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  • Writer's pictureAshley Floyd

How to Cultivate Authenticity

Ashley Floyd, LMFT

While commonly defined as “being true to oneself”, authenticity is so much more than that. Authenticity is listening to our needs and figuring out how to meet them even when it’s scary as hell. It’s being true to ourselves, yes, but it’s also uncovering what we’ve hidden. Authenticity often requires going against everything we’ve been taught. And sometimes, it requires grieving over what we thought we knew.

So, how do we cultivate authenticity?

Unfortunately, it’s not easy. If it were, we’d have no problem knowing ourselves and acting accordingly. Still, there are steps we can take to begin that process if and when we decide it’s right to – and we may never decide that it is right. Situations and experiences may dictate that living authentically is not safe and it is important to honor those impulses. Figuring out how to navigate situations where your authenticity may endanger your safety takes priority.

Start Small

To start cultivating authenticity, there are some small, easier steps you can take. (For bigger but more difficult steps, read on.) You can signal important parts of your identity through your identity expression. This simply means utilizing everyday things – your clothes, home décor, books you read, etc. – to start exploring and expressing important parts of your identity. That may be reading a book on polyamory, wearing tighter clothes to explore a more feminine gender expression, or displaying a pride flag on your front porch.

You can even start smaller, perhaps creating a playlist that emphasizes an aspect of your identity or setting the background of your phone to be a quote that resonates with you. These small steps will be things you interact with daily, affirming these parts of your identity frequently and building feelings of authenticity.

Creating Awareness

One critical step we must take in cultivating authenticity is to get in touch with our physical, emotional, and mental cues. These are things like nagging thoughts, physical discomfort, or a creeping feeling. Awareness of these signals is important, yet we must go beyond awareness to truly understand what we’re experiencing. Exploring these cues will help us understand why we’re feeling the way we feel and set us up for the next step – building trust.

Building Trust

Awareness and understanding allow us to recognize what it is that we need. We build trust in ourselves when we meet those needs. For example, say you have been feeling uninspired and lethargic. You notice that feeling and explore where it’s coming from. You realize that your current work environment doesn’t allow for you to express yourself in a way that you need, and you understand that this is what’s making you feel uninspired and lethargic. Now you know what need of yours is not being met, and you can make a decision regarding how best to meet it.

Noticing Resistance

The above step sounds great – and it is – but you’ll also probably notice some internal resistance to doing what you need to meet those needs. Using the above example, perhaps you realize that you need to find a more fulfilling job, or you realize that you need to use creative expression more intentionally outside of work. And maybe a thought pops up that says, “You’re not good enough for that,” “No one else will hire you”, or “What will people think about me if I do that?” It is necessary to notice this internal resistance because it often isn’t a matter of just “pushing through it”.

These worries deserve to be taken seriously and need to be addressed. There will be parts of us that resist authenticity because they’re afraid of the consequences, and it’s important to understand what these parts of you need as well.

Cultivating Authenticity

So, to take a very big subject and boil it down into a blog article, and to boil it down even further into a conclusion paragraph, this is where we land. Cultivating authenticity requires awareness and understanding of our emotions, building trust within ourselves, and unpacking resistance. It can also look like creating intentional spaces to feel most like ourselves. This work is hard, and often long, but so, so worth it.

If you are interested in doing this work, please contact me for a free consultation. I’d be happy to discuss what you’re looking for.

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