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Being Authentic – What Does It Really Mean?

In my mind, being authentic means being real and true to ourselves. And you might ask: And what does that mean? Being true to ourselves, requires two core skills.

  1. We need to be able to tune into our inner experience.
  2. We are required to find a way of articulating our thoughts and feelings  – first of all to ourselves, and possibly to others, if that is helpful and required.

In other words, we need to know what we feel in any given situation, to be able to respond to the situation.

In a nutshell, being authentic means: learning to find our own truth, holding to our own truth, and negotiating with others what is true and important to us.

Here are a few examples:

  • Standing up for our own values and articulating them, even if they are not shared by others
  • Sharing an unpopular opinion in a team meeting
  • Saying: No! this doesn’t really work for me. Can we find another way that works for both of us?

Authenticity is very much linked to self-respect and accepting, knowing, and honouring who we are and what our strengths and limitations are. In my view, being authentic and becoming authentic is a daily practice.

It is a bit like developing or training a muscle, let’s call it our ‘authenticity muscle’. We can strengthen this muscle by exercising it on a regular basis.

So, in becoming more authentic, we are challenged to practice our ability to identify our feelings coupled with our capacity to express and voice our position in our relationships.

Being authentic and true to ourselves is reflected in a strong connection between what we feel on the inside and what we show and express to the outside world.

When we struggle with being authentic there is quite a gap and a mismatch between our inner experience and what we present to the outside world.

Here is an example: One of my clients described it very well. She said:  ‘I feel broken, vulnerable, tearful and helpless on the inside. I know I need help, yet I am unable to ask for it. I always say: ‘I am fine’.

Here is someone who feels in turmoil on the inside, yet feels unable to voice her experience and ask for help.

Another person said: ‘I can’t say NO. I feel so guilty and uncomfortable saying NO.  When my manager is asking me whether I can do more night shifts, I always say yes, even though I am utterly burnt out already and I know more night-shifts will make me unwell.’

These examples speak of a real and serious disconnect between someone’s inner and outer world. The origins of this disconnect are found in our early years of childhood. If our family environment is unable to accept, encourage and support our healthy emotions during childhood, we disconnect from our feeling world to sustain our sense of belonging and acceptance with our parents, or caregivers. This is an automatic and unconscious process – as I have talked about in more depth in some of my other videos.

Within this context, learning to express and reveal our true and honest thoughts and feelings, instead of concealing them, is a real act of courage. It takes courage to be true to who we really are and want to be. Many of us aspire to being and becoming real and authentic yet find it difficult.

We may be worried that by speaking our truth, people won’t like us any more or might leave us. Or that we will upset and offend them. Can you relate to this in your life?

Trying to fit in, as we all know from our own experience, doesn’t really work either. It doesn’t feel good to bend and twist ourselves to fit in or be liked. And it is certainly not fulfilling. Fitting in at the cost of our authenticity causes resentment, frustration and maintains a sense of powerlessness and smallness.

In becoming more real and authentic, we need to understand our mindset, which is the main psychological obstacle in becoming and being more real and speaking our truth.

What are your fears about speaking your truths? And where do these fears and inhibitions come from? Are they still valid?

These questions are worth reflecting on.

Kirsten Heynisch

Becoming more authentic is a choice and an act of courage, and so…

If you are ready to learn to manage your feelings, to set healthy boundaries, to speak your mind and to thoughtfully negotiate your relationships, please get in touch and book your FREE, 20-minute consultation. This will give us a chance to talk about your struggles, what you want to change and how we can best work together. I am looking forward to connecting with you.

I have trained and worked as a Clinical Psychologist and Psychotherapist for over 25 years, and specialise in Depression Therapy, PTSD counselling, Group Therapy, and BPD Therapy.

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