5 Essential Steps to Authenticity
Authentic You, Part 2
~Athena Staik, Ph.D.
What does it mean to live in authentic connection?
Authenticity is permission we give ourselves to be real, to be who we are, consciously aware of warts and graces.
This permission frees us to give and live in relation to our self and others, especially key others, from a place of love, and not fear. Authenticity is knowing how to love our self, others and our life with our whole heart.
Authenticity, a conscious connection to our heart.
“Love is the basic need of human nature, for without it, life is disrupted emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically.”
When we love with our whole heart, we feel safe enough to face our fears.
And, our deepest fears are not about spiders, snakes or bridges, which are surface fears.
Our deepest fears have to do with connection, closeness, intimacy, and relationships; they are matters of the heart.
These core fears have to do with shared human concerns about not being recognized, understood, accepted for who we are, or being invisible or overshadowed by the other. They are existential fears, such as fear (of) being rejected, abandoned, or judged as defective or inadequate, not good enough, dismissed, and the like.
We cannot eliminate this fear. It serves a purpose. It’s there to teach and grow us, strengthen and transform our relationships. We are designed to withstand these fears, and to struggle with them.
It’s not the fears per se that get us stuck or take over our brain’s higher thinking functions, however. It’s our fear of fear. This fear stems from not knowing how to stop our brain from thinking anxious thoughts that produce an anxious mind, or eventually a depressed or emotionally numb mind.
At root, fear of intimacy is fear of knowing ourselves up close.
When our thinking patterns do not allow us to connect with inner processes that are essential for our brain to work efficiently, it affects how we feel, think, respond or react.
And that’s what makes having the courage to be our authentic self a vital requirement, and not an option.
To love authentically is a conscious act of courage in present moments that allows us to respond with calm confidence where we would normally get triggered. It takes courage to love with our whole heart and to be willing to face our deepest fears (on a daily basis).
We need to know how to use our brain to consciously calm our mind and body, and transform fears to assets.
In contrast, the unwillingness to feel vulnerable makes our love connection half-hearted at best.
Authenticity is a courageous endeavor that invites us to re-tell the story of our lives in a way that liberates us from childhood fears, and allows us to live in authentic connection to our self and others. When we know how to get to that place of inner conscious knowing of the value of our life and love, we find balance, peace and harmony within.
Here are five essential steps to authenticity:
1. Inside-out knowledge and understanding of self.
“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”
Getting to know yourself is a twofold process of understanding both your body-self and your conscious and subconscious mind-self. This involves setting an intention to build your awareness, to become a conscious being. Your body is always communicating with you in a language that is as expressive, complete, and systematic as the language of words. Verbal language, on the other hand, makes it possible for you to make conscious what is subconscious, and thus direct changes in your brain and body. It’s an inside-out process in which you communicate directly to the part of you inside that runs your body – your subconscious mind.
Together, this knowledge helps you understand the wisdom of how your brain, body, relationships and life work. This knowledge is springboard that keeps you reaching to fulfill our highest aspirations. To the extent that you understand yourself, you understand life and others.
2. Full and complete acceptance of self.
“The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.”
Fully and completely accepting all parts of your self means you appreciate your strengths and weaknesses, your past and present, your successes and mistakes, even painful emotions and fears as opportunities to grow, to learn and to turn each weakness into a strength. Acceptance is a prerequisite that helps you jump over obstacles or self-doubts to prevent them from being a hindrance to realizing all you can be and achieve. You can then approach any disappointment, past or present, as an opportunity to learn and understand the power of your choices in shaping the outcomes of your life.
Once you start being who you really are (and choose to be) deep inside, you’ll simply accept yourself and life knowing that you’re priceless, in magnificent ways, a unique contribution to life – incomparably you.
3. Unconditional love for self.
“Self-love is not opposed to the love of other people. You cannot really love yourself and do yourself a favor without doing people a favor, and vise versa.”
Practicing self-love is as far from being selfish or narcissistic as possible. Love and empathic connection is our nature, it’s built-in to the design of our brain. Loving your self consists of caring about your life, the health of your mind, body and relationships, and loving your self for all you are and are meant to be, rather than for what you “do” or do “not” do. Your love is a unique contribution to the world. And, that’s what you are here for—to be you, to express your love and contribute in a way that no one else can, to realize that you can and do make a difference.
You are a star, a generating source of love and creativity. Creating a meaningful life of love seems to be a shared purpose.
4. Courageous and bold expression of self.
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
“Courage is the power to let go of the familiar.”
From a place of courage, you know that you do not need anything outside of yourself to tell you that you are okay or worthwhile. It just does not work that way. All outside sources of validation are temporary and addictive fixes at best. You do not need external validation, though you will likely always prefer to have it or enjoy it when it occurs. The courage to be you, to feel your fears yet not get triggered by them, is a powerful source of creativity. The intention to courageously express your authentic self consists of actions that put dynamic processes into motion.
You experience the fullness of your authentic self in opportune moments in which you realize the power of your capacity for breaking free of fear to access your imagination and creative choices.
5. Love for self and love for others as inseparable.
“The quality of your life is the quality of your relationships.”
Our brain does not appear to know the difference between experiencing love for self and love for others. When we think of others with contempt, for example, our body releases unhelpful doses of cortisol, the stress hormone. When we observe an act of kindness, our body releases oxytocin and other hormones that create feelings of safety and love, and healthful conditions for our body. Practicing compassion and acceptance for others is inseparable from practicing self-love and self-acceptance. Neurologically, the quality of one is connected to the other, and vice versa. It makes sense. We are hard-wired to seek meaningful connections in order to thrive and nourish our lives and relationships with a sense of purpose and value.
The human brain is a relationship organ. We learn, grow and thrive in relational contexts.
You have the ability to consciously rewire your brain, and transform your experience of life around you. It’s a way of life that flows in creativity and outwardly manifests the beauty of the authentic being you are inside.
There are several tools to energize authentic connection and awareness. A practice of deep breathing, mindfulness and meditation are effective ways to connect more deeply to our inner world. Spending regular time outdoors can inspire us with awe and respect for life. Writing and journaling help us explore our inner thoughts, feelings, yearnings, and more. Art, music and dance connect us in meaningful ways to the language of our body.
Remembering who you are apart from your traits, beliefs, roles takes determination and courage. If you have ignored your authenticity for a while, like many others, you may find it challenging to let go of old patterns. Once you do, however, you will discover that authenticity is the ultimate choice to be fully present and live your life courageously.
Life is about the journey, and not the destination. It’s about showing up, with a heart open to learn to love.
To create what you want in life you must essentially allow yourself to transform into what you want in order to have it.
To live authentically is to choose to love as an expression of who you are through acts of kindness, creative expression and sheer joyful delight in experiencing your self as life itself — just because!
In a real sense authenticity is love, a love that allows you to live in harmony with your self and others, and to love courageously with your whole heart.
Damasio, Antonio (2010). Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain. NY: Pantheon Books.
Iacoboni, Marco (2008). Mirroring People: The New Science of How We Connect With Others. NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Siegel, Daniel J. (1999). The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are. NY: Guilford Press.