It’s a complaint you and many others may share: I don’t feel authentic! These 5 questions can help you change this.
If you feel inauthentic, you already know how painful that can be. If you’re a people-pleaser, you know how painful that can be, too. If you feel the real you lives behind a façade, or worse, you aren’t even sure who the real you is any more, use these five questions to shake your authentic self loose from the ties that bind it. I got the five questions from Jairek Robbins, who got them from someone else… and they are powerful!
1. When you were a child, who did you most want love from—not who you got the most love from—but who you wanted love from most?
You probably know exactly who this is. It’s the person whose approval you felt you didn’t have, and you really wanted to win it, whether you “danced to their tune” or you didn’t.
2. What did you have to be (in your mind’s perception) for the person to give you the love you wanted?
Did you have to be smart, pretty, thin, athletic, an achiever, domestic, hard worker, tough, disciplined, frugal, always working, always in control of your emotions, nice, perfect manners, quiet, clever… Were you expected to be the opposite of any of these or others you list? Jairek didn’t cover this, but were there any contrasting expectations from both parents or caregivers, if you grew up with two? It can be exhausting to try to please two or more people who have different expectations of you. Author Barbara Sher has had workshop attendees make a collage to show an image representation of everyone’s expectations of them. One woman completed hers and said, “There! Now everyone is happy but me.”
3. Who could you NEVER be, because you knew (in your mind’s perception, or in reality) the person would immediately take their love away from you?
Were you a tomboy whose mother expected you to dress in frilly clothes and bake cakes instead of climb trees and catch frogs? Were you expected to always be in control of your emotions, and now you can’t feel your life the way you know you’d like to? Were you a boy expected to be athletic but you were really a creative at heart? Expected to be tough, but you’re really tenderhearted? Jairek didn’t cover this either, but what about mixed messages from that person like be nun-like and highly popular at school, or be successful but don’t take any risks? Were there contrasting requirements you tried to meet for two parents or caregivers? Perhaps, “Be successful, but never do better than we have.” Can you see how this one can cause you to hit a wall any time you try to succeed?
4. Who are you today?
Is it still who you thought you had to be for them, or who you really are? Are you still trying to fit the person’s mold for you, whether they’re alive or not?
5. Who do you have to be from this day forward to align with what you desire and deserve in your own life?
What would you have to adjust? Do you need more structure, less structure? Do you need to work harder, work less? Do you need to laugh more, to allow yourself to feel more, to have more joy, to have playtimes; to aim at fulfillment instead of just achievement?
These five questions are worth planning private time so you can give them—give YOU—the attention needed. Will answering the questions and seeing what’s what immediately shift you into feeling and living as your authentic self? I can’t answer that. But, it’s possible you’ll have to do like many of us and take it one day at a time.
Also, remember not to play the blame game. Whoever did whatever to you more than likely had a problem with their authenticity. Compassion has its place here. Knowing who did what may help you process, but hitching your life onto blame will never help you progress. However, you may need to write a letter to the person and burn it so you get some of your anger out. If you try to let them off the hook too soon, you may take on the blame. Understand, as Barbara Sher stated, “We all try to prove our parents right.” This means if you thought you could make an unhappy parent or caregiver happy by being other than you were born as, you’ve had a frustrating time. Anger about this is understandable. Anger held too long hides a deep hurt. Express it to yourself in the letter (even if they admit fault, that won’t change your programming) then use these questions to discover who you really are so you figure out how to move forward.
Make lists for questions 1 through 4. Make another list to the side and rate each listed item as “Is me,” “Isn’t me,” “Sometimes me.” The second list isn’t to be rated according to how you behave now to fit the first list, but what you know is true about your true self, the self you keep hidden. It could be quite an adventure… to discover, explore, and allow your authentic self to take flight, and maybe even soar. At the very least, you can expand your self-esteem and joy.
Practice makes progress.
State of Appreciation (Issue 131) is now live at