What is authenticity, and why should we try to be fully authentic every day? Dr. Charlotte Howard shares her expertise, built from years of experience counseling women.
Anxiety arises from a lack of authenticity
A key indicator you aren’t being authentic is anxiety. Anxiety is often a defense against feelings — so we repress our real self or emotions and then feel anxious instead. You might notice that if you have something to say in a group but can’t get your voice in, you start to feel anxious. Just as we feel anxious losing our voice in these small moments, we can become chronically anxious or even have panic attacks if we disown parts of ourselves over time. We try to ignore the truth, but it takes a tremendous toll on our body and nervous system.
Anxiety is a flag signaling that we must finally listen to and experience our feelings and even learn to express our authentic self in the world. Another sign you are not being fully authentic is if you notice you are constantly concerned with pleasing others or being perfect. Even if you aren’t consciously aware of changing yourself as a result of this focus, just focusing outward on others extensively makes it difficult to be in touch with your own heart so that you are able to be true to who you really are.
Why do we struggle with authenticity?
Authenticity is scary for most people because it involves vulnerability. It feels more risky to put our true selves out and risk being rejected, than to have a false self out in the world for critique. Our families also often teach us to cover parts of the real self because they didn’t fit into the family or its values. Many have difficulty with feelings and don’t give us the message that feelings are okay and you can be whoever you want to be. The cost, however, is often lack of fulfillment, anxiety, depression, emptiness, and exhaustion.
How to be more authentic with yourself
To reclaim your authentic self you must go on a rescue mission. I have dedicated the past few years of my life to studying relationship with self and Yourself Truly to help women learn to love themselves. I believe loving yourself involves healing childhood wounds–ways you got shut down–and actively developing a compassionate, playful inner witness. We must consciously nurture and develop a loving relationship with ourselves through actively relating to ourselves kindly.