4 Practices to Get Closer to Your Authentic Self
Updated: May 13, 2020
I own a beautiful, artistic, and surprisingly insightful deck of cards called The wild Unknown Animal Spirit. I like randomly
picking cards and contemplating them. A few days ago, I pulled out a card named The Black Egg (the majority of the cards are actually real animals). The message of the card is “speaking from authenticity, the truth”. It doesn’t take me even a second to accept and agree with the message. I am struggling with my voice.
As I commit to creating an Instagram account and consistently post for our new website while feeling bricks of resistance, I can’t hear my own voice. I feel trapped in the limbo of “going with the best practices' ' to make our blog successful and staying true to who we are. “Create a visually appealing feed with a color scheme and repeating theme, and post frequently,'' says Google. “How I gained 1M+ followers in just a month!” says someone with lots of selfies (no offense, it’s just not my thing). I try to take the advice and make it my own.
But I struggle; I don’t know how I want to do it. Does how I want to do it matter at all? I ponder; is it possible to be successful in your authentic ways in a world where success seems to be prescribed and targeted to only so many?
Then, I see that I am already caught up in the limiting thoughts about success. I am not asking the real question. The real question is “do I know my authentic self? What does it mean to exist, express, discover, and create as me? Who am I when others don’t see me?”
Granted, these are not new questions. They are the very questions that pushed me hard to take a good look at the s**t I’ve accumulated in my psyche. I am humbled to see no matter how much “work” I put into my spiritual growth, I find myself confused and unable to hear the truth over and over again. “That’s good.” I say, back to work again.
In case you missed it, this is not about the blog or Instagram, this is about how I show up everywhere in my life. So often, we get fixated on the immediate issue and get lost in the decision making. This sucks all our attention leaving no room to discern the root cause of all.
So, I give a pep talk to myself– the self still wrapped up in confusion, musts and shoulds, to reach for the root cause/truth once again.
If you are on the same boat with me (chances are high since you are reading this), these four practices can help you too:
1. Accept that fully claiming your authentic voice is a journey
The moment I realize that I struggle to hear my authentic voice, it dawns on me that this whole life is about uncovering our authentic voice. No shame and blame necessary when we find ourselves at ground zero.
Being human is being born into the layers of social conditioning weaved with fear, expectations, and conventions after all.
Undoing those layers to unearth our true self is probably called enlightenment .*Chuckle* I am not there yet:) Where we might be at the moment is swinging between hearing and getting lost (maybe countless times). As long as we have the persistent intention to hear our truth, we are being true to ourselves. As we go through life, we peel the layers of false identities like an onion to uncover the gem of our unique beings – that is beautiful and human.
What you can do: Each time the expectation of immediately figuring things out pops up, just look around and see that everything is always becoming. Flowers are blooming or fading away, the face of a loved one changing, the clouds are eternally flowing. There is no state of “being done”, but a state of constant evolution.
Give yourself the grace to become.
2. Divorce the judgment
When I have a realization about what I want to do, I sense a lurking fear that this may not be “it”– the thing I can name as my calling, dharma, purpose, etc… I worry that this new finding will be temporary, ready to slip away in the face of a new shiny object. Worse, I fret that people would judge me for being fickle (“find your thing already!” the voice of judgment shouts.)
The truth is that people around us are more likely to be supportive than judgmental (except for trolls or people who are struggling with themselves- but why worry about that anyway?). Our perception of their perception of us (digest that for a second) is the self-created prison of judgment.
We put ourselves in that prison by fearing something that may or may not be there. The good news is that we also can free ourselves the moment we realize the prison is just a thought.
What you can do: Each time fear of judgment seeps into your thinking, visualize a jail with an open gate. When you give power to the judgments, you put yourself in jail. You pace in the confines of the little space, pondering, complaining, fearing, and completely forgetting that the gate has been open the whole time. Then, step out of the space and do/say the thing that worries you, at least take a small step towards it. Easier said than done, of course. But, practicing this will eventually tear down the jail altogether.
Give yourself space to practice.
3. Befriend vulnerability
Authenticity and vulnerability are a close pair in a mutualistic relationship. It is as if without vulnerability- the power to accept and share all parts of ourselves- authenticity can't thrive.
Think bees and flowers: Just as bees help flowers pollinate, authenticity helps vulnerability bloom, and similar to flowers feeding bees, vulnerability nourishes authenticity. When we take the courage to acknowledge who we are in this moment and share that with others, we practice vulnerability which in return helps us get closer to ourselves.
This is not only being vulnerable with others but with ourselves, by going against the ideas of perfection and telling ourselves it is ok to not to hit the mark. It is undressing the masks that we kept even when there was nobody around, hoping they would protect us from self-disappointment.
For me, just the mere act of writing this article feels like a relief, a step closer to how I feel inside. It is not always comfortable, but just like going to the gym it is good for you in the long run if you keep going.
What you can do: Explore what it means to be vulnerable, first inside. Journal about the parts that you tabled and labeled because it was hard to be associated with them. Who would you be if you could acknowledge and go beyond those parts? Then, when you discern vulnerability from sharing for the sake of sharing, take a small step towards showing yourself to others (it doesn't have to be a huge audience). Pay attention to whether sharing is affording you more authenticity. Little by little, explore the edges of vulnerability with the main intention of uncovering more of who you really are, in this moment.
Give yourself compassion to hold all your parts.
4. Open space for unorthodox happenings
Our brain likes familiarity and structures. This is why we have so many prescriptions for success and in fact for any subject there are many “X-step” guides. (I thought it would be ironic to name this article like a recipe). In an ever-changing environment, this evolutionary inclination of the brain is helpful, until it is not.
When we lean too much on “the proven tracks” we also compromise our creativity.
The trick is to understand when to utilize the knowledge before us and when to venture out into the unknown in a personal vehicle of intuition and imagination. It takes courage to do the latter, or maybe trust.
The trust that life holds an inconceivable number of possibilities and there is always room for our way to success. So, when we are in a situation where we feel conflicted or inauthentic in applying the current recipes, we can open space for other possibilities. Possibilities that we get to sift through, craft, and bring to life.
Going back to me struggling with Instagram success tips, I realized creating something meaningful and successful doesn’t have to be one way nor mutually explicit. I just haven’t discovered how I can do it my own way yet. What is holding me back is that I haven't even considered that there might be alternative ways.
What you can do: When struggling with a structure, introduce the question: what if? What if you don’t know yet? What if it hasn’t been discovered yet? This question helps me to remember that many times in history, scientists or otherwise, people assumed to know “the truth” or “the way” only to change their minds in the light of new discoveries.
Give yourself the benefit of doubt to forge your own path.
We are all in this together, dear human. What I provided here is just a guidance, a mere suggestion. I hope you can take this and make it your own, internalize what’s helpful and disregard the rest. All you need is the will to keep reaching for the truth while being kind and patient with yourself. You already are everything you asked for- you are just peeling back the layers of the onion.