Living Authentically: How to Be True to Yourself

This article gives you a glimpse of what you can learn with Shortform. Shortform has the world’s best guides to 1000+ nonfiction books, plus other resources to help you accelerate your learning.

Want to learn faster and get smarter? Sign up for a free trial here .

Are you being true to your authentic self? What does it mean to “live authentically”? 

Living authentically means being true to yourself no matter what. Embracing authenticity isn’t always the safe option when it comes to pleasing others. However, the negative consequences of living inauthentically are much more severe than the criticism you may face for being authentic.

With this in mind, here’s why it’s important to be authentic and how you can work towards authenticity. 

The Dangers of Inauthenticity

Being inauthentic is harmful to your mental health and your happiness. When you’re pretending to be someone you’re not for the sake of social approval, you disconnect from your true needs. As a result, two things happen:

You Suppress Your Feelings

Bottling up your feelings for the sake of social approval leads to a number of unhealthy behaviors and thought patterns: 

  • You pretend to agree with others: Because you want to get along with others and receive positive feedback, you avoid disagreeing with them—either by pretending to take their side or staying quiet. However, the more you avoid expressing your true opinions, the more insecure you feel in your relationships—you never know if people like you for who you are or because you’re validating their opinions.
  • You agree to things that you don’t want to do: Even though this approach garners positive feedback, doing things you don’t want to do often makes you feel angry and resentful. However, because you’re unable to acknowledge how your own thought patterns created these unwanted situations, you mistakenly assume that other people are making you do things that you don’t want to do. This leads you to conclude that other people are to blame for your negative feelings. As a result, you don’t feel accountable for your role in these unwanted situations and you believe that you’re powerless to change them.
  • You judge people who do express their disagreement: Because you believe that expressing disagreement is “bad” or “wrong,” you automatically dislike or feel uncomfortable around people who do express their disagreement. Instead of questioning why you feel this way, you assume that your opinion is valid and that they should change the way they act to make you feel better.

Your Pursue the Wrong Goals

When you focus more on how you’re perceived by others instead of how you really feel, you’re compelled to pursue the wrong goals. As a result, two things happen: 

  • you spend most of your energy doing things to please or impress others. For example, you wanted to be a nurse but your parents wanted you to become a neurosurgeon because it sounded more impressive to them. So, you dedicated years of extra training to become a neurosurgeon instead of pursuing your desired path.
  • you spend a lot of energy doing things that don’t satisfy you or make you happy. For example, being a neurosurgeon leaves you joyless and unfulfilled, but you won’t quit because you fear losing the admiration you’ve worked so hard to attain.

TITLE: 101 Essays That Will Change the Way You Think
AUTHOR: Brianna Wiest
TIME: 16
READS: 21.8
BOOK_SUMMARYURL: 101-essays-that-will-change-the-way-you-think-summary-brianna-wiest

Barriers to Living Authentically

Living authentically takes a lot of courage. Letting the world see who you truly are can be scary, not least because being authentic often throws up two major barriers:

Barrier #1: The fear of resistance from your loved ones. Living authentically requires you to change your behavior: specifically, to stop hiding parts of yourself and curb any inauthentic behaviors. You may fear that your loved ones won’t accept this new, authentic you, and that this will damage your connections with them. 

Authenticity Benefits Relationships

If your loved ones were to react to your newfound authenticity in a negative way, you could respond by reassuring them that your move to authenticity isn’t something to fear: It’ll benefit them, as well as you. 

For example, as Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus argue in their book Minimalism, when a loved one is authentic, we feel more safe and secure in our relationship with them because we know we’re seeing—and love—their true self, not a false front. Your loved ones could experience this added security, were they to overcome their fear of change.

Barrier #2: The fear of challenging societal expectations. Society demands we conform to certain norms—that we look, act, and think in a certain way. If your true, authentic self doesn’t match up to society’s expectations, you may be afraid to be yourself. What if people reject, criticize, or shame you for failing to conform? The fear of this happening isn’t totally unfounded: societal expectations are so deeply ingrained in our culture that people often ridicule or shame those who fail to meet them. 

Pushing Back Against Societal Pressure

The pull to conform to social norms can be strong. We often fear the pushback and rejection that can result from breaking convention. However, this is a fear we must overcome if we want to learn how to live authentically. 

So, how can we resist the pressure to fit societal expectations? Many authors have attempted to answer this question. For instance, in his book Influence, Robert B. Cialdini suggests that you can fight the instinct to conform by critically analyzing the behavior that society is trying to push you to adopt. Ask yourself, will this behavior benefit me in any way other than helping me to conform? If you find that it won’t, you may feel more comfortable rejecting the behavior and acting in the way you want to instead. 

Furthermore, in Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi suggests that parents can specifically encourage teens not to conform to societal and peer pressure by showing unconditional acceptance to their children: non-conformist traits and all. If teens receive this approval from their parents, they’ll be less likely to seek it from their peers and thus less likely to conform to peer pressure. Presumably, if we raise self-accepting, authentic teens, they’ll grow into self-accepting, authentic adults. 

TITLE: The Gifts of Imperfection
AUTHOR: Brené Brown
TIME: 42
READS: 112.4
BOOK_SUMMARYURL: the-gifts-of-imperfection-summary-brené-brown

How to Live Authentically 

Overcoming the barriers to living authentically can be a challenging process as human beings are hard-wired to want to fit in with others, often by adhering to external expectations. For example, if you want to make a good impression on a new co-worker, you may agree to every favor that they ask of you, even if it leads to unnecessary stress.

If you’re ready to shed your fake identities and begin living authentically, consider the following tips:

Be Willing to Say “No” 

If someone asks you to do something that you don’t want to do or don’t feel you can do without overwhelming yourself, say “no.” You may frustrate some people when you begin to do this, but agreeing to do something you don’t want to do builds the foundation for resentment. For example, if your friend asks you for help filing their paperwork on a Friday afternoon when you’ve already worked a full 40-hour workweek, saying “yes” may lead to unnecessary frustration.

To prepare yourself, practice saying “no” in the mirror, and bring notes with you when you’re turning someone down. These habits allow you to become more comfortable in the situation and allow you to keep your emotions from clouding your judgment. 

Note: This doesn’t mean you have to say “no” every time someone asks you to do something for them. You can help people when they reach out but have a clear sense of your level of stress or exhaustion and don’t overextend yourself. 

Be Willing to Say “Yes”

Conversely, if you find a project or venture that you’re genuinely excited about, say “yes.” Often, the prospect of imperfection or ineptitude may keep you from diving in. However, if you allow fear to dictate your behavior, you’ll never be willing to try new things or engage with projects that excite you. 

For example, if you’ve always been interested in taking a painting class, take a painting class. Though you may be afraid that your lack of artistic experience may lead to shame, you’ll never know what benefits the class will provide if you never take the leap of faith. 

Develop a Mantra

Create a simple mantra based on an authenticity goal. Repeat this phrase to yourself before entering high-stress situations to remind you to practice living authentically. For example, if your goal is to accept that your needs are important enough to say “no” to things, you could say to yourself, “My needs outweigh others’ expectations.” 

The Importance of Authenticity at Work

In modern organizations, everyone is forced to close off part of themselves in order to present a mask of professionalism. However, such dynamics erode trust and a sense of belonging in the workplace. 

On the other hand, companies that promote authenticity at work encourage people to be fully present, quirks and all. With no hierarchy, colleagues relate to each other as adults and are able to see each other as people, not merely cogs in a machine.

Without having to impress a boss every day, workers are more likely to be themselves. As a result, people trust each other more and feel more valued as employees, which feeds into their motivation to deliver their best performance. 

Final Words

Authenticity is the process of accepting ourselves for who we really are and abandoning the idea of who we think we’re supposed to be. By placing value on your own needs and identity, living authentically helps you be at peace with both yourself and others. 

If you enjoyed our article on how to live authentically, check out the following suggestions for further reading:

Daring Greatly

Most of us want Wholehearted, meaningful lives. What stops us? In Daring Greatly, Brené Brown suggests that what holds us back the most is the widespread belief that vulnerability is a weakness. If you can embrace your vulnerability, you’ll find that it’s actually your greatest strength. In Daring Greatly, you’ll learn how to live a Wholehearted life and become a better leader, parent, and spouse in the process.

The Untethered Soul
In The Untethered Soul, spiritual teacher Michael A. Singer, founder of the Temple of the Universe meditation center and a pioneering figure in the world of medical software, teaches you how to use your direct self-knowledge as an intuitive tool for spiritual awakening. Combining powerful principles with practical techniques, he shows you how to free yourself from false identities and live an enlightened life of peace, joy, creativity, and divine love.

Living Authentically: How to Be True to Yourself

Want to fast-track your learning? With Shortform, you’ll gain insights you won't find anywhere else .

Here's what you’ll get when you sign up for Shortform :

  • Complicated ideas explained in simple and concise ways
  • Smart analysis that connects what you’re reading to other key concepts
  • Writing with zero fluff because we know how important your time is

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.