, so we can share. Be mindful of your thoughts and action. Being honest can be scary, but it’s the biggest potential to free you and lead to a fulfilling and authentic life.
4. Be humble and treat people kindly
Being authentic is also about being humble and kind to others. Be proud of your accomplishments but be grateful for the opportunities you had as well. Practice gratitude and thank those in your life who helped you get where you are or are currently helping you.
An authentic person knows how to show gratitude to others and treats everyone the same. One of my friends treats everyone around her with the same level of respect. She is kind to not only her friends and co-workers but also to service workers.
She'll thank the receptionist at the hotel. Or she'll say hi to the homeless person on the street and give them a meal, asking them about their day. I've seen firsthand how her genuineness shines through others and makes their day. She truly knows the meaning of authentic living.
5. Trust your intuition
Last but not least, continue to listen to that inner voice. That gut feeling that is telling you to pick up the phone and call a friend or reach out to a long-lost relative is the key to being authentic. Make it a habit to listen to yourself and identify your hopes and dreams. Becoming a more intuitive person can also make you more sensitive to others and their needs.
That's because intuition is more than just an inner voice. It can guide you, helping you be in the present moment. As Dennis Merritt Jones, author of Your Redefining Moments: Becoming Who You Were Born to Be, says: "Your intuition is the very still voice arising from the authentic self.” Your inner voice is what will help you start-- and continue --to live authentically.
Authentic living is a great approach to life!
Authentic living is one of the best ways to be true to yourself and be truly happy. When you are authentic, your basic needs are met, you feel fulfilled, and you live a flourishing life. It’s a balance between representing yourself and breaking away from any defense mechanisms you may have formed in childhood.
Being authentic can also help those around you, as your inner voice and beauty shine. As your words, thoughts, and actions change your life, they will also change your loved ones in a positive way. So listen. Listen to yourself, your values, and your intuition, and learn how to be your authentic self.
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