By Jeannie Herman, MS, NCC
“Don’t let the expectations and opinions of other people affect your decisions. It’s your life, not theirs. Do what matters most to you; do what makes you feel alive and happy. Don’t let the expectations and ideas of others limit who you are. If you let others tell you who you are, you are living their reality — not yours.
There is more to life than pleasing people. There is much more to life than following others’ prescribed path. There is so much more to life than what you experience right now. You need to decide who you are for yourself. Become a whole being.”
~ Roy T. Bennett
We live in a world where we are expected to meet certain social norms. Social norms exist for a reason; in order for groups of people, including families and communities, to get along we need to monitor our behavior to some degree.
There are costs to this however; we lose our individuality and expression of our true self which is limiting and repressive.
How can we live our lives with more authenticity?
We can start by building our own awareness about who our authentic self is.
- What are your values?
Take an online assessment examining your values. There are many values inventories available and you can access them with a quick internet search. This will help you to discover what is most important to you in life.
- What do you like to do?
What makes you feel alive and gives you energy? Make a list of things you like. We often spend our time trying to please others and doing what they like. Make a list of activities you enjoy and commit to yourself to spend time doing them at least once a day.
Categories for enjoyable activity list:
- What do you like to eat?
- What do you like to read?
- What movies or TV shows do you like?
- What kind of physical activity is enjoyable to you?
- Who do you like spending time with?
- Where do you like to go?
- What do you enjoy thinking about?
- Do you like a certain type of music?
- Do you enjoy dancing?
- Is there an artistic expression that feels good to you?
- Do you like to sing, draw, decorate..?
For some people this exercise is difficult. You may not know what you like to do.
Things that are energizing and make time slip away are generally enjoyable activities. It is important to validate your findings.
For example, you may have been given the message – by family members or society that certain activities you enjoyed were not worthwhile, like talking on the phone to your friends.
Try to push those invalidating messages aside and discover what makes your heart sing.
Once you become more aware of who you are you can experiment with sharing your authentic self with others. It is best to begin sharing your authentic self in a safe space with a counselor, a therapeutic group, or a trusted friend or family member.
You will find that when you express yourself with authenticity, integrity, and openness that you will attract, or repel, the right people in your life.
As you begin to develop confidence in sharing aspects of your authentic self you can expand this expression to all areas of your life.
Jeannie Herman, MS, NCC – www.ashlandcounseling.org