“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we are.” Brene Brown

From the moment we are born our identity is beginning to form. Little by little our small brains are uploaded with information about who we should be or what we should believe. We don’t question these ideas because we don’t have the capacity to when we are so young. We are told who we should be for so long we eventually believe them. Are we who our parents think we should be? Are we what our friends think we are? Are we our societal roles? Finding your authentic self is a lifelong journey, but one that’s essential to embark on.

1. Who are you when you’re alone?

Whenever we get to a point in our lives and we feel lost, it’s because we’ve let outside voices drown our own. Who you are in solitude is your purest authentic self. Many times we get caught up in societal roles. These roles (e.g., mother/father, daughter/son, friend, professional, wife/husband) are important but they often consume us completely. We develop expectations around these roles, some of which are impossible to meet. We may learn great things about ourselves while fulfilling different roles. But in solitude, we’ll find our equilibrium. Who are we when other’s opinions of us are silenced? Who are we when we step away from our societal roles and expectations?

To find our authentic self, it’s important to strive for this equilibrium in our lives. Our sense of self is restored when we take trips on our own, meditate, journal, or take walks by ourselves. They also restore our voice. We won’t know what we want if we let others influence our decisions. Take it from the great Steve Jobs who said:

“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.” Steve Jobs

2. What brings you peace?

In life, we strive for external goals without realizing how they affect our internal goals. We see external goals, such as making money or gaining titles, as the pinnacle of success. Yet, studies have shown these things do not give you happiness. When our goals are mixed with agitation, anxiety, and dread, alignment with your authentic self is missing. If you feel excitement and peace (even if you have fear) you are aligning your goals with your authentic self.

If you feel you can’t be your authentic self with someone in any type of relationship, it won’t bring you peace. You are at peace in your relationships when you are able to express who you are without fear of judgment or criticism. It’s best to minimize or leave relationships that leave you feeling agitated or uncomfortable.

I once had a boss that made everyone in the office feel agitated and anxious. It was a toxic environment. Looking back, many professionals put on personas to fit into certain environments. As a lawyer, there was pressure to fit into a stereotype. The more I tried to fit the stereotype the more out of touch I felt with my authentic self. It’s true finding your authentic self will bring you peace. It’s also true that chasing your peace can lead you to your authentic self.

3. What makes you unique?

We all have a unique blueprint for our life. When we try to fit in someone else’s blueprint, we suffer. We should ask ourselves, what is the price you pay for trying to fit into society? The more we lean into our differences, the closer we get to meeting our authentic self. Are you an orator? Writer? Or particularly gifted at something? Do you work better in groups or alone? Sometimes we fear what makes us unique. But the things that make us unique are precisely what we should cultivate.

Being authentic involves unapologetically embracing your unique traits. When you strive to be normal, you lose a bit of yourself. When you embrace who you are and cultivate your uniqueness, you are one step closer to authenticity. What unique gifts and talents do you have? The more time you invest in your gifts and talents, the closer you are to finding your authentic self. You were born with these gifts and talents for a reason. They are your guideposts to helping you find yourself.

4. Who are you in difficult moments?

Life has a way of showing you who you are in the most difficult moments. Difficult moments strip us of our ego and reveal our truest self. These moments that define our life often reveal to us our own inner strength. Our authentic self is more likely to reveal itself in moments of suffering. Moments when we go inward and not outward for answers. If we remain mindful, suffering will point you in the direction of authenticity. Suffering shows you what hasn’t been working in your life.

Finding your authentic self is a process of elimination. You eliminate what’s working in your life and what isn’t. Moments of suffering pause the voices around us and allow us to reflect on our lives in a more genuine way. Next time you are going through a difficult time, make sure to listen to what that moment is trying to show you. Maybe it’ll give you a glimpse of your authentic self.

5. Your intense curiosity.

Your curiosity is a powerful indicator of who you truly are. We may be curious about many things (e.g., travel, art, music, sports, business). But intense curiosity guides us towards what we genuinely crave. Our curiosity can be influenced by outside voices but your intense curiosity is impervious to other’s opinions.

Intense curiosity is like a boomerang, it comes back to us with intense force time and time again. We can’t look away. We are drawn to it even when nobody is looking. This intense curiosity is the strongest indicator of your authentic self. Your intense curiosity is telling you to listen. What you are intensely curious about is your truth. So if you have something you are intensely curious about. Don’t ignore it. Let it show you your truth.