Of late, I have grown frustrated with how easily people banter the ‘authenticity’ word around. I get concerned that this potent and powerful concept may become diluted by overuse and misuse. Let’s face it; we live in a world of Botox, hair color, self-enhancing drugs, steroids, and all sorts of ways to augment our appearance and performance in the world. Many of my clients have lost who they really are ….all in the name of who they think they should be, as defined by someone or something else.
This reality is a tsunami in our culture.
From my experiences, the most disengaged, unhappy, empty, and dissatisfied individuals are those that truly don’t know who they are, and are metaphorically trying to wear clothes that simply don’t fit or are not their style. Subsequently, if they do have a desire to reveal their ‘true selves’ they are paralyzed by fear of what they may mean to their lives to date and changes they may need to make. It seems almost easier to leave well enough alone! This conundrum can be true for CEO’s, business executives, ministers, physicians, teachers … the reality does not pardon any individual caught in the web of masks and images.
Carl Jung believes the first step to becoming fully individuated (his descriptive word for owning your true self) in his book, The Undiscovered Self, is to embrace the whole you, including your shadow, the things that are the ‘dark side’ of you. That means we have to look at the things that don’t always fit nicely into the image we have created for ourselves. We accept our contradictions, our faults, and our failures. When this is accomplished, it is a liberating experience on many levels. It is as if we are giving ourselves permission to just ‘be’ who we are. Wow, isn’t that cool? When we reframe our perceived failures or wrong turns into learning experiences and part of overall journey as determined by our choices; we then embrace all things as part of the overall experience. This can be the first step toward really becoming comfortable in our own skin.
Many of my business clients have asked me for suggestions on how to start moving toward greater alignment and authenticity of ‘who they really are’ and how to integrate this into their lives and careers. There is no magic pill. However, there are baby steps we can take to help gain clarity on who we are and what we really want. A few to consider:
Listen to your heart. Pay attention to that little voice inside. It may come as a question in the middle of the night, or as crystal clear as a voice in the shower. The voice is your soul – it is your core and it is the pure essence of what and who you are meant to be. Heed it.
Let go. Many times we will have this ‘whisper’ to do or be something other than what we are presently – and we fight it (or just flat out ignore it) because it is not what we think we should be doing. The trappings of our world are intoxicating. We often get ‘drunk’ on these. What I believe, however, is if we truly follow our heart’s desire – we will be successful. All the other trappings will take care of themselves.
As Joseph Campbell so famously offered: “If you follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”
Read everything. There are many books I can recommend which may help to stimulate your juices. Here are just a few:
- The Seat of the Soul – Gary Zukav
- A New Earth – Eckardt Tolle
- The Power of Now – Eckardt Tolle
- Care for the Soul – Thomas Moore
- Living a Life that Matters – Harold Kushner
- Man’s Search for Meaning – Victor Frankl
- The Wheel of Life – Elisabeth Kublar-Ross
Keep a Journal. This may be a stretch for some – that is ok. Even if you only write down only one or two words or thoughts you have – when you have them – it is amazing how they will grow and multiply in your mind’s eye. It is a great way to reflect on your day, the lessons learned, the observations of yourself and others. It is like living it ‘over’ in some ways – which is incredibly powerful.
Connect with your body. Breathe. I have learned recently that our body is often the first signal that something is awry, not the last. If we are really in sync with our bodies – through yoga, Pilates, meditation, centering exercises, walking, etc. – we are told when things are not right, or not in alignment.
Finally, just get to know you. Give yourself freedom to be who you are. Just BE and let all things flow from there. Observe yourself – and be curious about what drives your behaviors. Embrace when you are ‘in the zone’ – you know…..full of energy which comes from an inner source.
So, is ‘following your bliss’ the secret to authentic power? I actually believe it is just the first step – yet one of the most important. I also believe there is undeniable power in the authentic congruency of mind, body, heart, and spirit. Becoming ‘aligned’ with your core soul, and allowing this to manifest into the world through your choices, is the secret to living your life with powerful purpose and purposeful power.
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