“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”
– C.G. Jung
Today’s post about authenticity is the first in my new series, Minimalism A to Z. If there’s a particular topic you’d like to have included in this series, please let me know either by emailing me or by posting in the comments below.
“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.”
– May Sarton
Psychologists have found that living authentically is a cornerstone of mental health. People who score high on authenticity are more likely to have effective coping strategies instead of resorting to drugs or other self-destructive habits.
They report having satisfying relationships and have a strong sense of self-worth and purpose. People who live more authentically have more confidence in mastering challenges and are better at following through to meet their goals.
“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”
– Brené Brown
A couple of psychologists who extensively studied authenticity defined it as “the unimpeded operation of one’s true or core self in one’s daily enterprise.” Michael Kernis and Brian Goldman found four elements of authenticity:
- Awareness of, and trust in, your feelings, desires and thoughts.
- Unbiased processing.
- Acting in accord with your values, preferences and needs instead of acting just to please others, obtain rewards or avoid punishments.
- Valuing and achieving openness and truthfulness in your close relationships.
“One is often so busy doing life that it is easy to avoid evaluating whether you are putting your energy in the direction you value most.”
– Deborah Day
So, what does authenticity have to do with minimalism, anyway? Those psychologists didn’t mention any kind of limit on the amount of stuff you can own, did they?
Nope. That’s because minimalism isn’t really about getting rid of all the extra stuff we own; decluttering is just a tool. At its core, minimalism is about living meaningful, fulfilling lives.
And to do that, we need to live authentically, spending our time on what’s most important to us. In other words, our daily lives should reflect our values and desires.
What tops the list of priorities for you? Health? Family? Friends? Integrity? Kindness? Religious Faith? Personal growth? Adventure?
When you have some quiet, uninterrupted time, sit down and make a list of your top 10 values. If you’re having trouble figuring out what your values are, check out What Are Your Values?, List of Values, Creating and Living by Your Own List of Values and 7 Steps to Discovering Your Personal Core Values.
“I also came to understand that our authenticity (or lack thereof) is made evident by the fruit that our life is bearing.”
– Christine Caine
Now, take some time to reflect on whether your lifestyle reflects the values you’ve identified as most important to you.
Perhaps you listed family as one of your top 10 values, but you work overtime to afford your luxury car. Maybe you said financial security is important, but you buy a lot of clothes and other stuff you don’t need. Or perhaps you identified kindness as a core value, but find yourself rushing around so much you don’t even notice when others need help.
If you find significant discrepancies between the values you’ve identified and your lifestyle, it’s time to re-evaluate your choices. Don’t expect perfection – after all, some of your top values may conflict with each other or reality may interfere with your plans.
For example, the need to keep your family warm, dry and fed may require you to work two jobs and have little time to spend with your children. Or your need for solitude has to take second fiddle to the needs of your elderly parents who just moved in with you.
Do the best you can for now and create a plan for meeting your goals in the long term. As you begin to live more authentically, you’ll find you worry less and appreciate more. You’ll feel freer and happier. More at peace with yourself and your choices.