First you have to know what that is.
The person that you are when you are with your silliest friend? Or the more moderated person that walks through your daily life. You prefer the first, but that’s unfortunately a small percentage of your time. So, your authentic self might just be the more moderate one you spend the most time being. But is that really you?
Do you alter yourself to fit in? Pretend to be the person you think you should be? Of course you do. We all do. But you might have lost yourself in the bargain.
One problem is that there aren’t venues for being your authentic self.
A big cocktail party won’t do it. Too superficial.
A dinner party won’t do it. Too structured.
A meeting at work? Lunch with the school board? Watching Netflix? Nope.
Sitting in the laundromat waiting for your underwear to dry might do it. Kibitzing with strangers. But most of us don’t go to a laundromat anymore. Or have a chance to kibitz with strangers. Who are, I might add, the easiest to be yourself with.
Sleepovers used to be good for the authentic self thing. Sharing Cheetos and innermost thoughts at midnight. But once out of your tweens, those times are few and far between.
Yesterday I went to lunch with a friend and then wandered around a few local galleries. We talked about brushes with art in past lives. And the past lives. We experienced color and light together. Puzzled by some pieces. Enchanted by others. In the end, we couldn’t put our finger on what art we truly liked but circled around until we found a smidgen of clarity. About the art and each other. We were in our own authentic little bubble. I got to know her a little better yesterday because we took the time to be just us.
If you had to write down who you really are, could you? Tough to be your authentic self if you don’t know what that is.
You’d probably start with what you do. Your resume. Decade by decade the boxes you’ve checked.
But that’s not who you are.
“I like to sing to Queen in the car. I feel good when my dog Rosie is sitting right next to me. I prefer carbohydrates. My favorite date night is going to the movies and eating sushi. I’m politically and socially liberal. I don’t look in the mirror with glasses on so that I don’t see how old I look. I park illegally a good deal of the time. I stay up late. I crave information. I love going to lectures. I like houses that are spare. My closet is messy. I love to laugh. I write so that you can get to know me. I don’t think it would happen otherwise. ”
One study reported that 50% of people “fake it” at work. Not feeling they can be themselves. Which is sad. On some level, your co-workers know. You are never as believable as when you are your true self. I didn’t see a study on how many people just “fake it” in everyday life. Be the person they think others want them to be. But I’ll bet a lot of people do that. Maybe if you’re a real jerk it’s a good idea. Probably is. But that’s the only time it makes sense.
If you Google being your authentic self, you’ll be amazed. A lot of suggestions out there. Three steps. Five steps. Ten steps. All about finding and living your authentic self. All agree authentic people are happier. Healthier. More confident. Some may not be popular. But authentic.
So, try it. Put yourself in situations where you can’t hide. Skip cocktail parties. Hang out with people that make you feel safe. Get to know yourself and be committed to peeling off a layer now and then.
People may not like you anymore but you’ll be authentic.
And that will be a very good thing.