On Authenticity – Part I

“The time you have left is short. Live it as if you were on a mountain. Here or there makes no difference, if wherever you live you take the world as your city. Let men see, let them observe a true man living in accordance with nature. If they cannot bear him, let them kill him – a better fate than a life like theirs.”

Marcus Aurelius

Do you feel yourself questioning when to abide and when not to conform to others’ ideals? Do you ever wonder whether you are living life true to your own character. To stave off regret, guilt and frustration later in life, I think it’s important to ask now, if we are remaining true to our authentic selves, or whether we are subverting our own character at the hands of another? Brenè Brown notes that “incongruent living is exhausting.” Does meeting the needs of others at the expense of our own happiness, ultimately serve us in the long run? Speaking about trusting our “heart brain,” to lead us down the proper path, Peter Sage, the motivational speaker, profoundly stated: “Do what’s right…If you’re willing to be unpopular, in the moment, for what you believe to be right, you’ve got the genesis of true leadership, right there…”

Why do we need the approval of others? How does that serve us? It’s true that our prefrontal cortex is wired to seek connection. In this day and age however, building a tribe is not as essential to our survival, as it certainly was during a prior period in our evolution as a species. We are no longer forced to conform, to feel part of a community, in order to live a long and fruitful life. The reality now, is that an individual is free to choose those who who she/he wishes to collaborate with, based on who makes them feel valued as an individual. There is a phrase floating around self-help circles that “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” This maxim knows no boundaries, as I once had a client utter it in Spanish, “dime con quien andas, y te digo quien eres.” With that, do you want to be associated with people who value you and accept you wholeheartedly for who you are or those that continually make you feel less than. Some of us have been caught in the difficult trap of seeking approval from those whose validation matters most, in particular, our parents. A caregiver’s love can be a powerful weakness, such that we sacrifice who we really are or who we really want to be, in order to meet their needs. Sometimes doing what it is that our parents desire for us is, ultimately, not in our best interest. In this case, their sense of self is often wrapped up in who we are or who we aren’t and what we do or don’t become. Here, the message is often: “If we don’t abide we’re not worthy.” If we don’t follow their path, we’re unlovable. The truth is that, we are worthy of love simply because we exist. So, whether it be friends, colleagues, peers or parents who demand that you betray yourself, in order to substantiate their own sense of self, know that you are enough, regardless of their opinion. Be you, and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

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