The Authentic You is a Happy and Healthy You

The Authentic You is a Happy and Healthy You 1000 669 Janie

Who would you be if you woke up tomorrow morning, completely forgot your past, and could be anyone that you wanted to be?

An interesting question. The answer to which may hold the key to a remarkable improvement in your happiness and your health.

In this post we explore the concepts of authenticity, personality and what “being you” might mean to the quality of your life.

Is personality a choice?

Who are you anyway? Are you defined by what others think? Is your identity a representation of your “personality”? Are you an introvert, an extrovert? Are you logical or intuitive? Risk-averse or risk-taking?

At some point in our lives we become classified as a personality type either by others, or by the circumstances that we find ourselves in. As adults this becomes our “brand”, that is what we are known for and to continue to be. And this dictates the role we that we play in life and it becomes fixed.

We play it over and over again – it becomes expected of us by those around us – and also by ourselves.

Do you ever find yourself acting or behaving in a way that you do not want to, in order to be accepted and fit the role you believe people expect of you?

Our personality, or our view of the world and our behavioural patterns are shaped in part by our early childhood experiences. For example:

  • If your parents were critical of you then it makes sense that you learned to shut yourself down in order to survive. But does that work for you now as an adult?
  • If your parents did not give you much of their attention then it makes perfect sense that you were always “good” so that you could try to get their love in order to survive. But does that work for you now?
  • If you were bullied at school then it makes perfect sense that you avoid conflict at all costs in order to survive. But does that work for you now?

“What if everything that doesn’t work for you in your life is simply because you have been playing roles that don’t work for you?”

~ Dr Dain Heer (Being You, Changing the World)

These incongruences between the way we behave and the way we want to behave are a source of great inner conflict. There is a tug of war going on inside all of us which is a source of chronic stress. And we know now that stress can have a profound impact on our health and body weight.

Repression and Health

Stress is defined as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances”.

Short-term stress is linked to survival – we react and respond to a situation that threatens us and then we return to normal – while chronic or long-term stress results in ill health due to continual imbalance.

So behaving or acting in ways that are not authentic (or how we want to act) leads to an inner conflict which will increase stress. This conflict expresses itself as either suppression or repression of thoughts and feelings. Suppression is “willing” the mind to stop thinking about something or feeling something that is considered to be maladaptive for some reason, whereas with repression we have willed it away so much that it stays out of our conscious mind without any effort.

Every time we push away thoughts and feelings because they do not fit our current personality or role, or are not deemed to be “acceptable”, we create a stress response in our body linked to ill health as well as having a nagging feeling that there is something not quite right with how we are acting.

“…emotional competence [the ability to be aware of and be able to authentically express our emotions] is significantly compromised, usually in ways entirely unknown to the person involved. Emotional competence is what we need to develop if we are to protect ourselves from the hidden stresses that create a risk to health, and it is what we need to regain if we are to heal.”

~ Dr Gabor Mate (When the Body Says No)

Giving ourself away in relationship

One of the most common areas where people are not themselves is in their intimate relationships.

When we first meet someone we are normally quite “whole” and being as authentic as our role allows us to be at that point. The person we meet falls in love with that version of ourself and in the beginning it is a wonderful feeling to be loved for “who you are”.

But then, perhaps, we begin to second guess our partner’s desires – maybe we start to change ourself to reflect what we think our partner wants. Maybe we stop going out with friends because we think our husband doesn’t approve. Perhaps we stop expressing anger because we think our wife doesn’t like conflict. Maybe we start pretending we enjoy taking risks because we think our partner wants us to do that.

After a few weeks, months or years we have become a completely different person to the person our partner first fell in love with. And this is usually just a shell of our true and authentic self that we went into the relationship with. This is a huge source of inner conflict, stress and source of ill-health

But personality does NOT have to remain fixed

Dr Gabor Mate believes that personality is “an infinitely complex and moment-by-moment interaction between genetic and environmental effects.” This suggests that when the environment changes our personality can change to reflect it – but it never does. Instead we seem to maintain a personality that developed during our childhood for our whole lives.

The human brain is incredibly adaptable and flexible – this is called “plasticity”. If we choose to we can reprogram our brain to think and function differently. We can, in fact, create a NEW personality – one that fits with our authentic self and therefore reduces inner conflict and improves health… and will make us happier!

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Recreate yourself anew every day

So the secret to good health and happiness is being the you that you want to be.

It means having the courage to speak and live our truth without the need for approval of others.

It means staying “you” in relationship and not compromising who we are in order to please others.

It means stepping out of roles and “personality” that no longer work for us and creating a new way of being in the world that feels authentic and true.

And when we find the courage to do this our heart will sing

…and our body can experience vibrant health.

Some tools to help

This may sound difficult, or even impossible, to do this so here are 3 tools to get you started:

  • When you feel an inner conflict – ask yourself “What role am I playing in this situation? “How would I prefer to act, or have acted?”, even if this is after the situation occurred.
  • Be willing to experiment and “try” different personalities on. How does it make you feel? If you feel “lighter” acting a certain way then you are on the right track. If you feel “heavier” then it is not the authentic you.
  • Develop some if…then… strategies so you know in advance what you are going to try rather than having to decide in the moment.

So who are you? And who do you want to be today?

Need some guidance? Finding the “authentic you” is in integral part of our counselling philosophy and programs. Contact us to find out more about how we can help you create a healthy body and a happy mind.