Master the Art of Self-Awareness and Live Happy
*this post may contain harsh language and tough love
How many years have you started with a resolution or a goal for the new year that you failed to meet? This year, why not focus on just being authentic and happy? I take a lot of inspiration from Gary Vanderchuk, who believes that listening to others opinions (and giving a shit about them) is one of the leading reasons that people do not reach their full potential. If you have ever hesitated having a truthful conversation with someone, have postponed sending that text or email to someone or lied to make someone else feel better, you are not living authentically.
What does being authentic mean? Well it means different things to different people, but ultimately it means living as your true self. Many people hide their political views, religious views and beliefs in order not to ruffle anyone else’s feathers. We follow what is politically correct in all aspects of our lives. We follow what society tells us we should follow and how we “should” be. We hide our true selves. While being nice is “nice,” it does nothing for us personally and can actually hinder progress. We are all too often living our lives to benefit others, not ourselves. If another person is not feeding you, funding you, or f*#king you, why does their opinion matter at all. You can consider peoples opinions, but ultimately, you need to do what is right for you…every time.
Being authentic and real does not mean you are a being selfish or a narcissist (although it could be depending on your behavior). Authentic people know their own strengths and weaknesses and are ok being vulnerable, while also striving to help others become their best.
Being your truest self can be extremely liberating. You no longer have to hide your beliefs or feelings, you can just be you. Honestly, who truly cares if you are being real or fake…the answer is nobody! True authenticity is when the person you present to the world matches up with the person you are on the inside. No more putting on masks or facades or pretending we are someone we aren’t. It’s quite simple, yet can take years to master.
Here are some key things to work on if you do want to start living more authentically.
1. Adjust Your Mindset
Take a moment to think about if you see things in a positive light or a negative shadow. You may have excuses out your ass for why you can’t do this and you can’t do that. It really comes down to your mindset. Just because you’ve had trauma or have failed in the past does not mean you will again. You will never know unless you give yourself a chance to succeed and take a risk. You are actually risking something either way; you risk not doing what you want to do, or you risk failing. Failing is not a bad thing as long as you learn and grow from it. Be positive, think positive and act positive. Start by making sure your first thoughts of the day are focused around having a clean slate every day to start fresh. Write a note to yourself with this.
2. Stop Judging Others and Yourself
This can transform your life. For the love of all that is sacred, stop judging others and yourself today! Seriously, who are you to pass judgment on anyone, ever? Who are you impose your lifestyle or way of doing things on others? Do you have the perfect answer for everything? You have no right to judge anyone, including your children and family members. Some of this might be mind-blowing, but why? You can never fully experience what someone else is going through. Most people that do judge have no idea what is really happening. Let go of what you think everyone else should be doing. Try to understand and empathize with peoples situations and past behavior before holding it over their heads indefinitely.
Just because you don’t see eye to eye on everything doesn’t mean you can’t add value to each others’ lives. You might find that had you not overlooked the fact that your new co-worker had a history of drug abuse (it’s amazing how fast gossip travels), you wouldn’t have the friendship you have today. Learn to brush off people that judge you by reminding yourself that they don’t truly know you or your situation. Just keep in mind that people who judge others is actually a much bigger reflection on their character. Besides who sets the rules anyways?
3. Realize That People Really Don’t Care About Your Problems
New flash, people do not give a f*#k! People don’t care about the things you probably think they do care about. So many people look at someone’s status, wealth, good looks, friends, and just assume that they’re happy. Or maybe they think those types of people are lonely. That is definitely not the case. We have no clue what does on behind closed doors and why should we care, it’s not our business. People have so much of their own s*#t going on that they don’t have time to worry about what you’re doing or what your problems are. Why do you care so much about other people when they most likely don’t authentically care about you? So stop worrying about keeping up with the Jones’, because they may not be as happy as you think. This journal might give you some inspiration to say “f*ck this s*#t”!
4. Realize That Life Really Is Short
A human’s lifetime is truly a blip in time. Why waste it doing what you don’t love or being with people that bring you down? Honestly, you could be gone tomorrow. Stop waiting for the “right time” or whatever other excuse you are telling yourself before taking that next step that leads to happiness. As long as whatever you enjoy does not harm you or anyone else, why aren’t you doing it? If you want to make a career change because you became a lawyer to please your parents, do it! Life is too short to be living it for someone or something else. Find what brings you joy and incorporate it into your life as much as possible. Authentic people realize the value of their time. The do not want to waste one drop of life doing something that does not work for them. This will also allow you to filter out meaningless things and let you focus on what’s truly important to you.
5. Accept Yourself As You Are
We are not all born with a silver spoon or the physical features of a model. But who cares? If we all were the same clone of each other that would be immensely boring. By accepting your flaws, weaknesses, and past, you can process and move on. You are perfect just the way you are. If you keep telling yourself that you are not good enough, 9 times out of 10 it is because someone else lead you to believe that…and they are wrong. Work on things that matter to you, that you want to improve for yourself. Once you work on accepting who you are, you will feel comfortable and safe in your own skin. When you get straight with yourself, then you know you will be successful at anything you put your mind to. Start today by letting go of something in your past that you weren’t proud of doing. Understand that you are a different person today and you wouldn’t be this person without having that experience and growth.
6. Forgive & Love Yourself
This goes along with number five. Once you accept yourself for who you truly are, you now must to forgive yourself for the things you’ve done and start to love yourself again. If you are holding on to guilt and shame from things you have done in your past, it is definitely time to let them go. Guilt and shame are normal emotions, but if you hold on to them, these feelings will impact your daily life and future endeavors. Holding on to these feelings leads you to be easily embarrassed and regretful, which can prevent you from taking chances and making changes. You CAN NOT change the past, so let it go. Love the person you have become and will continue to improve.
7. Practice Self-Awareness
You must start with observing yourself. Check out this funny book to help you discover more about yourself. As you meet new people, participate at work, and interact with social groups, try to pay attention to how you feel in each situation. Leaning to be more perceptive and self-aware will allow you to identify when you are feeling uncomfortable, understand why you are feeling uncomfortable, and alert yourself to purposefully seek out your authentic self. Authentic people understand their weaknesses and that these challenges help to make them who they are. The more you talk about your own shortcomings, the less ammo it gives to others. Their opinions DO NOT matter anyways! To be authentic doesn’t mean you have to announce all of your weaknesses to the entire world but it does mean that you can’t simply pretend that they don’t exist. Hopefully you will be able to gain strength and knowledge from past failures and flaws. NOBODY is perfect, NOBODY.
8. Build Self-Esteem and Know Your Self-Worth
Increasing your self-esteem and self-worth can be the most significant things to work on. Nobody is born with low self-esteem or self-worth, but conversely nobody is born with high-self esteem and self-worth. Stop trying being perfect, it’s impossible. Work on your strengths, develop those strengths and continue to gain new skills. Know your weaknesses and use that knowledge to your advantage. Despite the massive amounts of articles, programs and products promising to boost our self-esteem, the reality is that most of them do not work and some can make us feel even worse. Stop the negative self-talk and learn to accept compliments. Have compassion for yourself. Stop pretending to be something you aren’t just so people will like you.
According to TED Talks, they suggest the following activity. Start by making a list of qualities you have that are impactful to specific situations. For example, if you were rejected by a date, list qualities that make you awesome relationship material (like being loyal or emotionally available); if you were unable to get a promotion at work, list qualities that make you a valuable employee (like your strong work ethic or forward thinking ideas). Then choose one of the items on your list and write one to two paragraphs about why the quality is valuable and likely to be appreciated by other people in the future. Do the exercise every day for a week or whenever you need a self-esteem boost.
9. Follow Your Own Drummer
Stop doing things just because you think that it’s “cool.” Stop buying things you don’t want or need because someone else has them (most will be out of style next year). The only people who are impressed by you having things or doing things you cannot afford to do are other inauthentic people. Authentic people can see right through all the bullsh*t. You are essentially showing the world that you care more about appearances and things than the quality of your character and long terms goals. DO NOT go into debt trying to keep up with the Jones’. DO NOT feel bad because you don’t have the newest watch, it’s a watch! DO NOT feel like a bad mom because Susie professional stay-at-home mom puts her kids to bed at 7, and you let your kids stay up later. It goes back to the original point; stop worrying about other people’s opinions. Follow what works best for you and your family. Keep the big picture and your long terms goals in mind. You will find that following the beat of your own drummer is highly empowering. If you are considering buying something you don’t need or doing something to satisfy others, ask yourself if whatever it is will matter a year from now, if the answer is no, don’t do it.
10. Get Some Boundaries
As I’ve mentioned in previous blog, boundaries are a biggie. Saying no is the one of the hardest things you can learn to do, but it is one of the best. Setting healthy boundaries allows you to protect and take good care of yourself. A complete lack of boundaries may indicate that you don’t have a strong identity or are enmeshed with another person, like a parent. There are many reasons why we don’t have boundaries or have a lack of healthy boundaries. Nonetheless, setting boundaries will help you define yourself, along with your limitations and improve your self-awareness. You will be better able to identify when someone is crossing your boundaries as well. If you do not learn to set healthy boundaries, you put yourself as risk for higher stress levels, financial difficulties, and relationship issues, all which can cause mental anguish. The boundaries you set will look different depending on the person or place in which you set the boundary. Start by just saying no so something that you do not want to do and do not justify your answer. People might be put off by it at first, but eventually they will realize you are not being offensive, you are just being real.
11. Live In The Now
One thing authentic people have is that they tend to live in the now. Because they realize life is short and time is valuable, they prefer to focus on what is actually happening now. While they still prepare for the future, they know that now is all we truly have and try to enjoy it. Dwelling on the past, does nothing but give you negative feelings about things you could have done differently. Focusing too much on the future can lead to anxiety. While having memories are good, if you are too worried about making memories and therefore make a situation awkward or uncomfortable in the now, you diminish the quality of that experience and cause unnecessary conflict with those around you. For instance if you are upset because you were not invited to your cousins wedding, don’t waste your time telling them how upsetting this was to you because you now cannot have that memory. It is in the past, what can they truly do about it now? There is probably a good reason you were not invited that you are unaware of. Unfortunately you have now put the cousin in an awkward situation that could potentially lead to more issues, not to mention making them feel guilty for not inviting you in the first place, when they probably had the best intentions. So not only do you feel bad, now they do too. The whole thing could have been avoided if you could have focused on your own joy, cherished what you were doing at the time and just appreciate the joy they experienced even though you weren’t there. Why bother even telling them that you were upset, what does that accomplish (more on how to have productive conversations coming soon)? Realize that others do not need to cater to you now or ever. Living in the now, will help you eliminate the fear of missing out.
12. Be Accountable
Being accountable does not mean that you are always accepting blame, you’re the scapegoat or that you are judging yourself. Owning your actions and doing something about them is the name of the game here. Nobody can really know the entire situation accept yourself. No one has full context of your intentions but you. You be responsible for your own actions and emotions. Others cannot control you whatsoever. Once you realize this concept, you then take the power away from others and truly live authentically on your own terms. You only have yourself to impress. This takes a lot of practice. Start small by accepting responsibility for your current situation. You are here now, because of your actions thus far. Now, what can you do to get to the next level?
The goal of this long post is to inspire you do be real. Do what brings you joy. If you want purple hair, dye it! If you want to be a writer, do it! If you want to own a bakery, open it! Love who you want to love. Be who you want to be. Raise your children the best way you see fit. Don’t do it for your parents. Don’t do it for your spouse. Don’t do it because “that’s the way it’s always been done.” If you don’t want to put on a happy face, don’t. It’s can be that simple. With practice, it will be. Stop living to accomplish others dreams and to please society. Enjoy life on your terms, it’s fleeting and precious.