We live in a world where it is difficult to be yourself and be appreciated for who you are. Media messages tell us multiple times a day how they can improve us. Whether they are wanting us to lose weight, wear new clothes, or drink their beer doesn’t matter, the message is the same: we aren’t enough of something we should be, and they will help us get there. Even uniqueness isn’t immune to being part of this marketing, and is used as a strategy to convince us to be different – like everyone else.

We also get pressured by our jobs to conform to a set of standards that must be followed. We learn our corporate culture and find a way to fit in with it. We learn to talk the talk and walk the walk. Our families make demands on us to be what they need us to be, as well. I don’t think any of this is done intentionally or maliciously, but it’s hard to figure out which path to follow and which of these expectations is most important. In the process, we lose ourselves.

Friends and clients tell me that they don’t know who they are or what they want out of life, but they have discovered that it isn’t necessarily what they are supposed to want or what others want for them. It might not even been what they have been working toward for so long. They have to reassess and make decisions about what is really important to them so they can live the life they know they want to live.

The most difficult part of making changes like this, however, is that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of support for the people doing them. Sure, there’s plenty of lip service about authenticity and being yourself, but often you’ll be asked to tone it down or do it in a way that still allows others to remain comfortable and undisturbed. That will squash your budding authenticity for sure!

Being authentic means that you are genuine and true to yourself in all situations. It’s a difficult proposition because, in the process, you’ll probably say and do things that others don’t approve, and they may be hurt by this. You’ll find yourself faced with decisions that have no easy answers because you know what others would want you to do, and you’ll feel that you can’t do that in good conscience. You’ll find that others don’t agree with you, and therefore, don’t accept you as you are and as you are trying to live. And you’ll find that it’s easy to stray into the territory of doing things to make others happy at the expense of your convictions because old patterns have a way of coming back to us in times of stress.

But I encourage you to be who you must be as much as possible. I encourage you to find supportive and accepting people who allow you to be truly authentic. I encourage you not to let yourself off the hook when you hurt others out of anger and disappointment and truly work towards being the authentic person you want to be. I encourage you to define your values and to live by them and to create a vision of your life that you work towards every day. I encourage you to be creative and live out the best parts of yourself in a genuine way.  I encourage you to make mistakes and learn from them. And I encourage you to change your values and your vision as you develop and grow.