Thus play I in one person many people,
And none contented…
…Nor I nor any man that but man is
With nothing shall be pleased, till he be eased
With being nothing.
–William Shakespeare, Richard II
Do you struggle with living authentically? Many of us do. Perhaps to your dearest friends you are unfailingly available and generous with your time — while your private thoughts are fraught with guilt and resentment over not setting appropriate boundaries. Or you pretend
to love your mother’s dairy-bomb cheesecake that leaves you sick for days because you’re lactose intolerant — but you say nothing because you don’t want to hurt her feelings. These may be relatively small things, but still, wouldn’t it be better (and in the long run, a whole lot easier) to just be honest?
Each of us plays numerous roles in our everyday lives and to be sure, we wear many hats. At work we may be known as “outgoing” or “funny” but most of us also have a side (our “shadow selves”) that we don’t advertise. In fact, our co-workers may be surprised to learn that we are actually painfully shy, or suffer from chronic depression, or that when walk into our homes at the end of a long day, we morph into volatile or addictive behaviors.
Why do we hide certain aspects of ourselves from others? Are we protecting them or ourselves? And the bigger question may be, does our outward persona focus less on who we really are and more on a desire to please others, feel accepted and be loved?
In Shakespeare’s Richard II, the Bard reminds us that until we are happy with being nothing — meaning our true selves stripped away from our job titles, relationships and the roles that we play — nothing will make us happy. That doesn’t mean we can’t improve who we are at this moment. If we feel shame about a part of ourselves, it is a clear signal that we are either ready to change the behavior because we know we can do better, or come clean about it: accepting it as part of who we are.
Here are six ways to start living your life more authentically:
1. Strive to be honest — with yourself and others.
2. Remember that honesty should always come from a place of kindness — it should never be “brutal.”
3. Be prepared for pushback. If you have spent your life telling others what you think they want to hear, they may be taken aback by your sudden truthfulness. Refer back to #1 and #2.
4. Make friends with your shadow self. He/she will help you discover your authenticity, warts and all.
5. Surround yourself with people who love you for you — not for who they think you are based on a false portrayal.
6. Express gratitude daily for the good stuff, the not-so-good stuff and for all the lessons learned from both.