“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”
― C.G. Jung
Becoming and embracing our authentic self is like a mythical journey to slay and conquer the dragon. Only a champion succeeds after many trials and tribulations. A champion whom is determined and persistent, brave and atlas. In our culture, we grow up being placed into boxes, further and further defining which “category” we fit rather than developing our inner truth. Our journey might be less about cultivating our inner life and more about measuring ourselves outwardly. In following the masses, to “do” rather than “become,” we may find ourselves lost, overwhelmed, and disconnected. But by learning how to embrace your authentic self, we can come to understand, accept, and celebrate the unique light we bring to the world. As a result, our personal power ignites, allowing us to connect and give more freely to the world.
I started this blog under the premise that creating the blog was part of embracing my authentic self, yet I also wanted to empower others to do the same. After reading an article recently published on Tiny Buddha about this topic, I was inspired to share some insight and personal experience on the topic.
My Journey to Embrace
I wasn’t always on a path to embrace my truest self. In fact, I have struggled much of my life to be who I truly am, accepting myself with my flaws, and often falling prey to the inner critic in my head. Like the champion, it is an ongoing battle that requires a lot of persistent awareness and effort. Being willing to see my authentic self has been a well of opportunity for self-growth and understanding.
The last couple of years has been the excavation of what Buddhism calls my “original goodness.” Our core selves, our essence, which is our beauty, power, and truest sense of self. This is the source of compassion, love, joy, strength, and peace. The more junk that has piled on top of my authentic self, the more work it takes to uncover. And we all experience difficulty in life that creates layer upon layer of gunk to chisel away.
I have experienced difficulties in childhood and adolescence that contributed to much of my beliefs about myself and the world around me. Unfortunately, not all of those beliefs have been true or helpful. We often take on self-limiting beliefs unknowingly in order to protect ourselves from further pain or suffering. But the result is a fragmented sense of who we are. We start to believe that we are what we have been through. We lose touch with our essence. The pain of life starts to wound and shape us.
The Journey to Uncover
Picking apart these limiting beliefs is both painful and exhausting. One in particular I have come to understand is the belief that something is “intrinsically wrong with me.” With the chaos and distress in my home growing up, I came to internalize the belief that somehow there was something wrong with me because I couldn’t just “ignore the pain.” I felt horribly alone because I was constantly in a state of anxiety and didn’t understand what was happening. Only much later did I learn that I am a ‘highly sensitive person’. This helped me to acknowledge that I was absorbing much more of the stress in my home than the average person and had no tools to effectively deal with it.
Uncovering the wounds and the resulting limiting beliefs has shown clearly how I had been stifling my authentic self. As a result, I was able to notice some ways that I tend to minimize my truest desires or have adopted attitudes that are not my own. For instance, I believed that I was “weak” because I felt lonely or longed to have a partner or closeness. Why would I believe I was weak? Whose voice was telling me there was something wrong with wanting intimacy and close relationships? Certainly not my own. In another example, I have for years felt the urge to create and express myself, but often put it on the back burner because it wouldn’t “make me money,” or it didn’t help other people. In some capacity, I believed that my creativity was selfish and self-serving. Or at the very least, frivolous and childish. Thus, I was limiting my potential by ignoring the truth that creativity is part of my authentic self.
Putting the Pieces Together
Once I started to uncover the parts of myself that was lost or hidden, I noticed that I was not always acting in my best interest. I would constantly compromise by playing “nice” so that others wouldn’t disapprove of me (a wounded belief that if others didn’t approve, I was unlovable). I would swallow words that would come up in my mouth, holding in what I really wanted to say. Sometimes I would even agree to situations that inside there was a voice saying “No! Don’t do that!”
And ultimately, the biggest piece, I realized I had followed a career path of caretaking others to help build up my self-worth. The wounded belief that I only had worth when I was directly taking care of others’ feelings and well-being had been slowly eating away at me. At my core, I wasn’t happy being a caretaker. I didn’t want to sacrifice my own mental health to help another. But I had pushed myself this far, earning myself a master’s degree in counseling, I had to keep going, didn’t I? You can learn more about what I did, here.
I finally, began to acknowledge and free myself from these self-imposed limitations. We are capable of learning about and embracing our true self.
Here are some of the important tips to embracing your authentic self:
1. Cultivate kindness and love towards self
Kindness and care for self is the key to unlocking the true nature within. Holding oneself in high regard, meeting our pain and struggles with compassion, or simply giving ourselves positive thoughts or words of affirmation. Our ability to be kind and considerate to ourselves is key if we are going to dig and uncover our authentic self. Sifting through layers of gunk requires a delicate touch. Love for self helps armor ourselves with the ability to persevere, not beat ourselves up further. To read more about self-love, check out this post here.
2. Be willing to accept your limitations
With kindness and care, we can face our weaknesses with grace. In this way, the grace we need is the ability to see clearly where we personally struggle, understand where this may come from, and come to terms with where we are in this moment. There are certain things it would be difficult to change and some things that are impossible. It is wise to, at the very least, accept our faults. Before we ever decide if whether we can or even want to change something. Either way, being at peace with our limits is empowering and self-assuring. Because let’s face it, we all have limitations.
3. Celebrate your strengths and be your own cheerleader
If we didn’t get the validation or encouragement we needed as children, chances are, we struggle with self-esteem a bit. One element to being in touch with our authentic self is seeing clearly our gifts, talents, and positive traits. To help embrace our authenticity, we need to be PROUD and EXCITED about our abilities. We can do this by sharing our gifts with others, acknowledge our successes, and give ourselves gratitude for the ways that our strengths help serve us and the world around us. Give yourself the validation you would want to hear from others. Allow yourself to feel appreciation for the type of person you are and the things you have accomplished.
4. Honor yourself in the present
We all have limited time on this earth. Who you thought you were and who you would like to be doesn’t matter as much as who you are right now. In each moment, there are needs, wants, or desires, some of which come from our authentic self. Tuning into our inner truth is about acknowledging and serving our highest good from moment to moment. If today, you are incredibly drained, irritable, and tired, honor yourself in that moment and say “no thanks” to plans to go out with co-workers. Attempt to honor your highest good, which is your authentic self, by doing what you need most.
5. Live courageously
Perhaps the most rewarding (and most difficult) tip to embrace your authentic self is to be brave. To live by courageously putting our true selves out there. When we are living from our authenticity, honoring ourselves, and in tune with our strengths and struggles, we are giving the world a gift: us. Conversely, some people may not like every aspect of who we are, but that doesn’t matter! The gift comes because the universe rewards those that bravely say “this is me.” If we embrace our original goodness, celebrate our essence of love, joy, compassion, and strength, we will help the world be a better place. When we live courageously, we are living with passion, following our truth. To read more about passion read this here.
What do you think about being authentic? Tell me about your triumphs or tribulations. Feel free to leave your questions, comments, and feedback below. Thanks for reading!