Six ways to live a more authentic life every day
Do you need to revise your take on what it means to live authentically? Discover what positive psychology has to say about why authenticity matters and what you can do to live a more authentic life.
Our lives take various twists and turns. Where we find ourselves at this very moment will undoubtedly be different to the life that we envisaged in our teens, our 20s and so on. What then what does it actually mean to live authentically?
Why it’s important to be authentic
Authenticity is about being the author of your life, and being true to yourself and your inner potential. Of course, living authentically doesn’t mean doing what you want to do all of the time – there is delicate balance to strike between authenticity and need to be socially connected and valued.
Research from positive psychology shows that being more authentic is associated with:
- Experiencing more meaning.
- Having more grit and persevering with challenging tasks and projects.
- Experiencing better quality relationships.
- Playing to your strengths.
- Coping better with stress.
And, thankfully, a fresh new take on the concept of authenticity might just make it a whole lot easier to increase authenticity in your everyday life.
Living an authentic life
In his recent book, Authentic: How to be Yourself and Why It Matters, Professor Stephen Joseph suggests that we should revise our understanding of what it means to live authentic lives. He says we need to recognise that authenticity may well be a process and not an end state; a direction and not a destination.
This means that authenticity doesn’t necessarily require a clearly defined lifelong plan that you cling to regardless. It’s not compulsory that you have a precise end goal and know exactly how you are going to get to it, avoiding diversions along the way.
This is liberating news for those of us who live perfectly imperfect and unpredictable lives. Who are adjusting our career goals and chasing new found dreams. Or those of us who are simply rather partial to a change of mind every now and again.
Authenticity is not solely about the bigger picture and the lifelong trajectories that you follow. It’s about paying careful attention to what you experience in the here and now – knowing yourself, knowing and recognising your true emotions and needs, and expressing and sharing them with others.
It can therefore be the small everyday interactions and decisions that cumulatively pull you away from an authentic life.
Six ways to live a more authentic life every day
So, whether you are following a clearly defined life plan or are reflecting and pivoting your way through life, what can you do to become more authentic in your everyday living? Here are six ways you can let your authenticity shine, even in those small everyday moments and decisions.
1) Consider whether you are being moved along by internal or external forces
Take time to reflect and know yourself more fully. Professor Joseph talks about being familiar with your internal compass. Is your internal compass being drowned out by external pressures that are masquerading as your own internal goals? Learn to recognise which is which and prioritise internal rather than external goals.
2) Learn to say a clear yes or no
We all know that learning to say no can be a huge asset. But even if we master this skill it’s tempting to feel the need to provide justification or even excuses if we are saying no to something. Remind yourself that sometimes this just clouds out authenticity and is perhaps a sign that you are trying to people please.
3) Own those compliments
Avoid responding to comments with a negative or deflecting comment. Resist the urge to self-deprecate!
4) Listen to your gut
Acknowledge your feelings rather than trying to suppress them. If you are scared, anxious, demotivated or feeling a bit low, recognise it and try to understand why you are having these feelings. And remember to self-soothe if needed! Authentic living involves facing the positives AND negatives in life rather than trying to deny or buffer against them.
5) Find ways to play to your strengths and interests on a daily basis
Think of novel ways that you can employ your strengths in your everyday activities. Do things in ways that align them with your true interests and values. Inject creativity into your workday, take the long route and stop and smell the flowers – whatever floats your boat!
6) Don’t be inauthentic when people ask how you are
While this one might need a little moderation depending upon the circumstances, most of us are guilty of rarely being open and sincere when responding to the simple question ‘how are you?’. If you aren’t okay then say so, and if you are on top of the world, over the moon and super pleased and excited about something then share it.
It’s not about being overly miserable or completely showing off… it’s about being authentic, open and congruent in your interactions with people. Although you’ll obviously want to moderate the level of detail that you provide, depending on how well you know the person and the social context!
Dr Jemma Harris is a Chartered psychologist, researcher and social entrepreneur. She works with social enterprises, and other organisations with links to health and wellbeing, to provide advice on how to align training, content and activities with psychological theories and practice.
Jemma also provides assistance with issues related to outcome measurement, data analysis and developing research informed reports on social impact. You can read more about her work here.