5 practical steps toward finding your authentic self

January 28, 2013
Go ahead. Open the door & step through it to a new life

Back in the day, people used to go off to “find themselves.” It became kind of a joke, even.  How could we not know who we were? It seems so simple.

But of course, trying to find ourselves really means trying to find  a way past self-limiting beliefs that we all have: the stories we tell ourselves about who we are. Or who we aren’t.
  I’m not creative.
  I’m the smart one.
  I don’t like people.
  I’m a fuck-up.
I’m the fat kid.
When we internalize these beliefs, that’s how we live our lives.  We confuse our true selves with our story. Information that might lead to a different self-definition is blocked.

We don’t need anyone else to hold us back, because our beliefs about ourselves do a good job of it already.

Isn’t it funny how kids in families get assigned labels early on? “The Golden Boy.”  “The Shy One.”  “The Smart One.”  They’re treated this way from the time they’re very young. It’s true for most of us. So, is it any surprise that many of us still hold on to those identities as adults?

“I’m not creative” kept me from painting and crafts for decades. It’s silly to think of that now, when color and form are so prominent in my home and when I’ve tried and enjoyed a number of artistic pursuits. I’ll never be Georgia O’Keefe, but I’ve finally let go of the belief that I’m not creative.

You’d think that after a certain age, we’d finally have a good sense of who we are. But more people than we think have lived their lives by  old beliefs well into middle age and beyond.

Is change impossible at this late date?  Not at all. I know several people who are now taking another look at the validity of these old stories and in some cases, getting some help for the first time in their mid-60s. They finally see these beliefs as dysfunctional and are no longer willing to live that way.
It’s fun to watch the discovery process, as they begin to understand the internal thought processes that have limited them and then learn ways to frame the world (and themselves) differently. To become more authentic and engaged with the world.

So, if you think you might be confusing your story with yourself, ask yourself a few questions:

What do you tell yourself about yourself?
Do you want a different life?
Are you ever that person? When?
Is there anyone you can be yourself with? Why that person?
When do you completely lose yourself? Doing what?
What beliefs stand in the way of being your best self?
Can you test those beliefs against reality?

Don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis–just do enough to understand what’s driving your behavior. Challenge those beliefs.  And then, open a new door and step through it one day at a time, one week at a time and one month at a time.

  Do just one tiny thing to make today better than yesterday.
  Do one thing a week that takes you out of your comfort level.
☀  Try it on for size. How does it make you feel?
☀  Let go of one blocking thought a month. Just one. And act differently.
☀  Consider seeing a therapist for some short-term help

1 Practical steps you can take for a more fulfilling life. Not so hard, are they? Just start with one. Because after all, every journey begins with a single step.
8 comments on “5 practical steps toward finding your authentic self
  1. One of the best things about this stage of life has been challenging the beliefs I’ve carried about myself. Suprise — they’re not all true! I have talents and interests in areas I had previously discounted.

    Good reminder!

  2. I love breaking the beliefs. Its funny but things I always wanted to do, I am doing in this stage of my life in a new way.
    For instance, I always wanted to be a librarian, model and speaker. Now I am doing most of those right on my blog.

  3. I started to “step out” in 2012…and I accomplished some things I never thought I could do. It’s worth working toward finding your authentic self, even when it gets scary.

  4. Ellen Dolgen says:

    Great post. I also believe that it’s important to take it one step at a time.

  5. Grace Hodgin says:

    I love being in my 50’s as it has really proven to be an age where I’m comfortable with my own skin. Focusing on the abundance and not the lack has really helped progress.

  6. Jennifer Comet Wagner says:

    I have also always told myself that I am not creative. I am trying to let myself see that I can be and just because I am not as creative as some doesn’t mean that I am not creative.

  7. Haralee says:

    Such good points. I still hear people pigeon hole their adult or nearly adult children in surprise with comments like”She was always so spontaneous, I never thought she could focus on law school”, or ” He was so shy and uncoordinated I can’t believe he wants to teach kids?”
    I am never sure if they really believe what they are saying or are they fishing for a compliment about themselves? I should just forward this post! We all change!

  8. Maryl says:

    I think it’s also possible we regress or feel new inadequacies as we get older, especially in a climate where we are made to feel we are out to pasture. I know I was more confident when I was younger. I’ll use your mantras: I am strong; I am smart; I can start my own company! Thanks.

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