In today’s world living authentically is quite the challenge. Part of the challenge – indeed a good bit of it – is in dealing with a society that encourages conformity almost to the point of worshipfulness.
Oh don’t get me wrong, we have plenty of choices when it comes to purchases; to styles and entertainments; to political ideologies and religions and genres of reading material. We can choose from a plethora of car models or types of furniture or computer software or talk radio stations every day but the point is that if you don’t choose one at all; if you choose not to choose or (heaven forbid) choose something that is not on society’s ‘acceptable’ or ‘recommended’ list; if you don’t toe the line when it comes to society’s expectations for what you should be doing, you run the chance of being ostracized.
It’s an interesting conundrum. You get plenty of encouragement to express your individuality, but if you don’t choose correctly you run the risk of being ostracized, and heaven only knows that people have a fear of being considered different; of being shunned or ignored by others; of not being accepted, and so they will do anything to fit in; to feel as if they belong.
Worse yet, this is not something that is only put on us by our society. There are layers of conformity laid down all throughout our culture. We are subjected to the expectations of our governments, our educational systems, our religions and even our families. Everyone, it seems, is expecting something from us.
Indeed, the idea of being exactly who and what you really are is not only discouraged by society in general, but most people can’t even begin to tell you where the real ‘them’ begins, because they have immersed themselves so completely in the expectations of others that they have lost track of their authentic self years ago. The trick comes in rediscovering who and what you really are.
The First Step to Living an Authentic Life
Living an authentic life is living a real life; a genuine life; a life where your physical reality and your soul purpose are in alignment. It means living the life you were born to live, and even if you have buried that authentic self under layers of expectations and commitments, you can rest assured that your authentic self is still there, just waiting for you to rediscover it, and the first step is simpler than you might expect; it comes from rediscovering your joy.
Do you remember joy? I’m not talking about happiness here. Happiness is a choice. You can choose to be happy in spite of your circumstances, you can also allow outside circumstances to increase (or decrease) your happiness. Joy is something else altogether.
Pure, unadulterated joy is what you experience when you are doing something that completely and totally engages every part of your being. It is what happens when you are free of constraints and restrictions and are able to fully experience everything that is happening at this exact moment in time. It is what happens when you are able to open yourself up completely; so completely that time actually ceases to exist and you find yourself suspended in one absolute and perfect moment of now.
You can see true joy in the face of a small child who has brushed off the restraining hands of an adult and is doing exactly what they wanted to do.
You can see pure joy in the face of an athlete as they hit that moment where everything drops away and where they are completely and totally aware of every cell and fiber in their body working in synchronization with every other cell and fiber.
You can see unadulterated joy in the face of an artist or writer as they become one with their work; in the face of the monk who has slipped into a pure state of awareness during meditation and in the face of a lover as the world around them dissolves into heat and light.
It is in rediscovering your joy that you will take your first step towards living an authentic life, for those things that bring us joy are directly connected to our higher self; to our soul purpose, and by pursing them; by engaging in those activities you will reconnect with who and what you really are. But how do you begin to find what it is that brings you joy?
Rediscovering Your Joy
The problem is, of course, that everyone is different, and the activity or object that instills joy in one person may not be what triggers it for another, which means that no one can tell you what it is that brings you joy, they can only explain how to find joy for yourself.
It’s actually far simpler than you might imagine rediscovering your joy is simply a matter of remembering those things; those activities; those ideas that completely engaged your attention. Mind you this may involve go back to when you were young; to when you had fewer obligations and responsibilities; to when you acted spontaneously and without consideration of the feelings of others. Keep a pen nearby when you are thinking about this and write down those things that come to mind.
Did singing in the choir raise your spirit through the roof? Did you get chills when you stood on stage and said your lines to spontaneous applause and laughter? Was it laying on the warm grass on a summer afternoon that touched your heart? Or maybe it was the wind blowing through your hair as you ran pell-mell down a hill or through a field, or maybe it was the colors of a spectacular sunset that took your breath away.
Write them down. Write them all down.
Chances are that with some thought you will be able to list a number of things that you can remember brought you joy. But it is not enough simply to remember those things that brought you joy. In order to live an authentic life, you have to be able to live your joy. You have to be able to act from your heart without fear of censure or criticism. Then and only then will you have taken the first step towards living an authentic life.