Living Authentically Brings Greater Life Satisfaction, Happiness
Updated: Apr 17, 2020
“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” - Joseph Campbell
When we are truly authentic, we aren’t trying to be someone or something we’re not. We don’t have to hide and we can be totally honest with ourselves and others. For psychologists, authenticity means expressing who we really are and being true to our identity and our values. It’s freedom.
This may seem obvious but really exploring and expressing
ourselves is harder to do when constantly connected to everyone else’s immediate opinions and feedback.
According to a study by Wood et al. (2008), there are three distinct parts to authenticity. The first is self-alienation. How well do we know and understand ourselves?
Separate from what anyone else thinks: Do you know what is it that you want? What you feel? Many of us can get wrapped up into a whirlwind of a life and who we really are can take time to discover, evolve or perhaps even explode at some point from deep within.
“We’d love to think that our life’s journey is linear, but we stumble in fits and starts on our way to authenticity.” – Sarah Ban Breathnach
The second part of authenticity is authentic living. Are what you do and how you live in line with how you feel or are you living in ways that don’t reflect who you really are?
A lot of who we believe ourselves to be is defined by what we do, those we know, where we come from and probably someone else’s expectations and needs. If the persona we share with the world is different from our private self, the internal conflict over time can lead to negative mental and physical health consequences. Living a lie, or even a half-truth, can be stressful on the mind and body.
“Start with never asking for approval and watch what happens in your life.” – Caroline Myss
The final part to authenticity is accepting external influence. Do you change your behavior based on the opinions of others or to be accepted and fit in? When you really know yourself, there is less chance of losing yourself in the personalities and preferences of others. Authenticity is helped tremendously if you don’t need the world’s approval. It takes hearing your own voice above the relentless din of everyone else’s opinion. It means taking a break from the world. It means not giving an F.
But in real life, this is easier said than done.
So much of how we view ourselves is filtered through the lens of the society around us. Research has shown that we tend to feel more authentic when we are behaving in ways that are socially desirable and less when not – regardless of what is closer to our true self. Authenticity also includes our own positivity-bias: we tend to own the positive parts of our authentic selves and distance ourselves from the just-as-real but less appealing sides.
Instead of just acknowledging just the good parts or only those that others find appealing, psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman has coined the term healthy authenticity. Here, he challenges us to accept all of ourselves honestly: the positive and less-so and take responsibility to make new positive authentic choices for our own personal growth and our relationships moving forward.
“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.” – Coco Chanel
Living authentically is what courage looks like.
It takes courage to be yourself and to be different. It’s not for those desperate for acceptance. If you’re going to own it all, sometimes being real and authentic is sure to offend at some point. It is possible that your boss or your spouse, your parents or your children aren’t especially interested in you being authentic, especially if it affects them.
Not everybody will like you. And not everyone has to.
“Rejection is inevitable but it has nothing to do with your sense of worth. Not everyone needs to love you because you need to love who you are. You just need to find your tribe.” – Shefali Tsabary
Living authentically may indeed bring some rejection but it also provides strength for others. In fact, Gan (2015), at U.C. Berkeley found that not only does living authentically increase one’s own personal power, others view authentic people as more powerful.
“It's worth all the rejection you get when you're real. Every time you tell the truth, it clears the field for other people to tell the truth; and the truth gets bigger and bigger.” – Glennon Doyle Melton
Research shows there’s tremendous personal benefits to living authentically.
Multiple studies have confirmed the connection between authentic living and higher levels of happiness and self-esteem. More studies associated overall well-being and higher levels of life satisfaction to authenticity as well as: increased positive emotions, greater personal growth and better relationship satisfaction. Any way you slice it, being true to yourself is good for you and provides a model of strength for people around you.
Conversely, living inauthentically has been shown to be unhealthy. It’s heavy and it can take a toll: from damaged self-esteem and confidence to stress, anxiety and depression, pretending to be someone different than you are can lead to living the wrong life in the wrong place with the wrong people.
“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best day and night to make you like everyone else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight – but never stop fighting!” – e.e. cummings
In many ways, it’s so worth the fight.
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