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Learning to Live Authentically is a Journey

In our modern society, we are taught from a young age that we have to conform to certain social standards. In some ways this is good, like when we teach kids about manners such as saying please and thank you. But in other ways, learning to conform can eventually become an exercise in self-harm.

When you feel like who you are isn't good enough, like you are too weird, too much, not good enough, or like you have to fight for your survival, then it becomes something insidious. It's "the man keeping you down." But, how do you learn to differentiate between simple politeness and courtesy, and doing things that are hurting yourself?

According to The Clarity Clinic,

The “traditional path” is not for everyone. All people are different and what is good for one person, may not be good for another. Forcing people to conform, or even pressuring people into conforming can be detrimental to one’s well-being.
This can affect one’s mental health in various ways, including leading to depression, anxiety, and increased stress. Clearly, it can be stressful to have society pressuring one to do something and follow in a path that they do not want to do. It can be depressing and anxiety-provoking, if someone chooses to follow a “traditional path” that they do not feel, is right for them.

Following a traditional path can look like adopting beliefs from your parents, extended family, society, religion or culture. It's like the traditional idea of the American Dream. You get out of high school and go to college, get a job, get married, have 2.3 kids, a dog and a white picket fence. There are also ideas about pulling yourself up from the bootstraps, and trying to find material success.

But, material success isn't what everyone is looking for. We may not find the perfect partner right away and feel social pressure to settle down. Or, we may find ourselves in a lucrative career field that we don't enjoy. We may take political or religious views from our parents, and find that they constrict us in ways that stop us from voicing our own opinions.

Whatever the case, hiding who you really are can hurt you in the long run. It damages your mental health, your self-esteem and your relationships.

Limiting beliefs

Many times, we are taught beliefs in childhood that don't fit with who we want to be as adults. You know that nagging little voice in the back of your mind that tells you that you bad things about yourself? That's your Inner Critic talking. The things that it tells you are Limiting Beliefs.

While people in your life may have told you something with good intentions at the time (or not) when someone you cares about tells you something damaging, it sticks with you.

"You're not pretty."

"You're too boring."

"You're too fat."

"You're stupid."

"You don't deserve love."

And the list goes on. The things that people say to us, especially those in a position of trust like parents, teachers and friends, these things get stuck in our subconscious, and they become the things we tell ourselves. Believing that you are ugly, fat, stupid, boring and don't deserve to be loved is going to make your life a mess.

Psych Central has this to say about your inner critic:

It is a cultural norm to believe that criticism or guilt-induced comments will motivate behavior. Perhaps the thinking is that if you realize that your actions aren’t good enough or ideal, you’ll want to change. The critic also gives us a sense of control. So others in our lives may make “helpful,” yet critical comments to reinforce and control our behavior or control their feelings. We can also use judgmental or controlling thoughts with ourselves as a way of coping with fear, shame, and the unknown. Over time, these comments (from both others and ourselves) internalize and become our “inner critic,” the persistent negative self-talk that keeps us stuck.

Often, this negative self-talk comes to us without us even consciously thinking about it. We trust the people who have told us all these bad things about ourselves, so we believe they must be true.

In order to get yourself out of the endless spiral of negative thoughts spinning around in your subconscious, first you have to bring yourself to conscious awareness of them. Notice when you start to feel bad about yourself. What is the trigger? What are the thoughts you are having? Look underneath these, and you are likely to find your limiting beliefs.

Once you identify your limiting beliefs, you can start working to consciously change them. This is a process that takes time, because you essentially have to consciously reprogram your subconscious mind.

Reprogramming Negative Thoughts

Just like it took you a long time to form your current belief system, it will take time to create a new one. Beginning to think more positively needs to be intentional, and it won't happen all at once. The more you begin to put positive thoughts to replace the negative ones, the more impact it has.

It's not a "one and done" fix. It takes saying about 10 positive things to yourself to counteract one negative thing. So, every time you find yourself thinking that you are fat, lazy, stupid, unlovable or whatever else, you need to say 10 positive things to kick those limiting beliefs to the curb.

Tony Robbins provides the following 6 tips to reprogram your subconscious mind:







When you start thinking something bad about yourself, think about what you would like to believe instead. For example, if you think you're stupid, look for evidence to the contrary. Then, write down an affirmation like, "I am a smart person." or "I trust my inner wisdom." Whatever you would like to believe about yourself.

Then, when you find yourself thinking negatively again, recite your new beliefs to yourself. It can also help to say these affirmations first thing in the morning, looking into the mirror. It might feel stupid, but when you do this, it has the mental effect of hacking your brain so it feels like someone else is saying this to you.

You can keep your affirmations on note cards, in a journal, or anywhere they will be close at hand when you need them.

Gratitude is a powerful force in our lives for change. When we make it a point to notice the good in our lives, it helps create positive feelings. So, you can start a daily gratitude practice, and train yourself to be mindful of what is happening around us. Making an effort to focus on the good helps us shift our minds from everything that is going wrong, to everything that is going right.

That being said, it isn't always easy. It takes time to create a new outlook on life.

Be gentle with yourself, and give yourself grace and kindness while you are growing into a new version of yourself. The more you love yourself, the easier it will be to reject negative thoughts from your subconscious, as well as negative things that other people say to you.

If you feel like there are people in your life that are constantly judging you, talking down to you, and telling you all your faults and failings, it may be time to reevaluate these relationships. Take some space from people that are hurting you. Reduce contact as much as possible, and assert your boundaries. Tell them that you will no longer tolerate being spoken to this way.

Living Authentically

If you have been stuck in a spiral of limiting beliefs and negative self-talk for a long time, it is hard to shed these old ways of thinking. You might not even know what it is you really want from life anymore, or the kind of person you want to be. You may have forgotten your dreams.

And, that's OK. It happens to all of us at times.

Learning to live authentically, to do things outside the norm, can be scary at first. Most people never question the social scripts that we have grown up with. Our lives are very much like the lives of our parents, and our grandparents before that. We may inherit faith, or political views.

In order to become your most authentic self, it is time to take a deep-dive into figuring out what you really want. That's where I'm at right now in a lot of ways; starting over.

When you find that the way you have been living your life is making you miserable, there is a good chance you have compromised your authenticity somehow. You may be hiding that you have different views from your parents. You might not talk about your mental health, your sexual orientation, or a career that is off the beaten path.

Whatever the case, learning to still your mind can help you find your core beliefs, and then create a life that is in alignment with your innermost self. You can use meditation or journaling to create a quiet space inside yourself. Then, you can listen for the still, small voice of your heart.

If you are struggling with cutting through all the mental noise that limiting beliefs create, you may want to consider working with a therapist or life coach. They can give you additional tools and strategies to tap into your true self, and find a path in life that will make you feel more fulfilled.

Pay attention to your thoughts, pay attention to your feelings, and learn to be more mindful in your daily activities. As you do, you will notice things, people and places that are making you feel bad about yourself. Then, you get to decide if you want to stay in the situation while asserting new boundaries, or if you want to step away.

At first, learning to set boundaries can feel a lot like cleaning house. You have to let go of the old to make room for the new. It can be scary. You can lose people. At times, you may feel as though you have lost everything. But the thing is, you have to get empty before you can get full. You have to let go of the old to make room for the new.

And, when you are done making room, your life will begin to fill up with things you have chosen in a more intentional way. This allows you to become a truer version of yourself, and to live a life that is in alignment with the deepest wishes of your heart.


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