Like the deepest depths of the ocean, the real you is something you probably have not truly seen yet. If someone asks ‘who are you?’ beyond your name, you might say where you live, or your job, or whether you have children, you might tell them your hobbies, the places you love to holiday or your favourite foods. However, our authentic self lies far beneath the things we have achieved, the labels we give ourselves, our likes and dislikes, and the way we look. Learning to recognise and tap into your true self is one of the most important steps you can take on your path to happiness.
THE TRUTH ABOUT IDENTITY
These layers of ego build up over time. When we’re born, that first blissful default state that we experience as babies, we’re just us. Without egos. But as we grow, we get input from the people around us. Maybe our fathers cheer us on when we take our first, tottering steps, but frown when we throw our toys across the room. We learn to adapt, doing more of the actions that get us praise. As kids, we go to the activities chosen for us, trying to kick the football better or play the piano correctly. We learn the jokes that will make our friends smile, the actions that give us a perfect score on a test or sent to the principal’s office. We learn the bands to like, the causes to care about, the teams to root for. And along the way, we also accumulate the negative labels that we hold close to our chests: Class clown. Victim. Failure. An off-hand comment we overhear when we’re eight can be enough to shape the narrative we tell ourselves for the rest of our lives.
All along, we’re busy shaping ourselves to these labels, these moments of approval and disapproval. And it’s exhausting. Trying to get love for the masks you wear is a losing battle, simply because they’re not you. You are not them. Your path to true happiness begins the day you take a good look at all these words you identify yourself by, and you learn to let them go and just be.
In reality, none of us are perfect. and none of us are amazing. And none of us are bad. All of are just – us. And us is beautiful.
THE POWER OF AUTHENTICITY
Researchers have found strong links between authenticity and happiness. Reportedly, people who think of themselves as being more authentic are more likely to follow a path they’re passionate about – and they’re likely to stick on it, no matter what the world tells them. Think of all great gurus or company founders, successful artists or superstar musicians, without confidence in their visions they wouldn’t have had the tenacity to pursue their dreams. True success can only come from finding your true self, discovering what your passions are, and re-activating your default state of happiness.
Authentic people are also more likely to build stronger, deeper connections to the people around them. Sure, in your path to connecting to yourself you might lose some people who were only there for a certain mask you wore. But in losing them, you’ll gain people who are there for the real you and you’ll feel happier and more fulfilled in the long-run.
DISCOVER WHO YOU ARE
An easy way to discover authentic truths about yourself is by learning to question. Free up 10 minutes every morning for a week to sit in silence and just be. Ask yourself questions you would normally ask a new friend. Be truly honest with your answers. Are the things you are saying what you really like or are they what you think other people will like about you? Write these questions and your answers into a journal.
On one of the days, take a look at yourself in the mirror. Why is your hair styled that way? Is it how you would choose to style it, or is it influenced by trends? What about your glasses? That shirt you’re wearing? That tattoo on your arm? Are these all things you genuinely love, or are they part of how you want to present yourself to the world? If your answer is “Yes, I love them!” across the board, congratulations! You’re already on your path to authenticity. If not, then stop and examine them. What would you want to be wearing? Why did you put these on?
As the days go by, start using this technique to look at how you spend your time. Are you always first in line to buy concert tickets, but sometimes you’d rather just curl up with a book? Give yourself that space. Have you always wanted to go rock climbing, but none of your friends are into it? Try an intro class.
Now, turn the questioning to your beliefs, noting what’s actually true for you, rather than what you’re “supposed” to believe. It’ll take some work, but with every question, you’ll be closer to uncovering who you truly are.
A LAST WORD
A final take-away from Mo Gawdat: “You’re not the star of the movie.”
We’re all primed to see ourselves as the great movers and shakers in the world as we experience it, but the truth is – everyone’s lives are just as important to them as ours are to us. And everything’s linked through a great web of interconnections and we rarely see how it all comes together. There are trillions of intertwined stories, and all we can do with ours is to go about it as happily as we can. And by living authentically, we’re doing our best to take that step.
Want to take a deeper dive into the power of being your true self? Mo Gawdat, former Chief Business Officer at Google [X] and author of Solve for Happy, and Rituals are on a mutual mission to make #1MillionHappy. Join us on a 14-day interactive journey that will transform your life and help you find true, long-lasting happiness. Sign up for the Happiness Challenge here.
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