5 Ways to Live More Authentically

By UB therapist Chelsea Alarcon, LPC

Brené Brown, a well-known psychologist, author, and speaker said, “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we are.” Living an authentic life can feel like a risk at times; however, research shows that exercising courage in this way has many potential benefits. Some of the benefits of living authentically include, but are not limited to, increased sense of well-being, increased feelings of confidence, decreased feelings of depression, and increased feelings of connection with others.

Here are some tips for practicing authenticity and vulnerability in your daily life:

Practice self-awareness and acceptance of your own experience. With our humanity comes a wide range of emotions and experiences. No person is above experiencing stressors or mental health symptoms. Allowing ourselves to experience a wide range of emotions, including painful ones, does not often feel comfortable. We may avoid thinking about experiences and emotions that shaped us into who we are. This may be because of our past experiences and/or beliefs that we ought to feel ashamed about who we are and what we feel. Becoming aware of these avoidant tendencies and working toward acceptance of our experiences may help us grow into a more authentic version of ourselves.

Reflect on your personal values, how you can make efforts to behave in line with those values, and accept that these values can change over time. According to acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), values are simply defined as “what we stand for” in our lives. Values are abstract nouns such as “friendship,” “spirituality,” or “equality.” We can hold several values at once, our values can change over time, and our values may not match the values of those around us. There are some values that we may tend to want to work toward more frequently than others. Reflecting on your values may help you become aware of how you want to live your life and inspire you to be true to these values (and yourself) as often as possible, even if your values are different from others around you.

 Seek and take advantage of healthy relationships in which you regularly practice “being real.” Wanting real connections with others is part of human nature. Some of us grew up with relationships in which we felt like we needed to be someone other than who we really are or needed to hide something about ourselves. Hiding part(s) of ourselves may have felt shameful, anxiety-provoking, isolating, or saddening to us. While we do not have to share every part of ourselves in every relationship, we are more likely to get support from people who demonstrate empathy and a non-judgmental nature. Having relationships like this in life help us nourish parts of ourselves that we value and may not be able to express in every setting. Having a space to be your authentic self can allow you to feel more confident and less shame. For example, you could be someone who struggles with anxiety. Perhaps you feel that you have to hide this in certain relationships or settings. If you constantly feel like you are hiding, it may feel like such a relief to finally feel able to talk about this with someone who expresses empathy for your experience. If you are seeking support from someone that helps you feel understood, you may feel less alone and less ashamed of what you are going through.

Practice courage in the midst of the possibility of disappointing others. As I mentioned in previously, some of us grew up experiencing or currently experience interactions that felt/feel hurtful, shaming, or isolating. Perhaps these experiences have lead us to believe that we “should be” someone other than who we truly are. Furthermore, these experiences could have lead us to believe that we “should be perfect,” “superhuman,” or even without mental health symptoms! With support, we can practice setting boundaries, expressing how we truly feel, and leaving situations that are no longer serving us.

Remind yourself that your authentic, imperfect, and human self brings value to the world. Practicing authenticity can inspire ourselves, inspire others, and bring new ideas into the world. If I could paint a picture of a world full of inauthentic people, it would be a world without creativity, innovation, empathy, and intimacy. Some of the most innovative, courageous trailblazers in the world started out by being disliked, criticized, and even ostracized. While for most being authentic was risk and came with some uncomfortable experiences, many of these people left their mark on the world and shaped it into a better place for others. Think of a trailblazer that inspires you. Read and reflect on their story and how their bravery allowed them to bring something valuable into the world. Allow yourself to feel inspired and uplifted to practice authenticity in your own life.

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