Do you say whatever you want, whenever you want, without worrying about the consequences? Are you strong enough to speak your truth even when you’re the only one doing so? Is making your point in any given situation so important that you’re willing to annoy, anger and alienate people? Are you okay being the one person in any group who disagrees with the rest?
If you answered yes to all or some of these questions, you just might be living a truly authentic life and I salute you. The rest of us are straddling the continuum somewhere between thinking, saying and doing whatever we want and living to please others. The extent to which we live an authentic life is a matter of degree.
Some people put on suits and go to accounting jobs but dream of opening a cupcake shop. Others languish in relationships that don’t nourish their soul because they’re afraid to be alone. Some of us tell people want they want to hear instead of what’s in our hearts because we’re afraid of conflict. And, in workplaces around the world, people bite their tongues on a daily basis to keep their jobs.
So what does it mean to live a more authentic life and, more importantly, is it worth it? My research tells me that living an authentic life means:
- You have self confidence that’s not tied to the approval of others
- You say yes to things that align with your values and no to things that don’t
- You take 100% responsibility for everything in your life
- You put yourself and your needs first
- You are totally honest about your strengths, weaknesses, capabilities and limits
- You say what you mean and mean what you say. Always.
That’s heavy stuff. How do you feel when you see that list? Do you feel like, “I got this. This is how I roll. There’s no other way to be” or do you have lots of perfectly legitimate excuses for why it wouldn’t fly. Here are some:
- I want to meet my own needs but I’m too busy making school lunches and helping with math homework
- My current job doesn’t align with my values but it pays well, is close to home, has great benefits, etc.
- I’ll live on purpose once the mortgage is paid off
- If I always said what I truly thought I would constantly be apologizing and dealing with offended people and I just don’t have the time
I live in a country where people are free to live where they want, marry who they want (or not), have children (or not), practice the religion of their choice or no religion at all and pursue the education and career of their dreams. There are no laws against any of these things but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to live your life exactly the way you want. Our choices are shaped by so many things that have nothing to do with authentic living. Free spirits are born into rigid families; geniuses drop out of high school to provide for siblings; racial, ethnic and gender bias abounds and people are shamed for who they are every day.
So how do we live a more authentic life in a complicated world? We may not be ready to quit our jobs and move the family to Bora Bora but can we take baby steps to authenticity? I think so. We can try everyday to be a little more sincere, honest, truthful, straightforward, direct and candid….but in a way that moves things forward in a positive direction.
Speak your truth because it’s important for you to make your voice heard, because you truly believe your way will yield a favourable outcome, because it will help avoid unpleasant situations later on. Don’t do it simply because you love being disruptive or to make others feel bad about themselves or just to be a pain in the neck. And if you get to the point where you think you might be disagreeing, picking fights on purpose or have absolutely nothing good to say about a person, circumstance or event, then it’s time to move on.