This above all: To thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man. ~ Shakespeare
“To thine own self be true.”
That is about the soundest advice you could get. But, what does it really mean? How do you know who you really are, let alone how to be true to your authentic self?
First, let’s examine the “Who am I?” question. Our roles in life do not make us who we are. We tend to base our idea of who we are on everyday roles such as parents and spouse or even what we do in our jobs or what qualifications we have. But none of them are who we are — they are simply categories of identification and/or preferences. The more we live on the surface of our identity, the less we are in touch with our deeper authentic self.
The more we look outside of ourselves to create a sense of self, the farther off track we go. How can we know who we truly are when we spend our time and attention trying to be something other than what we find ourselves to be? No amount of changing ourselves for the purpose of being perceived as “cool” or “fashionable” or getting the approval of others is going to bring us any closer to really knowing ourselves.
One of life’s greatest ironies is that when it comes to “knowing” it is a personal experience — not an absolute. What I “know” to be true, I know inside myself and can provide no proof to another who does not resonate with the same truth.
For each of us, our truest life purpose becomes seeking answers to the deep questions of life and then living in accordance with what we find to be true. Like turning on an inner light, it is as though we have to awaken something inside ourselves. Once we have done that, our inner knowing seems to have a voice that, if we listen to it, guides us in our daily choices. This is not the voice of personal opinions, judgments and preferences. It comes from a deeper place than that, and with practice and time we can learn to tell the difference between the voice of our ego and the voice of our authentic self.
The challenge is in choosing to listen to true self rather than to ego when they don’t agree.
Living from a place of profound authenticity involves being rooted in your deepest beliefs, values and truth and living a life that is a true reflection of them. It is about being true to yourself through your thoughts, words and actions. It means being willing to sacrifice any relationship, situation or circumstance that violates your truth. For example, if you are in a job or relationship that requires you to function in a way that is not in accord with your truth, you leave it. Does this mean you will live a charmed life? No, you will still have your share of sorrows as well as sweetness in your life. However, you will have the wisdom of knowing who you are to guide you. The more you practice listening to your inner wisdom, the less friction and discord you will find yourself creating in your life.
Will you ever be perfect at honoring your own truth? No, but you can strive for excellence. It’s largely a matter of where you place your focus. By holding the intention of being true to yourself, you focus your attention on whatever resonates with your truth. It becomes a self-editing process where you do more and more of those things that express your truth and less and less of those that do not. Through a clear intention and paying attention, you learn to hold yourself accountable. Through discipline and commitment you learn to do your best to live according to who you know yourself to be. That’s profoundly authentic, and it sure beats the alternative!
Your Authentic Self in 3 Easy Steps
Choosing your values are what is important to you in life. Knowing your values helps you understand what drives you, what you enjoy, and what inspires you. By building a life and lifestyle around our values we create a life that is more satisfying and meaningful to us. Values change over time, and deepen as you understand yourself better.
You have permission to be “you” regardless of your strengths or weaknesses. Think about it…there isn’t anyone in the WHOLE WORLD that has EVER lived or WILL EVER live that is EXACTLY like you. YOU are one hundred percent unique!
Make a list of goals you want to achieve. Look at the work you do and look at the relationships you have. Do your values currently align with what you want to do? If not make the necessary changes. Make a plan for how you will include your activities into your life & make steps for achieving your goals. Look out for values that are sabotaging your time and energy & live for the ones that bring out your authenticity making you happy and likely to achieve your goals. Values are not set in stone so they may change over time.
“Be a first rate version of yourself, not a second rate version of someone else.” ~Judy Garland
~Monretta Vega, LPC