Ever look in the mirror and say to yourself, “Wow, have I changed?” I don’t mean physically but as a person. I came from a town that I thought was a great place to live. Stores were at a premium, the best florist in the area, and plenty of things to do. As a teenager, I felt like it was a metropolis for shopping. At sixteen, my parents moved us fifteen minutes away to a suburban area. At first, I had a hard time adjusting, but as I became an adult, I found that I didn’t want to move away from it. I rarely return to where I grew up. I guess that I felt there wasn’t any need to go back, but tonight was different. I returned to my old hometown. It wasn’t the place that I knew it to be. Overpopulated by condos, lacks parking, and the street sounds of congestion. I couldn’t wait to return to the suburbs. At that moment I realized, wow, have I changed? I wonder how many of you have felt the same way.
When did I become so different? It’s clear that by the time we have lived a few decades, a lot will have happened to us. We change and meet the challenges that are expected as we get older. It’s those difficult times that test us and push us to our limits, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically. Whether we like it or not, it happens, and we learn to navigate those challenging times. Yet after all of these things, these events happen to us, the basic question remains as to who are we anymore. Let’s face it, from the time that we are born, we are conditioned to be a certain way. We influence family, siblings, and friends. We then become different things to different people and how we relate to others and our environment. Those identities encourage us to get a sense of who we are, and we have the chance to just be me and for ourselves. It’s our authentic self and as we mature and grow, our experiences change us.
Many people become uncomfortable out of our normal. That was me, being in an environment that wasn’t the same as I remembered it. I had a feeling of anxiety, and I realized at that moment that my life experiences had changed me. I knew myself to be different. If you never felt this way before, it feels as the saying goes, that I know myself better than anyone else does. I knew that I wasn’t in the right place, the right environment for me. You don’t need anyone’s permission to do what feels right to you, to do what feeds and nourishes you. I understood at that moment, in those loud busy streets that this place didn’t value or respect me. I know that towns can’t respect you, but the people around those streets can, and that’s when you begin to lift and celebrate yourself for being changed to your authentic self, but there are things to think about when finding your true self.
– Take a personal inventory
When you feel the most authentic starts by asking yourself some direct questions that can help you discover who you are when you are not putting on a mask or betraying your core values. When you get clear on those values, you will find it easier to make decisions in line with your authentic self.
– Be present
The ability to be present with yourself, no matter what is going on around you, is essential to authenticity. If you are always distracted by your mental chatter or reacting to external situations, you’re not aware of your own state of being build your own social support system by taking inventory of your social circle from time to time and surround yourself with supportive people who lift you up. They can encourage you to shine as your true self.
– Speak your truth—assertively
Improving how you communicate can have a big impact on living your authentic life. What we want to say often gets lost in how we say it. Some people tend to be passive communicators and hold back from sharing opinions. Others aggressively dominate conversations and fail to listen. With passive-aggressive communicators, sarcasm and dishonesty block the way to an authentic exchange.
– Take daily action toward authenticity
Authenticity can feel like a big, abstract concept. But when you really look at it, it comes down to your day-to-day actions. Because it’s those seemingly small moments, the things you say, your decisions, your actions, that add up to who you are. Actualizing an authentic life starts with intentional daily planning.
– Take a step back to gain perspective
When you find yourself in a rut, it makes sense to apply all your brainpower to come up with a solution. But sometimes that approach can get you nowhere, and just lead to a cycle of overthinking.
– Recognize internal versus external influences
When you want to know how to be your authentic self, it helps to differentiate your internal motivations and external influences.
– How to be your authentic self in any relationship
Authentic connection requires balancing your own needs with caring for your partner. Practice healthy assertive communication, expressing your opinions and feelings, even when it feels vulnerable. At the same time, actively listen to what your partner needs, taking a pause to respond rather than react emotionally.
– How to be your authentic self at work
Professionalism doesn’t have to compromise authenticity. When you “play the game” to get ahead, you can alienate yourself and create an atmosphere of competitiveness, rather than collaboration. A healthy work environment encourages open dialogue and the exchange of ideas while respecting diversity.
– How to be your authentic self in a speech
It can feel challenging to open up to a large audience, whether at a party, delivering a work presentation, or presenting a TedTalk. If you don’t want to seem stiff or rehearsed, make sure to prepare and know your topic inside and out. Using stories or anecdotes from your own life will help you open up to your audience. Plus, it’s easier to remember, and you won’t sound like someone reading a PowerPoint.
It can take courage to learn how to be real. But when you do, you set yourself free and begin to build a life that brings you joy and meaning. It might not happen overnight, but you can get there. As far as me, by the time the day was over, and it was time to return home, I felt a relief to know that I had changed and perhaps my personality had also matured. The same sights and sounds that I thought were great, really weren’t that great anymore. I had a new purpose in my life. A purpose, a reason for being who I am today. The town that I had grown up in, didn’t serve me anymore. Although I’m much older, maybe I was forced to change my behavior, but over time it helped me to cope with life’s challenges. This is what was meant to be for me. All that I know is that same kid who shopped in that metropolis of retailers wasn’t going to be the same for me. Many of those stores had closed and were replaced by a multitude of take-out places, dollar stores, and nail salons on every corner. In the distance, high-rise condos overshadowed the clouds, and life as I remembered it quickly disappeared, almost like it never existed, and that’s okay too. You see not only did I change, but the world around me did too. Maybe if I visited more often I would get used to my old hometown, but the reality is that I don’t want to. My authentic self tells me that it isn’t home anymore. It’s better to leave my childhood memories as I remember them and live life as I see it now. Wow have I changed, and I’m a much better person for it.
Think about a time or place that you have visited, a childhood home, friends from back in the day, or a town that you once called home. Remember what life was like then to what your life is like now. Recall how much you have changed and what helped you to become your authentic self and if you would ever go back. It’s a good thing that we can’t go back in time. I’ve changed so much that going back in time would stop me from being my authentic self. The real person that I was intended to be all along.
When you’re authentic, you end up following your heart, and you put yourself in places and situations and in conversations that you love and that you enjoy. You meet people that you like talking to. You go places you’ve dreamt about. And you end up following your heart and feeling very fulfilled. ~ Neil Pasricha, Author of You Are Awesome.