How to Come Home to Your Authentic Self
Life is all about change and transition. Even more so, since the pandemic. We long to be our authentic self. Nothing is certain anymore. People have lost income and loved ones and the future is unpredictable. We’re making decisions that cause us concern and our stress levels have multiplied to a ridiculous level. How do we manage all the changes in our lives? How do we navigate all that we’re going through with sanity and mindfulness?
We need a place that is safe from all the storms. A place where we feel secure. A place of safety where we are truly seen. Somewhere that we can be completely ourselves. That place is home. A respite from inauthenticity and stress where we can simply be.
What is your hope? What are your dreams? What are the outcomes that you desire in your life? Where are you currently? How will you get from your current situation to your dream life?
Finding the answers to these questions is part of the process of making your way home. That’s where coaching helps by giving you a sounding board. Pertinent questions lead you to your outcomes even if you find a completely different outcome that suits you perfectly. It’s all part of the adventure. It starts with hope, a dream, or desire. It’s part of finding your authentic self.
What is Hope?
The dictionary defines hope as a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen. There’s an element of trust involved. Martin Luther said that everything that is done in this world is done by hope. So, in order to make changes in our lives, no matter how insignificant they may be, we require hope. We go on an eating plan because we hope to lose weight. We study a topic because we hope to become proficient in it.
Psychologist and hope researcher, Charles Snyder, said the following:
A rainbow is a prism that sends shards of multicolored light in various directions. It lifts our spirits and makes us think of what is possible. Hope is the same – a personal rainbow of the mind.
What do you hope for?
Do you dread waking up to your normal daily routine? Do you spend most of your time thinking of the good old days or dreaming about where you would love to be? Are you constantly feeling tense and stressed? Do you envy other people’s lifestyles? Do you constantly feel tired? Do you become easily annoyed? Do you often experience a sense of foreboding? Do you over-analyze everything?
If you answered yes to some of these, it indicates that you may need to make some changes in your life.
What are the outcomes that you desire in your life? What is your longest-lasting dream? It all starts with hope.
Sometimes we feel that we are someone else’s version of ourselves. How do we take charge of who and what we are?
In order to self-express or even know what our hopes are, we need to know ourselves. You need to know what you like, know what you love, and know what lights you up. Know what you will and will not accept in your life. You need to know what you value and what you think is important.
By letting our old selves go, we become lighter and more authentic. People are drawn to us being who we are. Subconsciously when we are our true selves, we give other people permission to do the same. It is then that hope flourishes and trust grows.
Where are you currently?
Hope is more than a state of mind; it’s an action-oriented strength. In the absence of this inner resource, how do we find the motivation to pursue our goals and the resilience to pick ourselves up when things go wrong?
Many people persevere with the idea that hope is an either/or proposition, believing that in order to have hope, all despair must be extinguished. While it is true that hope comes and goes, and there are times when we feel like all hope is diminished, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Hope encourages change. The first step in change is assessing your current situation. Are you where you want to be? This applies to every area of your life, not necessarily a geographical location. Where are you mentally, spiritually, physically, emotionally? Are you satisfied with where you are? It’s wonderful if you are happy with your status quo. But if you want to change, you need to know which areas you want to change in? How do you want to change? What is the light at the end of your tunnel?
Chat to a good friend or significant other about the different areas of your life. Where you see yourself now and where you would like to be. Allow your partner to give honest feedback to gauge how much you know yourself and how realistic you are. Here’s a balance of life wheel to help you.
“Acceptance of the unacceptable is the greatest source of grace in this world.” – Eckhart Tolle
Onwards to Your Authentic Self
Movement of some sort is required. One step at a time. A good way to keep moving towards your hopes is to be accountable to someone. To meet regularly and discuss where you’re at and speak out about what your next steps are. Once you’ve told someone, you tend to act on your spoken word. Each step takes you closer to the welcome mat outside the front door of your home.
What are you moving towards?
We can hope till the cows come home, but this is the stage where the planning and action begins.
You probably have a number of hopes and dreams, so which one is most practical or realistic for this moment in time? What is your next area of focus?
- Write down at least one hope or dream for each area of life in the wheel
- Choose which one or two you choose to work on for the short-term
- Place the others in the sequence that you choose to work through them going forwards
What is your plan to get there?
To get from point A to point B, you need to assess what point A is. What’s the current reality? Eg. if you hope to lose weight, you need to look at your current weight. That’s point A. Now that you know where you currently stand, you can look at a realistic goal. In this example, you would choose your realistic goal weight. That’s point B.
Now you need to look at a way to get to point B. To use the same example, you would employ some sort of healthy eating plan and maybe some exercise routine to go with it. You would start small hoping to lose a little each week and continue to build upon that. If you cheated on your routine, you would simply get back on track the next day.
Most of your activity revolves around your mental state. You make a choice and you act on that choice and it’s not a disaster when you don’t stick rigidly to it. Off days are normal. What is important is to climb back up the following day and get going again. Take note of your daily mental state and speak to yourself, praise yourself, acknowledge your small steps, cheer yourself on. Each step is a major victory, so pat yourself on the back.
What are your daily actions to get there?
What are the small actions that you need to take? Practice makes perfect. Your daily actions are what will take you forward. Little by little, step by step. Here are some daily actions to help you reach what you hope for.
- Look at your hopes and dreams daily. List your goals and remind yourself at the beginning of each day.
- Keep a visual reminder of your goals in front of you. Do what works for you – a screensaver on your computer or phone, a picture in your purse, a picture on your cupboard or fridge.
- Make a plan. Break your goal down into smaller tasks.
- Schedule time each day to complete your actions. Add a specific time each day even if it is 5 minutes.
- Remember the benefits of reaching your goals. This is helpful when the going gets tough.
- Don’t beat yourself up over mistakes along the way. Learn from them and move on.
What is in your current toolbox to help you get there?
In every airplane crash in the movies, the survivors look at what they have in order to escape their grim situation. Before heading out into the wilderness, they look around for anything that may help them to survive. Food, shelter, utensils, whatever it may be. Some may even choose to stay at the scene of the air crash in the hopes of being found.
Fortunately, we are not in such a dire situation. However, before embarking on your plans to change, you need to assess what you currently have that may assist you. What do you already possess that can help you take those small steps? What can help you in your daily routine? It could be support people, some of your personality traits, your talents, skills, or resources.
What are your obstacles?
Here are some common obstacles to change:
- Being overwhelmed or intimidated: Make the change easier or make it smaller. For example, instead of trying to do 20-30 minutes of exercise, do 5 minutes.
- Fear: Make it less scary. For example, if you think you can’t learn Zulu, try learning to say hello, goodbye, and thank you. Then you feel confident enough to learn a few more words. That second step makes you feel less afraid and more confident, and so on until you’re confident to tackle the change.
- Time: We’re busy, so we procrastinate or get side-tracked. Again, make the change smaller. If you just do 5 minutes a day, you’ll have the time.
- Prioritizing: Other things take priority, pushing your change to the backburner. Learn to make your change a high priority. A great technique for learning this is to be fully committed. To fully commit, tell someone about it, and keep that person updated to feel accountable.
- Resistance from others: This is tough because we don’t have control over it. Try to get others involved early in the decision-making process, ask for their help, include them. Ask for their support.
- Lack of motivation: Two ways to stay motivated – focus on the enjoyment of the habit, rather than doing it as a chore, and do it with others.
- Negativity: I can’t do it. I’m not good enough. I’m not strong enough, or disciplined enough. It’s not worth it! Learn to listen for these negative thoughts and become aware of them. Then, learn to squash them and replace them with positive thoughts.
As much as we’re focusing on moving onwards, the journey is as important as the destination. We don’t want to be so focused on the end goal that we miss out on the beauty and serendipities along the way. That’s where mindfulness fits in. Allowing ourselves to find the surprises in the mundane and to enjoy the small victories of everyday living.
What is mindfulness?
We’ve spoken out our hopes, planned small steps towards change, and mindfulness is where we participate in and find joy in the journey.
Mindfulness is to be conscious or aware of something. Synonyms include being sensible, alive, alert, acquainted, heedful, and wary.
There are whole websites dedicated to mindfulness and plenty of mindfulness apps available for our smartphones. Basically, mindfulness seems to be living a life that is more aware of the moment. It’s a form of meditation.
A more esoteric definition is an intentional acceptance and non-judgmental focus of attention on emotions, thoughts, and sensations in the moment. For example, I love to sit in the winter sun. Finding a sunny spot and relaxing, closing my eyes, and allowing the warmth to spread over my body is the most sublime feeling. Mindfulness allows me to focus on the moment and experience the fullness of it. A simple joy that transforms the moment.
How do you practice mindfulness?
We tend to constantly multi-task. Keep an eye on dinner while folding laundry. Listen to a podcast while commuting. Answer emails while watching telly. As our to-do lists get longer, so do our stress levels. We perform on autopilot without thinking why we are doing them or if they are important.
Mindfulness is a way to combat the stress and noise of everyday living. It empowers us to focus on the present in an accepting, non-judgmental way. We are intensely aware of the present moment, of what we sense and feel. There are no right or wrong thoughts, feelings, or emotions when we practice mindfulness. We don’t need to react or analyze. We simply observe, take note, accept it, and let it slide away.
We can formally practice it through mindfulness meditation or informally through what we are experiencing in the moment.
- Stand or sit at a window
- Look at all there is to see. Don’t label what you see; instead of thinking “bird” or “road,” notice the colors, patterns, or textures
- Pay attention to the movement of the grass or leaves in the breeze. Notice the different shapes in this small segment that you can see. Try to see the world outside the window from the perspective of an alien
- Be observant, but not critical. Be aware, but not fixated
- When distracted, gently pull your mind away from those thoughts and notice a color or shape to put you back in the right frame of mind.
Moments in the mundane
Place the mundane moments of your life into good use by practicing mindfulness during the routine. How about mindfulness while walking? This works best outdoors, in nature. Tune in to your surroundings. What do you hear? What can you smell? Pay attention to the smallest details. When ready, turn your thoughts inward to how your body is feeling.
Combine mindfulness with other activities during your day. Slow and repetitive activities work well. Swimming, yoga, tai chi, and similar sports are good options. What about eating? Slow down and taste the different flavors in each mouthful. Shower or bath time is great too.
- Look around you and bring your attention to five things that you can see. Pick something that you don’t normally notice, like a shadow or a small crack in the concrete.
- Notice four things that you can feel, like the texture of your pants, the breeze on your skin, or the smooth surface of a table you are resting your hands on.
- Notice three things you can hear. The chirp of a bird, the hum of the refrigerator, or the faint sounds of traffic from a nearby road.
- Notice two things you can smell. Bring your awareness to smells that you usually filter out, whether they’re pleasant or unpleasant. Perhaps the breeze is carrying a whiff of flowers, or the smell of neighbors having a braai.
- Notice one thing you can taste. You can take a sip of a drink, chew a piece of gum, eat something, notice the current taste in your mouth, or even open your mouth to search the air for a taste.
“Conscious breathing heightens awareness and deepens relaxation.” – Dan Brule.
Breathing exercises are a great way to create centered calmness. Slow breathing is an effective way to reduce anxiety. Practice breathing exercises on a daily basis and the results will surprise you. When you are stressed your breathing rate increases. Slowing down your breathing tells the body that there is no danger and your mind slowly follows suit. So simple, yet so effective.
Breathe in through your nose and deep into your stomach. Hold it for a few seconds then slowly release it through your mouth. Take 10 slow deep breaths, deeper and longer than usual. Feel your body relax. Feel the tension leaving you. Get into the habit of doing this or other breathing exercises on a regular basis.
Simple acts of meditation
The key characteristics of mindfulness are:
- Intention: You are seeking awareness. If your mind wanders, and it likely will, you return to your intention.
- Attention: You are giving your full attention to the present and your thoughts, feelings, and sensations.
- Attitude: You are open and accepting, not judging.
- Find a quiet place in the house or a quiet spot somewhere.
- Wear something comfy.
- Sit in a comfortable position.
- Rest your hands lightly on your legs, palms up or down.
- Begin by focusing your breathing as you allow your mind to settle. Notice your inhales and exhales; feel the air filling your lungs from top to bottom.
- Use your senses to become aware of your surroundings. What do you smell, see, or hear?
- How are you feeling, physically and emotionally? Don’t judge or attempt to label your responses. Simply observe and release your thoughts as they flow.
- If your mind wanders, which it probably will gently redirect your thoughts back to the present moment.
- Finally, when you’re ready to end your meditation, focus on your breathing again as you slowly open your eyes and bring the practice to a conclusion.
Joy in the journey
Focus on the changes you desire in your life, but still, enjoy life and be mindful of all the goodness and joy along the way. Anticipate the future with hope, but live fully in the present as well. It’s the balance of life. Learn from the past, face the future, but live now.
The only time we suffer is when we believe a thought that argues with what is. When the mind is perfectly clear, “what is” is what we want. – Byron Katie
The Essence of Your Authentic Self
This is the real goal – truth. Finding our truth. That centredness of being that invites us to discover who we really are. The safety of being truly home. This is where we find freedom and are able to deal with whatever life throws at us. Where we wipe our muddy feet on the welcome mat, throw open the door, and burst into the safest place on earth.
Where and what is home to you?
The following are answers from people when asked, what is home to you?
“Where I can be naked, both emotionally and physically.”
“Home isn’t a place; it’s a feeling.”
“A zone where my boss, pesky customers, and bad drivers are absent and where the absurdities of the day can be shared―unchecked, unedited, and without remorse.”
“Home means sanctuary.”
“A place that evokes a sigh of relief as I walk in the door.”
“Home means predictability in an uncertain world.”
“Home is my soft place to land.”
“I work at a nonprofit organization serving the homeless, and they have taught me that home is where you are treated with dignity and respect and where you feel safe and deserving, even on the worst days.”
“Coming home is the place of acceptance and contentment
What is home to you?
Where and what is your safe space?
The first thing we ask someone when we meet them, after their name, is where they are from. We ask because we recognize that the answer tells us something important about them.
The image of a home symbolizes the self. Our failure to give our unique individual self its due often leads to insecurity and a sense of anxiety. For a sense of security, meaning, and vocation, we need a “home” firmly founded on a deep awareness of who we actually are. What is our essence? When do we feel most centered? Home is the primary connection between you and the rest of the world. Home is the center of the world and a place of order that contrasts with the chaos elsewhere.
We need to create a safe place every day by practicing the things that center us. This will include visualizing our hopes and dreams, acting where necessary, and being mindful along the way.
What are your top three values in life?
Part of your essence is having deep convictions and knowing what your values are. I call them my non-negotiables in life. There’s a lot that I’m relaxed about and happy to make compromises on, but there are certain issues where I take a stand and won’t back down. When you know what is important to you, it’s easy to make decisions about your life because they either fit into your value system or they don’t.
What do you hate and what do you love about yourself?
Evaluate yourself and know yourself. What makes you jump for joy? What makes you cry? What are your passions? One way to find out is to answer the question, “what would you spend your life doing if money wasn’t an issue?”
What do you love about yourself? At least 3 things. Anything – physical, intellectual, personality traits? We often pursue our passions when we know what we love about ourselves. The converse is also a possibility. What do you hate about yourself? These things are what often prevents us from doing what we love.
Emotional safety allows us to reveal our true selves to our trusted others. It is expressing who we are, including our hurts, fears, and dreams. It’s being able to express ourselves authentically, sharing dissatisfaction and insecurities, and having a conversation without being reactive.
When we feel emotionally safe, we are able to be our best selves. We are free to dream, collaborate, create, share, and express ourselves. When we open up and do this in a safe environment, we invite others to do the same.
When we know and like who we are, we are more open to others and unaffected by their actions towards us (although wisdom needs to be applied in this regard). Here’s how we can make others feel safe:
- Be consistent. Be there for your inner circle. When you are consistently present, others see you as reliable and trustworthy.
- Listen. Listen to learn, not to respond.
- Be curious, not judgmental. Be interested in what the other person is interested in. Ask questions.
- Show empathy and compassion. Feel what they feel and genuinely care about who they are and what they believe.
What is your truth that sets you free?
Your essence is your core, where you are centered, the authentic you. It’s your absolute truth. It’s said that the truth will set you free, so what is it that sets you free? When we are comfortable and brave enough to truly be ourselves, that’s freedom. Are you living in your truth? Sometimes that truth may sprout and grow in unexpected directions and that’s absolutely fine.
From this place of authenticity, we can rise and do anything that we are called to. It’s not a strain. We can continue onwards to reach our hopes and we can be mindful during the process.