This is the sage-old advice your mother and friends have given you countless times. But why is it so hard to apply to your life? Why is it so hard to “be your authentic Self”?
Perhaps it’s because you don’t know who you really are.
As a spiritual guide, the first obstacle I see fellow travelers come across trying to find their path in life is the realization that they don’t know who they are.
They fail to listen to the Soul within and instead create mental ideas (dreams) of what they “should” be like and begin to doubt themselves whether they are living up to these notions.
Afterward, they seek comforting validation by asking me questions like: “Is this what Spiritual People do?” “If I can’t do ____ does that mean I’m not an empathic person?” and “Do all healers/old souls/yogis like ___ and _____ ?”
In this article, I want to explore our lost authenticity and how we can learn to find our genuine selves by learning to love our Core Essence.
Table of contents
How We Lose Our Authenticity
Watching children play and hearing their genuine laughter is one of the greatest beauties in life.
We were all born as children filled with life, a sense of wonder, and the desire to explore and live in the moment. Children have no past baggage or future anxieties so they express what they feel and aren’t afraid to love unconditionally.
After the age of 3, however, children start to become more tamed. This happens to all of us. Developmentally, something changes within us and we begin to lose that wonder, that innocence of childhood.
Our neocortex – or ‘thinking brain’ – grows stronger, and thus our thoughts become more dominant, putting our authentic feelings in the background. Slowly we begin to focus more on these thoughts, and in doing so, we begin to accumulate past baggage and future anxieties.
As our neocortex develops, we also become heavily influenced by our parents, peers, and society’s expectations of who we “should” be.
Why Our Self-Worth is Painfully Fragile
The process of losing your authenticity and adapting to society’s expectations is known as domestication.
Just like pets, we are domesticated with an emotional reward or punishment system. If our behavior is desirable, we are rewarded with attention and affection. If our behavior is not acceptable we are punished by the rejection of our parents or peers.
As children we didn’t care about people’s opinions or judgments, we lived in the present moment and our self-worth came from our authenticity. As we grow older, however, our thoughts become more dominant. And with thoughts come fears, and suddenly our need to be accepted grows. Our self-worth is now put into the hands of other people and their opinions of us.
The Fragmented Self
This new self-worth system forces us to change. It forces us to create a false image of ourselves, a dream.
Slowly we begin to notice that different people expect different things from us – our parents, our teachers, our friends, our priests, our bosses, our siblings, our lovers all want something specific from us – and so we are split up into dozens of different versions of ourselves.
We become so good at living up to these different images of ourselves that we forget who we really are.
When your self-worth comes from these false self-images instead of your authentic Self, you constantly feel off-center, anxious, and incomplete.
Deep down your unconscious mind knows that these images of yourself aren’t true, deep down you know that you’re pretending. And this makes daily living dangerous. This makes your self-worth painfully fragile.
For example, if your false self-image is that of being a “smart and witty person,” you are prone to having your self-worth shattered publicly if someone outsmarts you. It’s at this point that we learn to hate ourselves and self-loathing becomes a dark friend.
Insecurity, Perfectionism, and the Need to “Be Right”
With a shaky sense of self-worth comes insecurity problems.
Insecurities are formed when you want to externally live up to an image you envision of yourself, but deep down you know the internal image of yourself is different. The greater the discrepancy between these two images, the more insecure you will feel.
This false image is also known as your “ego.” It is responsible for that need to always be “right” and “save face.” We need to feel right and prove that others are wrong because we want to protect this false image that we project to the outside world, to feel reassured that we aren’t lying to ourselves.
This need to be “right” – to preserve our self-image – is what gives birth to that constant struggle for perfection and the craving for other’s approval.
We suffer so much and try so hard to be important, successful, rich, famous, powerful, and we do this by forcing our false self-image to be real and more valid than other people’s self-images.
This suffering that we undergo to try and be perfect is essentially undertaken in a desperate attempt to try and please other people. To be lovable.
However, believing that we should be a certain way to feel good enough to then be accepted, is a lie. Perfection doesn’t exist. You are never going to get to a point where your ego feels totally good enough, healthy enough, smart enough, or pretty enough.
The answer is that your ego is fundamentally false and illusory. It is essentially one big defense mechanism – a way to protect your precious vulnerability from the world by being socially acceptable. It will always feel unhappy and insecure because it is always ruled by society’s expectations and demands.
Understanding this depressing predicament, reconnecting with your authentic Self becomes more vital than ever.
Read more: What is the Ego? »
What is the Authentic Self?
Your authentic Self is your truest, most genuine, and natural inner Essence. Some people call this innate quality the Soul or Higher Self. However, the authentic Self isn’t just a remote or hidden quality, it is something that we can also actively experience. When we learn to step into our authentic Self, life becomes enriched with meaning, purpose, joy, peace, and creativity.
Authentic Self, Not Authentic self
Don’t get these two terms confused – most people do!
There is no such thing as an authentic self (lower case ‘s’). The self, or the ego, is a construct that can easily change. It has no true depth or substance. Therefore, how can it be authentic?
On the other hand, there is an authentic Self (with a capital ‘S’). This authentic Self is a deeply rooted quality or essence that we always carry with us.
We can compare self and Self with the difference between personality and character. A personality can be easily altered due to life experience. For instance, we might have moody and sullen personalities as teenagers. But then as adults, we might be optimistic and talkative.
Character, on the other hand, is a quality we always possess. For instance, a person might be naturally introspective, pragmatic, caring, or cheeky and carry that essence all throughout life, no matter what age.
7 Signs You’re Connected With Your Authentic Self
How many signs can you relate to?
- You feel connected with the Divine/your Soul
- You live a life aligned with your deepest needs and values
- You regularly experience synchronicity
- You understand your place/role in life
- You are purpose-driven
- You’re not interested in “fitting in” with others
- You have a high level of self-love and self-respect
This is only really the tip of the iceberg – but I hope that I’ve painted a clear picture!
_ Ways to Awaken Your Authentic Self
Picture this: people everywhere trying to desperately find love and approval outside of themselves. Imagine the kind of chaos this creates in the world.
Actually, you don’t have to – just look around you!
We search for love so hungrily, but love is already around us and within us. We are terrified to love and accept others because we are so afraid of getting rejected. But until we learn to love ourselves, we will never be able to truly love anybody else.
How do we stop rejecting ourselves? How do we stop being self-destructive? How do we stop feeding the false self-image?
Answer: we have to stop pretending to be something we’re not. We need to reconnect with our authenticity again.
Here are some helpful paths and practices that can help you awaken to your authentic Self:
1. Be honest with yourself
To find your authenticity again you are going to need one key ingredient: truthfulness. Being honest with yourself will teach you how to trust in yourself.
The desire to be honest with yourself with help you reveal what is real in yourself and what is a lie that you have either inherited from your domestication (beliefs, values, ambitions), or unconsciously created as a defense mechanism to protect your false image’s self-worth.
“Do spiritual people do this? Do empaths think that?” This is your mind trying to find a label to live up to. Never aspire to live up to a label, labels are symbols that can aid self-acceptance. But they are never the whole of you.
2. Learn how to forgive yourself
The sad truth is that we are often our own worst enemies.
One of the first steps in finding your authentic Self is to stop judging what you’ve done and whether or not you’re living up to false “perfection” standards. The easiest way to overcome self-judgment is to learn how to forgive yourself.
Say for example you eat pizza and feel guilty afterward because your false image feels “fat.” Inevitably, your mind will go around in circles repeating to yourself how fat you are, making you anxious and creating the urge to soothe yourself with more food. It becomes a vicious cycle!
Your body has needs and once they’re satisfied it becomes quiet. But your mind is not as simple; it unconsciously gives you its own needs for emotional comfort. Your conscious attention locks itself in a repetitive loop (self-judging thoughts) and doesn’t let go.
Learning to forgive yourself allows you to take away the conscious attention from your mind and become more in-tune with your body and emotional needs.
One simple but powerful way of practicing self-forgiveness is to find or create an affirmation that you repeat daily. Examples might include, “I embrace all that I am,” “I forgive and forget,” “I let go,” “I release myself from the pressure to be perfect,” and so on.
Read more: 101+ Morning Affirmations »
3. Self-love and respect
Loving yourself is not selfish, in fact, it’s the only way we can bring about any positive change. We can never be authentically bone-deep happy unless we learn to love ourselves unconditionally.
To love yourself is to have self respect, to treat your body like a temple (e.g., eating a healthy diet, cleanliness, and exercise), as well as respecting your emotional and psychological health by avoiding the accumulation of emotional poison (e.g., grudges, hate, impatience).
Self-love is a practice that takes time, persistence, and gentleness. As you learn to embrace a
4. Embrace being alone
I can never stress this enough: make time for solitude. It is in solitude that we create the space for authenticity. It is in solitude that we become aware of our domestication, realizing what we are truly like in our own company when we aren’t putting on a false image for other people.
Authenticity will teach you to see the world as it is, not as you believe it to be. You are the manifestation of the Divine within a body, coming through your soul. As you become more authentic you’ll begin to understand this; not with logic and your social personality, but by feeling it at the root of core, your very essence.
How do you connect to your authenticity? Please feel free to share in the comments below!