The Authentic Self: How to be authentic in your life and spirituality
I was recently asked the following question: “How can I uncover my authentic self and pursue my spiritual path in my own authentic way? I want to make sure that I do proceed authentically, especially because spirituality means many different things to different people.”
It’s a wonderful question because it sets us on the path to freedom — to discovering who we truly are, regardless of whether you, too, are joining the questioner on the spiritual path.
Having done the hard work of uncovering my own authenticity (see the bottom for a link to my story), I was happy to answer. And this was the guidance.
Very simply: Do what’s right for you. That’s easy to say, not always easy to do; but that’s the key to living your own authentic self.
Do what’s right for you. That’s the key.
Step 1: Don’t Compare
First, forget about the way that everyone else does it. We are all very unique beings. We have all had very unique experiences in life. We are all at different places, or different ages, or different genders, or from different cultures. We have different baggage that we’re carrying. We have different lessons that we are here to learn. We have different purposes, different goals for our lives, and different experiences that we have chosen to have.
We have an itinerary that our own specific soul has set out for us; so we will live in our own unique way. Therefore, following someone else’s strategy doesn’t necessarily work for us.
Following someone else’s definition of “spiritual” doesn’t necessarily work for us, either. If we look at the word “spiritual” and everyone’s definition of it, we see that we can’t even come to an agreement on what it means. Why? Because everyone has a slightly different interpretation.
Therefore, honor your own interpretation of how to live an authentic life, and pursue your journey in a way that works for you.
Step 2: Remove What’s Not You
In terms of authentic living, it essentially involves doing two things: We’re removing from us what is not us. And we’re bringing out of us what is.
To remove what’s not you, examine everything you’ve ever been told about life. For example, what a “good girl” does, or what a “good boy” is like. Examine all of the blanket statements you’ve been told, like “boys don’t cry,” and “this is what we do in Canada” or whatever country you come from, or “this is what we do in this culture,” or “this is the god that you need to pray to,” or “this is what you do before you eat, every single time — you must say a prayer,” or whatever it is that you have been told. Other statements are, “you must get a college degree or you won’t be able to get a job,” or “you need to have a white picket fence,” or “you must wear black to a funeral.”
All of these things that have been told to us — throughout our entire lives, from the very beginning, even in utero we were hearing these things and inheriting them from our parents — and we think that they are ours; but they are not necessarily ours.
So examine every thought that you have, every habit that you have. As an example: For every holiday that you celebrate, do you even want to celebrate it? If you celebrate Easter, for example, then why? What does that even mean to you? What exactly are you celebrating and are you 100% aligned with that intention? Or do you want to stop celebrating altogether? Or do you want to continue celebrating but in a different way that reflects your personal values? Same goes for Halloween and Christmas and New Year’s, etcetera, and even birthdays.
That’s the point: making the unconscious conscious, and making all decisions from total awareness and with full information about the motivation behind your actions.
Take Apart Your Entire Life
Begin taking apart everything that you do. The clothes that you wear, the books that you read, the music that you listen to, the food that you eat and when you eat it, the people in your social circle, and absolutely everything and everyone that you give your time to: Is that authentically your choice?
Or is it just something that you grew up with, all around you, or even inherited, or had forced upon you, or accepted into your life because you felt that you had no other choice? In this case, it isn’t necessarily yours.
So take apart everything in your life and examine it: Did I choose this? Why do I engage with it? Truly, why do I engage with it? What does it mean to me? Now that I know that I have a choice, what do I want to do with it? Do I want to let it go or keep it? If I keep it, should I adjust it in some way or is it perfect as it is?
Step 3: Add More of What Truly Is You
In this way, you can separate all parts of your life into piles of “these are not mine” and “these are authentic reflections of who I am at this moment.”
Keep the things that are you — but consciously know why you are doing it. That’s the point: making the unconscious conscious, and making all decisions from total awareness and with full information about the motivation behind your actions.
Why you believe something. Why you gravitate towards something. Why you eat, wear, listen to, speak about something. Why you do not do something. Why you have the friends and the home and the career that you do.
When you make it conscious, and you have chosen it because it is a reflection of yourself, then you have made it authentic; you have made the deliberate and conscious choice to say, “this — this thing right here is a full expression of who I truly am on the inside.”
And keep bringing out what is you. Deliberately choosing, for example, to eat ice cream for breakfast because that is an authentic expression of who you are; or wearing all purple clothing, head to toe, because that is an authentic expression of who you are; or devoting your life to art because you just know that is what you need to do. And you never apologize for any of it.
When you keep doing that, with everything in your life, then you will move forward through life authentically — not only through your spiritual development but through everything.
Declare, “This is a full expression of who I truly am on the inside.”
The Bottom Line
So, peel away what’s not you. And bring out of you what is.
And follow your own inner guidance, with everything that you do.
When there is a major decision, then maybe seek other perspectives. But weigh them against your own inner compass; and if it feels right — despite those other perspectives — then act on your intuition.
Honor what feels right to you. Even if it has never been done before.
Someone needs to lead the way, right?
And that is the authentic journey.
Honor what feels right to you. Even if it has never been done before.
My Own Authenticity
For me, that authentic spiritual journey was to leave my job, sell my things, buy a car, and drive for four years. Of course, that is not everyone’s authentic journey. But you can read about my road trip in “25,000 Miles to Me: Faith, endurance, and uncovering my authentic self.”