How authentic are you? Authenticity, or being true to oneself, is a moral state according to researchers from Northwestern University.(1)
Are you comfortable with yourself, comfortable expressing your beliefs and values? Do you know your own mind, or do you feel pressured to please other people, your parents, spouse or peer group?
The following are eight habits to become more in tune with who you really are, what you believe and how you want to live this one precious life.
Habits for Authentic Living
1) Seek silence.
Unplugging your brain from noise allows you to relax and think big thoughts. According to recent research, silence is actually good for your brain.(2)
In experiments on mice, Imke Kirste, a researcher at Duke University, found “... that two hours of silence per day prompted cell development in the hippocampus, the brain region related to the formation of memory involving the senses.”
More study is required to see if silence has the same effect on humans.
2) Keep a journal.
Author Joan Didion wrote, ““I don't know what I think until I write it down.” What defines you, upsets you or inspires you? Start writing daily to unearth your authentic self.
Writing about your deepest thoughts and feelings, studies show, results in improved physical health versus writing about emotionally neutral topics.(4)
Studies of people who practice expressive writing have shown them to have improved memory, mood and feelings of well-being.(4)
3) Practice expressing your opinion.
Some of us avoid expressing opinions for fear of rocking the boat or revealing undesirable parts of ourselves. Some of us avoid confrontation at any cost.
If you feel steamrolled in a conversation or argument, simply mentioning your disagreement can bring a sense of relief. Here are some suggestions on how to respectfully express a contrary opinion:
- “I see it differently.”
- “I disagree.”
- “Would you like to hear what I think?”
What do you care about? Syrian refugees? Literacy? Animal rights?
Discern a cause that matters to you, and find a way to help.
5) Make time for what matters.
Prioritizing your time means letting good opportunities pass for better ones.
I’m a tennis addict, but I won’t play at night because I want to be with my family. Being home when my high school age daughter gets home from school is a priority, so I plan accordingly. Making time for what matters most to me requires the art of saying “No.”
6) Learn to say “No.”
“No” is one of the hardest words to pronounce. Yesterday, I was asked to volunteer at our church bazaar. I love the people, I love the setting, a historic wood framed church in a small town.
But I’m spread thin. Lately I’ve taken on extra work and I have a child going through a difficult time. Stress is high.
Technically, I have time to stand behind the counter selling baked goods on a Saturday morning. I struggled with the offer.
But, I reasoned, I am giving several hours to the church in other ways, and adding one more thing to my schedule means giving up a lot — time with my kids, unscheduled time to think, restorative silence. I said no.
Here are some ways to say it:
- “Thank you for asking, but I don’t have time.”
- “I have other priorities.”
- “I can’t. My plate’s full.”
7) Speak up when challenged.
Yesterday, I called a ball “out” during a game of doubles.
“I thought it caught the line,” I heard one my opponents mumble under her breath to her partner. That’s the same as saying I cheated.
So I yelled across the net, “Two inches of blue! A sea of blue!” (Blue is the color outside the lines at the YMCA.) I could have said it nicer, but I said it. I don't cheat. My partner confirmed my line call and the challenge was silenced.
But if you’ve ever expressed a political opinion on social media, you know it’s not all sunshine and lollipops.
I play on a mixed doubles league where one player is a dehydrated, old corpse of a malcontent — God bless him. He’s impatient with himself, and Lord knows, with any partner who makes a mistake.
I am something of an expert at making mistakes on the tennis court. He comments on mistakes, his and mine, in rather colorful language. His bullying has a cascading effect of making me play worse and worse until I can’t even make contact with the ball.
I start contemplating quitting tennis, going on a fast food binge and jumping off a bridge.
So one day I spoke up, “You know, I play a lot better with positive encouragement.”
“Yeah, bullshit!” he snarled from inside the crypt.
So I spoke up another way and asked the captain if I could play with him less often. Problem solved.
8) Seek counseling, therapy or spiritual direction from a qualified provider.
Childhood abuse or domestic violence can diminish your sense of self so much that it’s hard to know and value yourself.
The Book of Philippians teaches, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)
Counseling can help you to discern what is noble, right and pure, lovely and admirable. A good therapist can point out unhealthy thoughts and behaviors and help you live an aware, intentional life.
Which of these suggestions resonates? Which do you already practice? Let me know in the comments below.
Reviewed September 29, 2016
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith
1) Francesco, Gino, et al. The Moral Virtue of Authenticity How Inauthenticity Produces Feelings of Immorality and Impurity. sagepub.com. Retrieved September 28, 2016.
2) Kirste, Imke et al. Is silence golden? Effects of auditory stimuli and their absence on adult hippocampal neurogenesis. NIH.gov. Retrieved September 28, 2016.
3) The Neuron. brainfacts.org. Retrieved September 28, 2016.
4) Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing. RCPsych.org. Retrieved September 28, 2016.
5) Dahl, Melissa. How Prolonged Exposure to Sweet, Blessed Silence Benefits the Brain. NYMag.com. Retrieved September 28, 2016.