Ways of Living an Authentic Life
The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.
~ Carl Jung
What does it mean to live authentically? The phrase is kicked around a lot. Live an authentic life. Be authentic. But how do we find that place within ourselves? How do we know we are not being influenced by past messages and beliefs?
Being authentic means coming from a real place within. It is when our actions and words are congruent with our beliefs and values. It is being ourselves, not an imitation of what we think we should be or have been told we should be. There is no “should” in authentic.
But wait a minute. If being authentic means being our true self, how many of us have really taken the time to know ourselves on this deep level?
Part of knowing ourselves is knowing what we believe in. Throughout our childhoods we are picking up messages that become part of our belief system. Left unchallenged, we can walk around thinking that these beliefs are our own. Part of finding our authentic self is sorting through these beliefs to find out which are truly our own. Are they beliefs that come from a mature, healthy, grounded place within us, or are they remnants from our childhood, coming from an insecure place?
Let me provide a personal example. I was brought up in the Catholic Church, had two uncles who were priests, went to church every Sunday, was baptized, had my First Communion and was confirmed. You get the picture: strong Catholic family.
When I went through my rebellious teenage years, I started to challenge the structure I was seeing (albeit in a very immature way). I remember it distinctly: watching a teenage girl with her family sitting in the pew in front of us; her father at the front leading the singing, closing his eyes as he sang, swaying slightly; and all I could see was the hypocrisy because I knew what his daughter did the night before.
Now before practicing Catholics become outraged at what I just wrote, please remember that this was the immature thinking of a teenager. My point is simply that this was the catalyst for me to start questioning whether the formal structure of a church — any church — was what I believed in. As I matured, my answer could have brought me back to Catholicism, or it could have taken me to a different source of spiritual beliefs. The point is not where I ended up; it is the process of finding what resonated with me. What worked for my parents was about them, not me. Being authentic meant living my life, not theirs.