“Being yourself is an impulse to be free.” — Deepak Chopra
How do we become authentic? How can we channel and express our true nature? In expressing our authentic self, do we risk alienation from others?
These questions come at an interesting time when image-crafting has become part of the norm. The access that technology and social media offers have made most of us feel like we need to create a persona that satisfies different criteria depending on the audience. In addition, new and emerging roles in the community have simultaneously created expectations of who we should be.
Recent psychological research has even associated the increase of social anxiety and depression among adolescents with social media – indicating that “being Liked” (meaning, getting Likes on photos or videos) triggers the same reaction in the reward center of the brain. Furthermore, the study also discovered that herd mentality has become a basis for social acceptance, highlighting the need to conform to be part of a group.1
We also experience the same dilemmas as adults but not only because of social pressure but also due to learned habits and conditioning based on experiences.
THE MYSTERY OF THE “I”
Deepak Chopra shared that the “I” is complex and often elusive. There is a wide range of impulses within us that we suppress to be considered good members of society. Expressing anger by screaming in public or causing harm are as much a part of the “I” as our capability to show love and compassion for strangers.2
We call on different personas depending on the situation and we decide which emotions to contain or express. Our sense of identity is assigned the task of sorting and controlling our impulses. The question then becomes, “who am I in this sea of emotions and impulses?”
To understand and live according to our authentic self, we need to know that:
The “I” collects labels that can be worn or taken off like clothing. We can be labelled based on our gender, profession, politics, personality, and much more. To an extent, these labels support our sense of purpose, however, labels do not have a complete claim on our authentic self and should only be “worn” as the situation necessitates.
As an entrepreneur, we often choose labels such as “professional”, “cutting-edge”, or “intellectual” which are all helpful in implying a successful business. However, keeping true to our self will elevate how clients see us as business owners because it sets us apart from the rest. When our “I” resonates with others, we create an emotional connection that surpasses their need to buy into our product, instead, they wish to connect to us.
The “I” is multidimensional and dynamic. The “I” changes along with our level of knowledge and experience. Surviving trauma, interacting with exceptional people, developing a new skill, travelling, and undergoing physical changes can permanently turn on or off certain parts of ourselves.
This means that our truth in the past may no longer be our truth presently. However, during both past and present times, if we lived according to our truth, we still were/are authentic. We could also hold both past and present truths at the same time. This is what it is to be multi-dimensional. We can choose to be generous and courageous with our complexity, which in the end, sets us free.
The “I” can be (re)discovered when we open up to innocence. Connecting with our inner child is one of the ways to find who we are. We were free to play and wander without judgement of how we should be.
Simple activities that bring us back to childhood like splashing through puddles, making sandcastles at the beach, observing insects and free play with our kids on lazy Sundays help us recall what it’s like to be free of the socialized version of ourselves. Children are ideally carefree because they are not looking to “fit in.” They are simply who they are – pure, joyful, and happy.
As Deepak Chopra said, “No one would willingly return to infancy, but we’d like to be innocent again if it brought wonder, love, freshness, and renewal back into our lives.”
In connection with spending time with the inner child, it is also important to determine if we require healing and transformation to ensure that who we’re aiming to become is aligned with healthy patterns and beliefs.
We found this exercise for you: Meet your inner-child – an exercise
The “I” frees us from the need to be understood by everyone. What this statement tells us is that living with authenticity is an act of letting go. When we let go of the desire to be accepted by everyone, we begin to honour our uniqueness and our focus shifts to taking action based on our values and beliefs.
Of course, letting go comes with its apprehensions, however, prolonged delay of self-expression can lead to scenarios such as disillusionment, imposter syndrome, burnout, and lack of self-confidence. Operating on a strong foundation of beliefs that is authentic to our true self, directs us to make bolder choices that contribute to a more fulfilled and purposeful life.
SELF-LOVE AND ACCEPTANCE
Conforming to societal rules and expectations is a social adaptation that has helped build civilized communities and structured routines that benefit us as a whole. However, we also have to allow our inner self to express and manifest its desires to find purpose and happiness.
Self-love and acceptance of our capabilities and limitations align the private self and the public version of the “I”. When we are aligned, we become free of being a reflection of someone else.
Comparing our success with others can only bring forth our insecurities and unfounded frustration towards the self. When we find ourselves in this state of thought, repeat this mantra: “Yes, I can do that too. But I will keep being me.”
Each of us has a gift that is unique to us. We are here to embrace and share it.