Living Authentically: The Genuine You

It is the unique combination of talents, personality and experience that make each of us vital to the whole. We sometimes cover up the “real” us; maybe someone once said we were “a bit too much” when we were little or we’re worried that we won’t be accepted if we show up fully ourselves. Of course, these are just notions that don’t serve any good purpose for us or the world. And while it’s true, that we can’t just let it “all hang out” during a workday, we can show up for work with our most authentic self in place.

The way to live more genuinely, is more about a both/and vs. an either/or approach to life. Here are 5 helpful both/and suggestions for living authentically:

1. Be deliberate. Roy Baumeister, professor of psychology at the University of Florida, states that “authenticity consists in being aware that you have choices and consciously choosing what you do.” A large part of living an authentic life involves being aware of your ability to chart your own course and responsibly choose your behaviors.

2. Don’t be too deliberate. Without this seeming like a completely contradictory message, consider how you can be intentional in your behaviors without over analyzing and over thinking everything. You want to be centered within an intuitive understanding of who you are as a person. Mark Leary, psychologist at Duke University explains that “people often make better decisions when they don’t think about them too intensely. Go with your gut. Authentic reactions are much more at a gut level.”

3. Mindfulness practice (of course)- Deep attention creates moments of happiness not contingent on outcomes or external factors or manipulation of the environment. Mindfulness meditation enables you to become a curious, accepting, and nonjudgmental observer of your experience. When you are truly connected to the present moment, there is less attachment to needing certain outcomes or trying to control the way things are. It puts things in perspective and increases connection with the whole of life.

4. Cultivating Solitude. Peter Kramer, a researcher at Brown University notes that “Quiet and time for the self are a big plus. If you’re worried about inauthenticity, there’s nothing like shutting the door.” While people differ on their individual needs for the amount of quiet time needed to relax and recharge, the benefits are many. And with the warm weather, you may want to take advantage of a little “forest bathing”, a Japanese practice of meditation while walking in the woods. In addition to the many known benefits of spending time outdoors, studies suggest that when you’re in nature, the trees and plants emit oils called phytoncides that enhance the immune system.

5. Stay Connected. The idea is to find the right balance between reflective solitude and connection with others that is healthy for you. You can learn a great deal about yourself and your strengths through carefully examining your interactions. Try noticing how you show up in relationship with others. If you are tired or irritable more than you would like, you may just need 15 to 30 minutes alone to recharge. You may just as easily find that being with friends, family, and coworkers lifts your spirits and inspires. Simply be aware of what you’re in need of in any given moment. While we may be positively affected by external factors and forces in our life, it is always wise to check inwardly with ourselves too.  

With practice, these hallmarks of living genuinely become true for you:

    Feeling open to your moment to moment experience without distortions, denial, or self-invalidation.
    Living a fully awake life in the present moment, feeling a sense of dynamism and not being static.
    Deep trust in your own intuition and ability to self-direct your own course in life.
    Feeling the freedom and ability to respond, rather than react to experiences as they occur.
    Adopting a creative approach to life, demonstrating flexibility rather than rigidity and closed-mindedness.
    May you start wherever you are, today.


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