Authenticity and Happiness
“What do people say about you when you’re not around?”
Do you ever wonder this?
Dare I put it out there that your feelings around this question stem from whether you focus more intrinsically or extrinsically. Alongside the way you speak about others when they are not around.
I notice that when I am my authentic self, I feel amazing. Living authentically means behaving as you really are. Authenticity relies on you being fully aligned. It requires a profound sense of self recognition and transparency. There is a need for consistency, deep honesty, and openness with others. Those who are authentic are vulnerable and comfortable with that. They are also aware of the moment and living in it.
So, what is going on when you experience authenticity?
Researchers have found that positive feelings, good self-esteem, and happiness were the main features of people experiencing feelings of authenticity. Interestingly those who have neurotic personality traits experienced less moments of authenticity. Those with a neurotic personality tend to experience a feeling of being an imposter – as they do not feel authentic in their role. The difficult emotions of the neurotic personality type can block good feelings and prevent feelings of authenticity. Neurotic personality traits are characterised by negative or anxious emotional states, more depressed moods and likely to suffer from internalised feelings of guilt, envy, anger, stress, and anxiety.
Personality traits that increase the feelings of authenticity are honesty and humility. Extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness also. Read my blog post here on how to communicate effectively. The researchers found that positivity increases feelings of authenticity. Whilst adversity, deception and negativity decreased the feelings. It was found that when someone behaves in line with their personality, they do not necessarily feel authentic. Rather they feel authenticity alongside positive feelings of happiness and self-esteem. It has also been recognised that socially valued behaviours feel authentic regardless of one’s personality traits.
The true self
Researchers have been puzzling over whether there is a true self, known as a veridical account. The opposite being a nonveridical account that says true selves are fictional entities that people believe in. If so, this would explain the connection between perceived authenticity and wellbeing.
The likes of Freud, Carl Rogers and Sheldon are all thinkers that believe in recovery through finding the true self. Meanwhile, Sheldon’s self-concordance model of goal pursuit suggests that to meet your goal of being true to yourself. Instead of simply thinking you are in line you must behave in line with that true self. As per the model, certain aspects of yourself are more authentic or true than others, and expressing these aspects is a pathway to better life outcomes.
A parent model maintains that intrinsically motivated behaviour is key to the satisfaction of basic psychological needs and the achievement of well-being.
Self exploration to authenticity
Importantly Sheldon’s model says that your true self may be outside conscious awareness and that processes that facilitate introspective awareness, observing the state of your mind generates greater authenticity and the benefits that come with that.
In a recently published article, the authors write,
Individuals’ experiencing connection with their true selves, regardless of whether true selves exist or whether individuals actually follow them, has consequential impacts on decision satisfaction, psychological well-being, motivation and goal pursuit, social relationships, and many other aspects of “the good life.” (Rivera, 2019)
Self-exploration will enable you to find and connect with your true self. It is an ongoing process, start with a therapist to penetrate the surface so that you can continue to dig deep yourself.
Talking therapy involves exploring yourself with the guidance of a professional. Hypnotherapy, counselling, psychotherapy, psychology are some of the talking therapies that will guide you towards great self-knowledge.
Working with a therapist that you see at regular intervals is valuable self-care. A therapist will not expect you to have a specified reason to make an appointment. Self-exploration is enough. If finances or time prevent this, you can continue to use self-reflection via journaling or a listening partnership.
How to journal
The purpose of journaling is self-analysis, self-reflection, and self-discovery. It is one of the simplest and most used forms of self help. Journaling involves writing down your thoughts and feelings to explore who you are, your feelings and thoughts. It can help you to process your days and give you greater clarity into yourself.
Journaling should be rule free. You are in charge of how you write, what you write and who sees it (preferably nobody – ideally your journal is a private space for you to share without limitations). Journaling should be a regular practice that you spend time on each day. It is not a chore, rather an act of self-indulgence to grow yourself. Write everything and anything that comes into your mind, not everything will lead to something, but it is surprising what does.
A listening partnership
A listening partnership is an agreement you set up. It involves allocating a regular time slot, which can
range from 5 minutes to 1 hour, to listen to each other, with a timer to maintain structure. The act of listening is a skill that takes practise. It means doing exactly that, listening. The listener should not give their opinion, offer advice or comment on anything the speaker says other than the usual ‘uh huhs’ and ‘yups’ etc that confirm the focus of attention is on the speaker.
The speaker should feel heard without judgement. Further, the listener should listen without the intention of fixing. When the allocated time is up you switch roles. After you finish your listening time there is no further mentioning of the subjects with which you spoke about and listened to. Listening partnerships allow you to get rid of your ‘stuff’ so that you can remain present in your life. Meanwhile, they give the benefit of self-exploration that you get from journaling as you work your way through as you speak.
Rivera, G. N., Christy, A. G., Kim, J., Vess, M., Hicks, J. A., & Schlegel, R. J. (2019). Understanding the Relationship Between Perceived Authenticity and Well-Being. Review of General Psychology, 23(1), 113–126. https://doi.org/10.1037/gpr0000161