Authenticity helps cultivate more joy and happiness.
Several startup founders that I mentor are working on mental health solutions. I was talking with one of the founders about reconciling authentic versus aspirational self when a member of the group asked us to explain the concept.
The easiest way to think about it is who you are versus who you project to others. Aspiring to be a better version of yourself is not problematic unless you are masking your true self.
Unfortunately, people often use their aspirational self as a mask. According to The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown, the mask is what gets in the way of their joy and happiness.
Ten things that get in the way of your joy and happiness
1/ Prioritizing what people think
4/ Scarcity and fear
5/ Comparison/Status symbols
7/ Productivity as a status symbol
8/ Anxiety as a lifestyle
9/ Self doubt
10/ Need for control
Embracing your authentic self
With the risk of sounding negative, the words “easier said than done” are probably the most relevant. There isn’t a series of “How to” steps that tell you how to be more authentic. It’s a process.
To get you started, there is a new assessment tool that will tell you where you stand on the path to wholehearted living. It’s enlightening. I spend a year whittling my value list down to two guiding values as recommended by Brené and living into them. It was a transformative process so I expected to “do better” on the wholehearted living assessment.
However, there is no such thing as better. The assessment establishes a benchmark so that you understand your starting point.
Integrating the learnings into your life
The list of guideposts are desirable qualities that can be integrated into your life. The book provides space for thinking about how to integrate the work into your life as well as some ideas for how to do it. As your are reading, capture in your book or journal:
1/ Aha moments
Aha moments are tidbits of information that connect the dots of an idea, concept or problem. One aha moment was the concept of belonging versus fitting in. Leading edge companies are talking about the idea of bringing your whole self to work at the same time they are talking about the importance of cultural fit.
Belonging is when your values align with the organization and you’re empowered to express your values in a way that it authentic to you. Fitting in on the other hand, requires masking your authentic self.
2/ Related topics
Related topics are topics introduced in the book but not covered in totality. I add books to my Amazon cart and schedule talks to my YouTube playlist while reading so that I don’t forget about them.
A topic that really resonated with me from the book is the need for play. Play effects our level of enjoyment in life but it also effects our level of creativity and problem solving. Continuing to play in all stages and in all aspects of life is important.
3/ Discussion topics
Discussion topics are topics that you want to discuss with others. You might need insights from family, friends or colleagues to figure out how it applies to your life. Journalling can also help because it’s a form of active learning.
Writing helps me think more deeply about a topic and to capture my thoughts at a specific point in time. Periodic reflection enables me to see how my thoughts evolve and if I’ve landed on something that feels right.
Noting references is about capturing the words that resonate with you whether you note the page or jot down the specific words in your journal. The references allow you to quickly refer back.
The one word that resonated with me the most is courage. It underpins the entire process of living wholeheartedly. Courage is simply speaking openly and honestly about what you’re feeling. It’s heroic but not in the way most of us think about acts of courage.
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