Archive for April 2009

Know Yourself

April 29, 2009

How well do you know yourself, I mean really know yourself?  An essential aspect of our journey to live a more authentic, meaningful, and fulfilling life, is to know who we truly are at the deepest level.  Knowing ourselves, like being authentic itself, is a life-long process.  The more deliberate we are about this, however, the more we can grow and evolve consciously.

For me, knowing myself has been and at times continues to be a little tricky.  For many years I thought “knowing myself” meant knowing about myself (my “story,” my issues, my drama, where I’d been, what I’d been through, etc.).  While knowing about ourselves is important, it’s only a small piece of who we really are.

Being fully aware of ourselves is about looking more deeply within.  This can be challenging, confusing, and scary for some of us, myself included.  We often aren’t sure where to look, what to do, or how to deal with the aspects of ourselves we don’t understand or even like.  There are times I find myself wanting to avoid or deny certain aspects of myself, rather than confront them and deal with them directly based on my own fear or self judgment.  However, as Eckhart Tolle says in his book A New Earth, “Only the truth of who you are, if realized, will set you free.”

How We Can Know Ourselves More Deeply:

Knowing ourselves is an evolutionary process, not a destination.  There are, however, many things you can do that will give you greater understanding and awareness of who you truly are.  Here are a few ideas:

– Pay attention – Increase your awareness of yourself by paying close attention to the things you do and say, how you interact with others, what thoughts and feelings you have, how you show up in life, and your intuition and deeper guidance.  The more conscious of yourself you can be – in a present and nonjudgmental way – the more you’ll be able to know and understand yourself deeply.

– Accept yourself – Self acceptance is an essential aspect of knowing who you are.  Appreciate yourself for dealing with the challenges you have dealt with (or are still dealing with) in your life and also be aware of as many of your strengths and weaknesses as possible, in a positive and compassionate way.  Accepting yourself is not about doing everything “right,” ignoring or denying aspects of who you are, or being resigned in any way – it’s about making peace with all of who you are, both light and dark, and choosing to appreciate yourself.

– Get feedback – Allow people to give you honest feedback – family members, friends, co-workers, and others.  Be open to what people have to say about you and ask them to be honest.  This takes real courage, but when you’re willing to listen to the authentic feedback of others, you can gain a deeper awareness and insight about who you are, how you show up in life, and how you affect others – both positively and negatively.  And, remember the paradox – none of what other people say about you is “true” (it’s just their opinion), but it can be enlightening and empowering as it gives you an outside perspective of who you are and how you show up.

Knowing ourselves is an on-going process for us to engage in as we deepen our desire to be authentic in life.  It’s not always easy and there are many ego traps for us to be aware of along the way, but when we make a commitment to ourselves, our lives, and our growth – knowing who we are is fundamental and always will be.

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Why It Can Be Hard to Be Authentic

April 21, 2009

Why is it hard to be authentic?  More important, why is it hard for you to be authentic?

This isn’t an accusation or a judgment, it’s an important question.  If we can ask and answer this question honestly, without judging ourselves, we’re well on our way to becoming more of who we really are and ultimately more authentic.

For me, being honest, real, and authentic in a vulnerable way is what I aspire to be in my life, all the time.  However, this is also something I find quite difficult and challenging to do in the day-by-day, moment-by-moment aspects of my life, my work, and my relationships.

I’m often more interested (at least on the surface) in being liked, impressing people, and wanting to look good, than I am in being real.  I worry that if I really speak my truth, go for what I want, and let it all hang out – people won’t like me, I will upset or offend them, or I won’t be able to get what I truly want.

Can you relate to this in your own life?

Many of us, myself included, get quite upset, in a self-righteous way, when we see, hear about, or experience other people being dishonest, phony, or simply withholding the truth.  However, how often do we do that ourselves?  We can be quite hypocritical when it comes to authenticity – expecting it from others all the time, but not doing, saying, and being totally authentic ourselves.

This doesn’t make us “bad” or “wrong,” it simply makes us human.  Authenticity is challenging for most everyone I know, talk to, and work with.  The more we can get in touch with our own personal difficulty with being authentic, the more able and willing we’ll be to move past whatever stops us from being real.  But first, we have to notice our own difficulty or resistance to authenticity, with compassion, and tell the truth about it.

There are many factors that play into this – family upbringing, cultural training, long-held beliefs about what’s “appropriate,” and our own personal fears.  When it comes to being authentic, the bottom line for most of us is that we’re scared.  We don’t want to deal with what we imagine to be the consequences of authenticity – people’s judgments or reactions, our own fears and doubts, possible failure or rejection, and more – so we just shut up and try to fit in.

Shutting up and trying to fit in, as we all know from experience, doesn’t really work, feel good, or lead us to anything meaningful or fulfilling in life.  Doing this leads to resentment, frustration, and a lack of power in our lives, but is often easier for us to do than it is to confront our fear, speak our truth, and be fully authentic.

Getting in touch with what makes authenticity hard for us can give us access to a deeper place of truth within us and is the first step in becoming more real.

Here are a few questions for you to think about and answer with honesty and compassion:

  • What specific messages have you received throughout your life about being authentic and being yourself, that stop you from expressing yourself fully?
  • What are the main obstacles that get in your way of being real?
  • What are some of the biggest fears you have about being fully yourself, speaking your truth, and going for what you want in life?

Allow yourself to sit with these questions, ponder them, and see what comes out of this inquiry.  Talk to others about this with empathy and openness.  Engaging in this inquiry can and will open up some new ideas, insights, and possibilities for you.  Have fun with it and be kind to yourself in the process!

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The Power of Authenticity

April 16, 2009

How often do you not say or do something because you’re worried about how it’ll be perceived?  For most of us, myself included, this happens all the time – more often than we’d like to admit.

We live in a culture that’s starving for authenticity.  We want our leaders, our co-workers, our family members, our friends, and everyone else we interact with to tell us the truth and to be themselves.  Most important, we want to have the personal freedom and confidence to say, do, and be who we really are, without worrying so much about how we appear to others and what they might think or say about us.

Sadly, however, even though we may say we want to live in a way that is true to our deepest passions, beliefs, and desires; most of us don’t and it’s not that easy.  We’ve been taught by our parents, teachers, spouses, friends, co-workers, politicians, the media, and others, that it’s more important to be liked and to fit in than it is to be who we truly are.  In addition, many of us assume that who we are is not good enough and therefore we’re constantly trying to fix ourselves, or to act like others who we think are better than us.

However, as the famous 19th century author and poet Oscar Wilde so brilliantly stated, “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.”

What it Really Means to Be Authentic

Authenticity is about enjoying a new sense of freedom to be who we really are–ourselves, natural and without a mask in our relationships, our work, and our life.  It takes courage, commitment, and depth to:

  • Look within ourselves
  • Tell the whole truth (even when we don’t want to)
  • Be vulnerable
  • Admit, own, and share our true thoughts, feelings, desires, insecurities, passions, embarrassment, dreams, and more.

However, being open and real about all of these things (and more) is what it means to be authentic in life.

Five Principles for Being Your Authentic Self

In order to utilize the power of authenticity in your life as a way to enhance your relationships, increase your fulfillment, and empower yourself, here are five key principles:

1) Know Yourself – Make a commitment to your own personal growth.  Discover more of who you are.  And, seek out and allow the support, honest feedback, and guidance of others.

2) Transform Your Fear – There’s nothing wrong with having fear, it’s the resistance and denial of fear that is the real problem.  When you admit, own, feel, and express your fear, you have the ability to move through it, transform it, and utilize its power in a positive way.  Taking action in the face of fear is courageous and empowering.

3) Express Yourself – Have the courage to speak your truth boldly.  Deal with conflicts directly.  Express your emotions fully.  Be vulnerable and real about what you think and how you feel.  While on the surface you may worry that this will be seen as “weak,” in actuality expressing yourself completely gives you access to real freedom and power.

4) Be Bold – Live, speak, and act with courage, passion, and truth – even if it’s difficult or scary.  Go for what you want in your work and in your life. And get back up when you fall down, which you will.

5) Celebrate Who You Are – Appreciate and honor who you are, what you do, and the gifts and talents that you have.  Celebrating yourself is not about being arrogant.  It’s an awareness of your own power and it’s the key to self confidence, fulfillment, and authenticity.

Being your authentic self is not for the faint of heart, but once you’re willing to truly engage and do the work to become more real – your life, your work, and your relationships will be more exciting, meaningful, and fulfilling!

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Asking For Help

April 7, 2009

How do you feel about asking other people for help?

I’ve noticed that many of us, myself included, get a little funny about requesting support.  While we’re all different and we each have our own unique perspective, reaction, and process as it relates to reaching out to others, it seems that this can be quite a tricky exercise for most of the people I know and work with.

I have somewhat of a bi-polar relationship to asking for help myself.  I can definitely be a “lone ranger” at times and often, especially when I feel stressed or pressured, try to do everything myself – either because I feel insecure about asking for support or because I self righteously think that I’m the only one who can do it the “right” way.  On the other hand, I can sometimes be quite pushy, forceful, and presumptuous with my requests (aka demands) of support (or so I’ve been told).  Ah, to be human!

However, as I’ve also experienced personally and seen in others many times throughout my life and in my work, there is a beautiful place of balance between going it all alone and demanding help from others in an obnoxious way.  This all stems from our ability to genuinely ask for and graciously receive the support of other people.  The irony of this whole phenomenon is that most of us love to help others, while many of us have a hard time asking others for help ourselves.

Requesting support can often make us feel vulnerable.  We usually think (somewhat erroneously) that we should be able to do everything ourselves or that by admitting we need help, we are somehow being weak.  In addition, many of us are sensitive about being told “no” and by asking others to help us, we put ourselves out there and risk being rejected.

What if we had more freedom to ask for what we wanted and for the specific support of other people?  What if we could make requests in a confident, humble, and empowering way?  What if we remembered that we are worthy of other people’s support and that our ability to both ask for and receive help not only supports us, but also gives them an opportunity to contribute (which most people really want to do).

It still might be a little scary, we may get our feelings hurt from time to time, and on occasion people may have some opinions or reactions to what we ask for or how we ask for it.  But, when we give ourselves permission and remind ourselves that it’s not only okay, but essential for us to ask for help – we can create a true sense of freedom, support, and empowerment in our lives and in our relationships!

Here are a few things we can do to have more freedom and confidence when asking for help.

1) Make Genuine Requests, with Attachment. A “genuine” request can be accepted or declined, without any consequence.  In other words, if we get really upset when someone says “no” to us, not only were we attached to the outcome, it probably wasn’t a real request to begin with (it was a demand).  When we ask for what we want, without being attached to the response, we have more freedom to ask and ultimately our chances of getting what we want are greatly increased.

2) Be Easy To Support.   There are some specific things we can do to make it easier to support us.  Such as:

  • Being open to the coaching and feedback of others
  • Thanking people for their support
  • Letting people do things to support us in their own unique way instead of micro-managing them (this one is often tough for me)
  • Allowing people’s support when it is offered

3) Give Your Support to Others Generously. When we put our attention on supporting other people, the universe has a way of returning the favor.  It may or may not always come back to us from the people we help specifically, and that’s okay.  We want to do our best not to “keep score,” as many of us often do, but instead to look for opportunities to genuinely help those around us.  When we do this, we remind ourselves of the power of support and we experience it as the true “win-win” it is.

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