The notion of being, “authentic,” is common for those of us who strive towards growth, but what does it mean to live an authentic life? How do we know when we’re living one? And what should we do if we want to live one, but aren’t?
What does it mean to live an authentic life? According to Carl Rogers, a humanistic psychology theorist, we have both an ideal and an actual self.
In essence, our, “ideal selves” represent the individuals we want to be.
Lets say your ideals involve being self employed, self directed and in a position to give back to the community, but in actuality you have a very good, secure job—one that doesn’t seem wise to leave. It conflicts with who you see yourself as—independent, self motivated and a leader—but why rock the boat?
According to Rogers the life you’re actually living represents your, “actual self”, and the gap that exists between the two speaks to whether or not you are living an authentic life. If you’re ideal and actual self are one and the same, you are living an authentic life. If not, well… there are still reasons to rejoice, as there are opportunities for exploration and growth.
How do you know when you’re living an authentic life? You’ll know when you’re experiencing a pervasive sense of happiness and satisfaction with life—even with the everyday fluctuations in mood we all experience. When you aren’t, you experience anxiety and depression to varying degrees.
Years ago I remember finishing my master’s degree. In the idealism of my early twenties, I believed myself to be a mover and shaker—doing things that made a difference on a community level. However, post graduation, I got a nice little job and worked 9-5, like every body else. I was working in the field that I was educated in, so I wasn’t completely dissatisfied, but the thought “is this it?” constantly plagued me each evening—having to get ready to do it all again the following day. I increasingly felt miserable. However mild, this, my friends, is the description of living an inauthentic life.
I’m talking career here, but the notion of being authentic vs. inauthentic plays out in each domain of our life.
I sometimes struggle being a parent, having always imagined myself to be this nurturing, amazingly attentive mother. In actuality, though I love my boo-boo more than life itself, I sometimes don’t feel like being bothered. “Go play a game a something dude.” I know there are areas that you also experience these kinds of discrepancies.
Living a More Authentic Life
Examine your ideals. Are they realistic? If not, perhaps they need modification. The aim is to reduce internal tension by closing the gap between our ideal selves and our actual selves. Sometimes our goals are just too unrealistic. Sometimes our ideal selves are not even of our creation. Examine the origins of your ideals.
Make a plan. The trip from your actual to ideal self is not a five-minute jog down the road. Staying at that stable job may be the most practical for you at this moment, but set some goals. Write the vision you have for your life and long and short-term goals to get you there. The journey alone, will be its’ own reward.
Just Say No. We’re always given opportunities to practice being authentic. Someone discusses something that is disturbing to you. Do you nod and smile or speak your mind? Someone asks you to do something that you don’t feel like doing? Do you go with the flow or say no?
Frugalistas- How are you staying authentic?
[info_box type=”alert_box”]Caring for yourself including takes care of your finances. I encourage all ladies who are serious about self-care to go on The Happy Finances Challenge. In 42 days you can learn to make money decisions that will lead to long-term financial happiness. [/info_box]