The Path to an Authentic Life
We live in a world of shared ideas, values, and aspirations. What fuels that connection is a desire for love and acceptance from those around us and it starts from the very beginning. Even before our earliest memories, we’re taught that by being a certain way – as desired by our parents – we can receive love and acceptance. And choosing to challenge those rules mean emotional pain and exclusion. We’re then taught the rules: girls love pink, and they play with Barbie dolls. Boys climb trees and play with trucks. If you don’t have something nice to say don’t say anything at all. To some degree raising kids within the parameters of the social norms of the times is unavoidable; kids are sponges and need structure to help contextualize all the learning that’s happening in their developing brains. But it sets up an inevitable trap: we get used to being told who we are and how to think and it can become more and more difficult to stay connected to the essence of our true selves.
This continues through childhood into adolescence, and by the time we’re adults we’ve bought into some collective, collected version of ourselves patched together by other people and their wants and ideas for our life. Well-intentioned as this may be, it’s flawed. It takes a lifetime to fully know yourself and even then we’re more like a beautiful painting that is never quite finished. How can we know what’s right for another human being? How could they know what was right for us? For this reason, the conflict between who we show up as in the world and who we are authentically is unavoidable. This conflict can lead to a loss of a sense of self and identity, causing feelings or unworthiness and a lack of fulfillment. What we do with these feelings can mean the difference between a happy life and one of perpetual discontent.
We won’t find happiness if we don’t first decide to live in our truth, to express ourselves authentically. Many try a different path, but the quest usually leads to disenchantment; maybe more money, maybe more things but not more happiness. We’re so sold on the idea that everything we want is on the outside of us that we often don’t give enough weight to the process of introspection and inner learning. But for those that make the leap into self-discovery, peeling back the layers to a more authentic life, the feeling can be much like an escape from prison. A prison of the mind, perhaps, as we begin to realize the ways we’ve held ourselves in bondage and are now free from it. The importance of living authentically is realized by an acknowledgment of a certain truth: there can be no self-love where there is no self-acceptance, and you cannot accept what you keep hidden. To embrace and celebrate your true self – flaws and all – is an indication of self-worth, an example of personal integrity in action, and a prerequisite to a happy life.