Living authentically without shame or guilt
The definition of freedom is the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint. It’s easy to understand what this means politically but what does it mean when we think about self-care?
One way to think about freedom and mental well-being is living with authenticity — being yourself without judgement or shame. It’s accepting who you are and letting your values guide the way you act rather than external sources.
Living authentically comes easier to some than it does to others, but we can all promote personal freedom and authenticity in our lives. Here are some ways to get started:
Get to know yourself
In order to live your personal truth, you need to know yourself. This sounds silly. After all, you’re yourself your entire life, but you’d be surprised at how much outside influence can cloud your understanding of who you are as a person.
Take a step back and find somewhere quiet. Ask yourself probing questions like:
- What do I want out of life?
- What makes me happiest?
- What do I value most in my relationships?
You can also think back to situations that generated strong emotional reactions like pride, fear, or elation. What can you learn about yourself from these situations?
Another good practice is to take yourself on a date every week. This is a time to do something for yourself and spend quality time letting your mind wander or considering deep questions about yourself. Grab a fancy coffee and go for a walk. Head to a museum you’ve been looking forward to visiting. Or grab a new book and sit in the sunshine.
Keep a journal of your findings and thoughts so you can keep track of your progress and look for patterns.
Cultivate your intuition
Once you’ve gained a deeper understanding of yourself, you’ll be better able to listen to your inner guidance or intuition. Take the findings you’ve gathered in your journal and try to distil them into values. Here are some examples:
- It’s important to me to give back to my community
- I want to care less about what other people think
- Empathy is important to who I am and how I create deeper relationships
Play around with personal statements and find 2 – 3 that speak to who you are. Say them to yourself every day and consider how you can cultivate them more in your daily life.
Now, take time every day to listen to your inner voice. One of the best ways to do this is through meditation. When you tune into your inner guidance and give it the space to speak, it will guide you through challenging situations. It will tell you if you’re in a situation that’s threatening your authenticity.
Your inner voice is the most important source to guide you, but it can be challenging to listen when you have parents, partners, friends, and bosses trying to influence you.
Learn to recognize when you’re living inauthentically
Living authentically can be challenging. In our society, we’re all caught up in the rat race, constantly comparing ourselves to others and chasing high-profile careers, happy families, and money even if these things aren’t fulfilling to us personally. Even if you do all the work already outlined in this blog post, you can lose sight of who you are and what you want. How do you course-correct?
Get good at understanding when you’re not living with authenticity. Tune into your emotions. Are you feeling sad and run down? Do you feel like you’re just going through the motions and not finding happiness? These are all signs that you’ve lost your way. Other indicators include:
- Putting yourself last and neglecting your health — physical and mental
- Procrastinating on goals or dreams; thinking that you’ll eat better, be nicer, or travel more later
- Judging others and not giving them the benefit of the doubt; this is you redirecting your frustrations toward others.
Don’t forget to spend time with yourself. It can be as simple as taking a bath or stretching when you get up in the morning. Feel your body and your emotions. In these quiet moments, if you feel off-center, you might need to course-correct and remind yourself of your values.
Remember that living authentically isn’t a stagnant thing. Continue to check in with yourself about your goals and what drives your happiness. Stay in touch with yourself and your inner voice—it’s a lifelong relationship.