I promise you this is not another annual New Year’s resolution article! There will be no peppy, “you’ve just gotta have the willpower” ideas here. It’s not because I don’t think having goals is a good idea. In fact, having aspirations is a great way to keep yourself focused on your values and seek your best self. It’s nothing personal against New Year’s resolutions. It’s simply the fact that no matter how you feel about new year’s resolutions, the statistics don’t really support them.
43% of all people expect to fail before February, and almost one out of four quit within the first week of setting their New Year’s Resolution. Most people quit before the end of January, and only 9% see their resolutions through to success. If you are like most people and have never stuck with a New Year’s Resolution, you might have shamed yourself about it in the past. In reality, hanging up a new calendar isn’t going to create consistency for you. Ideas for goals can surface at any time, and the more they reflect your highest values, the more likely you are to be consistent with them. January 1st isn’t the magic ingredient for living your most authentic life; your self-awareness is.
What does authenticity mean to you?
For many people, the concept of authenticity takes a lot of work to unpack. What does it mean to “be yourself”? You might find that different aspects of your personality come out around different people – do you have to decide which one is “the real you”? The truth is that they all are, in some way or another, provided that you’re being honest with yourself. That is why the idea of “New year, new me!” doesn’t really pan out. You can make changes to your thoughts, actions, and habits to align yourself more with who you truly are and what you value most, but that’s not about becoming a new person. It’s about becoming the person you already are inside.
3 Ways to be Your Authentic Self
1. Know where to start:
You may determine that you want to live your most authentic life as your most authentic self, but how? How do you make changes? How do you know what to change or improve about yourself? We talk about this a lot here at our therapy practice in Woodland Hills. Most people have an idea of where they’d like to end up, but the journey there can get a little confusing or overwhelming.
One of the most important tools we share with our clients is the principle of making value-based decisions. Meaning, when you are considering making changes, you want to ensure those changes or goals align with your values, not your fears. For example, because of your fear of rejection or being alone, you may say you are going to make improvements in the way you move your body. On the surface, it may get a lot of support from others. After all, physical health is a good value to support. But beneath the surface, you know that your new goal of moving your body in a way that you enjoy is not driven by your value but by your fear of rejection. This feeling that we need to try to control and/or change how we look to feel worthy of love and companionship is a very common one, as is the fear that motivates it. However, this sort of lifestyle change, one that comes from a place of not accepting who you are, isn’t sustainable. It turns your efforts from those of self-care and support to those of punishment. You are trying to “earn” what you value by avoiding your fear. The truth is that anyone who is worth having in your life is going to love you for self-supporting habits that nurture your values and reflect self-love. A fear-based change isn’t going to feel satisfying and won’t attract people who value the same things you value.
When you are beginning to find the way to be your most authentic self, the key is to let go of the things holding you back. All of life is a series of changes and decisions about what to leave behind. At times, it can feel like leaving a part of yourself in the past is more difficult than you would expect, especially if it’s something that isn’t serving you. A good way to bid farewell to staples of a life that no longer suits you is to acknowledge that that chapter happened for a reason. It may have been to teach you something; it may have been reflective of your state of mind or life situation at the time. All of these pieces are a part of who you are; there is no reason to be ashamed of them. You can bid them farewell with grace and gratitude and move on to what serves and suits you now and going forward. In fact, it is often imperative that you do. That is how we continue to evolve and respect ourselves and our needs.
2. Let go of the comparison game:
We are wired for social connection. We are wired to seek a sense of belonging. While this innate wiring helps us evolve as human beings through the act of volunteering and giving, there is also a negative side effect. Our innate desire for connection and belonging at times cause us to be overly curious and attentive to what other people are doing.
The truth is you will never be your authentic self if your attention is spent on other people and their opinion of you. You will never be your authentic self if you are mirroring or reflecting on others. No matter how much you may have in common with someone else, there is no way that every single want, need, and priority of theirs lines up with every one of yours. Seeking a life that works for someone else will never help you live the way that is best and most fulfilling for you.
To remove yourself from comparison, always return to your goals and priorities. If you see someone traveling a lot and find yourself wishing that you could travel more, determine for yourself if the idea of their trip actually appeals to you. If you need to, get on the internet and plan an ideal itinerary for a trip to wherever they just went. Do you actually want to go there, or do you want to feel the joy reflected in their photos on social media? On that note – if your social media feed is causing you to compare yourself to others to your own detriment, change it. Delete apps, mute certain people, and unfollow people who inspire feelings of jealousy and/or covetousness. It doesn’t have to be done with malice. These actions come from a place of self-preservation that you deserve to provide for yourself. It may not always be necessary; you may mute someone’s posts for a short while, refocus on yourself, then come back to them and feel completely unbothered by their goings-on. A good rule of thumb is: if it’s hurting you, sort out why and give yourself space until you’ve come up with a plan.
You may realize that you are in an unfortunate position of having people around you who are eager to compare lifestyles, memories, favorite lunch spots, and more. These people thrive off of holding up information for one another and sizing up the similarities and differences. If they are people who are naturally inclined this way, but you want to maintain relationships with them, assert some boundaries about how you are focusing on being self-motivated and don’t want to be distracted comparing yourself to anyone else at this time. If they’re not particularly close to you, consider taking a step back from these dynamics until such a time as you determine you’d like to try again or until you realize that you’re not missing the energy, they brought to you.
Come up with a list of affirmations about why you’re not comparing, what you’re focusing on instead, and why. You may want to remind yourself, “I know my values, and I am honoring them,” or, “Everyone is on a different journey.” You might feel the need to write down your affirmations in a note on your phone or tape them to your mirror. Perhaps you’ll find or make a recording and listen to it when necessary. However, you are able to remind yourself to put your blinders on when it comes to comparing yourself to others, do it.
3. Listen to your voice:
The other day a client of mine asked me what I think about intuition and gut feelings. The answer I gave them was pretty unpopular, which is: gut feelings and intuition are not reliable! I believe there are false messages around intuition where it is disguised as one’s “true voice.” Therefore most people falsely make decisions based on their intuition. Let’s be clear; I am not suggesting you go to the other end of the scale and ignore your intuition. What I am recommending is that you think of your intuition as part of the truth but not the whole truth. Meaning your intuition may have SOME information for you to listen to, but it should not be treated as the “whole” information in the sense that no other evidence or piece of information matters.
To listen to your voice, you have to know what that voice sounds like. Think of your highest values and ideals. Who do you want to be in the world? How do you want to show up? In which way do you want to speak to others? In which way do you want to speak to yourself? That is your voice. Sometimes, our voice gets co-opted by other people. We take on thoughts and phrases that we’ve heard over and over again; have you ever heard the saying, “Sometimes I open my mouth, and my parent’s voice comes out”? Depending on how you were spoken to as a child, you will have a specific reaction to repeating what you’ve heard said to you or to think about yourself the way you were spoken about. If your inner voice requires some healing, you may need to go back and heal your inner child.
In the meanwhile, speak to yourself about your value set. When you are faced with a decision, come back to what you hold as your highest priority and work from there. What do you know to be true about the choice you’re making; are there any guaranteed outcomes? From there, what can you reasonably expect to occur? And then, what is less likely or unlikely? Your inner voice can talk to you about these things in a way your intuition cannot. Your intuition is a subconscious data set. It is based on how your body observes and registers the world around you and determines whether it is safe or not. It is based on what you may have absorbed in another time and place, even if that is no longer the situation. Anxiety can intercept those signals in a big way.
Your voice is what you truly value, and decide for yourself to invest in. If your highest priority is self-care, then that is your voice. If someone is telling you that you should stay out all night and your whole body feels uncomfortable at the thought of telling them no, that’s not intuition guiding you; it’s fear. Your inner voice would say, “It would be great if I could, but I know that if I don’t get enough sleep, I will not be okay tomorrow.” And that is the information you have every right to listen to and act upon.
The concept of “who we are” is complex because some parts of us are tied so tightly to our core values that they are immovable, whereas other parts of us are changing and evolving over time. That is the way it is meant to be. We are always meant to be expanding our knowledge of the world, examining our prejudices, open to learning new things, and factoring that into who we are and how we greet each day. The most important work you can do is to continue to revisit your idea of what is most important to you and line your choices, thoughts, actions, and habits up with those things. Whether you make time for that every night by journaling, in therapy, doing cohort courses online, meditating before each decision, going for morning walks to set your intention for the day, or some other method, the important thing is to know that you respect and support who you truly are and what you truly believe. No one else can do it for you, and you are more than capable of knowing it for yourself.
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Anxiety therapy in Woodland Hills, CA, is a personal time for you to work on identifying the triggers, underlying negative thoughts, and patterns that exacerbate your anxiety.
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