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Complementary Corner

Being Authentic

Renee Lehman

(9/2017) Merriam-Webster dictionary defines authentic as: not false or imitation; or true to one's own personality, spirit, or character is sincere and authentic with no pretensions. But what does being authentic look and feel like? I believe that in our modern-day society, we are currently seeing ill effects of us not being authentic.

Oscar Wilde stated, "Be yourself, everyone else is already taken." But how often do we do this? We can be so concerned with what others will think of us or how we will be perceived if we say/do one thing or another. So, my bet is that we often are not true to our own nature.

Mike Robbins, author and speaker, has said that authenticity takes courage, and dedication to look deep within ourselves and tell the truth about ourselves. It takes courage to be vulnerable and acknowledge, own, and share our true beliefs, thoughts, feelings, desires, insecurities, embarrassments, etc.

Did you know that the root of the word courage is cor - the Latin word for heart? Originally, the word courage had a very different definition than it does today. Courage originally meant "To speak oneís mind by telling all oneís heart." Over time, this definition has changed, and, today, courage is more associated with having mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty (Merriam-Webster dictionary).

We need to speak openly and sincerely about who we are, what weíre feeling, and about our experiences (good and bad) in life; to speak from the heart.

To do this, we must be willing to be vulnerable. In our society, we have the misconception that vulnerability is a weakness. Dr. Brenť Brown, states that "we associate vulnerability with emotions we want to avoid such as fear, shame, and uncertainty. Yet we too often lose sight of the fact that vulnerability is also the birthplace of joy, belonging, creativity, authenticity, and love." She dismisses the cultural myth that vulnerability is weakness and reveals that it is, in truth, our most accurate measure of courage (The Power of Vulnerability, Sounds True, 2012).

In Dr. Brenť Brownís TED talk - The Power of Vulnerability, she states that we are the most in-debt, obese, addicted, and medicated adult group in U.S. history. Why? Because we become numb to vulnerability. We live in a vulnerable world, and we become numb to vulnerability by over-spending, over-eating, over-medicating. Then, we donít have to feel vulnerable. But then, we also become numb to joy, gratitude, and happiness; because you cannot selectively numb one emotion without numbing other emotions.

Regardless of the reasons why we may not be living with authenticity, there are many benefits to being authentic. For example:

  1. You will be more content, rather than trying to make others happy.
  2. You wonít have anything to prove, if you donít try to impress others.
  3. You will inspire others, if you are honest and follow your heart.
  4. You will make better decisions based on your truth, and not someone elseís truth.
  5. People will be more likely to trust you. Honesty goes a long way!
  6. Youíll attract people who appreciate the REAL you.
  7. Your unique, creative talents will stand out.
  8. You will improve your intuition.
  9. You will be more accepting of your own personal flaws, as well as others.
  10. You will realize that you are worthy, just as you are.

So how can we start being open and real? How can we become more authentic, increase our fulfillment in life, and empower ourselves?

Mike Robbins has five key principles to follow for being your authentic self (from Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken, by Mike Robbins (Wiley, April 2009):

  1. Know Yourself - Make a commitment to your own personal growth. Discover more of who you are. Seek out and allow the support, honest feedback, and guidance of others.
  2. Transform Your Fear - Thereís nothing wrong with having fear, itís the resistance and denial of fear that is the real problem. When you admit, own, feel, and express your fear, you can move through it, transform it, and utilize its power in a positive way. Acting in the face of fear is courageous and empowering.
  3. Express Yourself - Have the courage to speak your truth boldly. Deal with conflicts directly. Express your emotions fully. Be vulnerable and real about what you think and how you feel. While on the surface you may worry that this will be seen as "weak," expressing yourself completely gives you access to real freedom and power
  4. Be Bold - Live, speak, and act with courage, passion, and truth ó even if itís difficult or scary. Go for what you want in your work and in your life. Then get back up when you fall down.
  5. Celebrate Who You Are - Appreciate and honor who you are, what you do, and the gifts and talents that you have. Celebrating yourself is not about being arrogant. Itís an awareness of your own power and itís the key to self-confidence, fulfillment, and authenticity.

Let yourself be seen. Love with your whole heart. Believe that you are enough! This will liberate you and touch others around you.

If you want more information on how to become more authentic, I would recommend reading Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken, by Mike Robbins (Wiley, April 2009), or one of Dr. Brenť Brownís (a research professor at the University of Houston) books. You may even be interested in watching her TED talk - The Power of Vulnerability, which is one of the top five most viewed TED talks in the world with over 30 million views.

"Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it."

- Bruce Lee

"It's hard to practice compassion when we're struggling with our authenticity or when our own worthiness is off-balance."

- Brenť Brown

"We are constantly invited to be what we are."

- Henry David Thoreau

Renee Lehman is a licensed acupuncturist and physical therapist with over 25 years of health care experience. Her office is located at 249B York Street in Gettysburg, PA. She can be reached at 717-752-5728.

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