How to Stay Authentic, No Matter What
“Only the truth of who you are, if realized, will set you free.” - Eckhart Tolle
One of my friends recently told me this: “I think that if Instagram was around when I was fourteen, I’d kill myself.”
This really hit home with me. It’s hard enough for us adults to look at images of people on social media who all appear to have their shit together and live seemingly perfect lives, let alone teenagers. I feel for them.
You know the people I’m referring to… the travel blogger who casually jetsets to countries you’ve never even heard, the woman who turned her mobile hair drying business into the Drybar empire, or the mom of four perfect children (and equally perfect marriage) who seems to also have a knack for interior design, and turns everything she touches into gold (thanks Joanna Gaines!). Comparing ourselves to those people can really suck the joy out of life.
Everywhere we turn is a reminder of what we are not. Not pretty enough, not creative enough, not spiritual enough, not fit enough and my personal favorite… not productive enough. It's no surprise that people in America wear dark bags under their eyes as a badge of honor.
So how do we remain authentically ourselves in a world that constantly tries to tell us what we should be? How do we not feel like a lazy fuck when the rest of the world seems to so nonchalantly be winning at life?
You might be surprised to hear the answer but it all starts with self-love...
What is self-love?
Self love in an unconditional feeling of love, appreciation and acceptance for yourself. That no matter what you do, you always love yourself with the same strength.
Loving yourself can be difficult in a culture that equates self-worth with productivity levels. We can often feel inadequate because we aren’t fit enough, educated enough, rich enough or not as “far ahead in life as we should be”. That last one is simply the opposite of self-love. It’s masochism.
So if you want to show up more authentically in this world, start with a little self-love. Simply acknowledge that you are enough. Today and always. You are doing your very best.
Once you cultivate enough self-love, you will lose the need to fit in. Instead, you will experience something way richer - a sense of belonging.
When we don’t own all of who we are, the good, the bad and the ugly (and overall appreciate ourselves as a whole)… we’ll never feel like we belong. Notice how I said “belong”, not “fit in”. Fitting in is changing ourselves to be accepted by others, while belonging is feeling accepted when we show up as our authentic selves.
Fitting in is when you mold yourself for others to accept you. That is a betrayal to yourself, and cannot be a form of self-love. When you love yourself you are 100% authentic. After all, our sense of true belonging is only as strong as our self-love and self-acceptance.
So if you are looking to remain unconditionally authentic in a world that demands conformity, start by shifting the one relationship you have full control of - the relationship with yourself. This very relationship is the foundation of every other area in your life: career, love, health, spirituality. Simply put, you cannot fill all those other buckets if you are unwilling to acknowledge your own needs.
If you loved yourself you wouldn’t torment yourself with unrealistic pressures to be someone you are not.
You wouldn’t constantly tell yourself that you are not enough.
You wouldn’t doubt your decisions.
You wouldn’t waste your time comparing to others.
You wouldn't go from bed to bed, wasting time in unworthy relationships.
You wouldn’t worry about what others think of you. If they don’t like you, well it’s really their problem, not yours.
And you most certainly wouldn’t ask the world for permission to be YOU. You’d just be.
So stop questioning yourself, show up unapologetically, don't compromise your values, and stop bullying yourself with negative talk or useless comparisons.
When you truly start loving yourself, you create the space for others to do the same. You walk in your truth.
How do you practice self-love?
Loving yourself starts with allowing you to do the things that make you happy. Giving yourself permission to do the things that you enjoy.
Starting right now, give yourself permission. You don’t always need to do things that are super productive or that make sense. Spending time doing things just because you like them has a profound effect on happiness levels.
Self-love can be as simple as pampering yourself at the spa, reading your favorite book or taking yourself out to a nice dinner. However, the idea of self-love goes so much deeper. Here are a few core practices that can keep you on the path to loving yourself, and therefore being authentic:
- Giving our body the nutrients, exercise, sleep and comfort it needs to the best of our ability.
- Allowing ourselves to make mistakes and not berating ourselves for making them. Instead, choosing to appreciate our desire to learn and grow.
- Staying in our integrity, both when it comes to ourselves and when interacting with others out in the world.
- Learning to set boundaries that protect and nurture our relationships, with ourselves and others.
- Knowing how we’re spending our emotional, mental, financial, and physical energy, and whether these activities bring back joy, connection, nurturing, rest, and creativity to our lives.
- Trusting the path that our soul is on and making a genuine effort to become a conscious co-creator of our destiny.
- Wearing clothes that make us feel good instead of wearing clothes that impress others.
- Choosing ourselves, even if it means upsetting others and not being popular anymore. This could be turning down an invite to a party simply because we don’t feel like going.
- Refusing to seek permission or approval to be ourselves.
- Not labeling ourselves with others’ opinions of us.
- Following what our gut says instead of living out of our brain and ego.
The more self-love you practice, the more authentic you will become in all interactions. You won’t need to impress your co-workers or sacrifice your integrity. In fact, by staying authentic, you will only attract more people and opportunities that align with your true self.
The only way to authenticity is through embracing all that we are. Anything less is self-betrayal.