Want to be more authentic? Not-so-quick and dirty tips

Think of someone you know for their authenticity. A mentor, celebrity, leader, colleague, friend, partner. Can’t think of one? Try a pet, or a plant.

Chances are, you find that person/pet/plant refreshing — or irritating/offensive. You have a clear reaction to them, either way.

Because unless they’re currently suffering some kind of ailment or oppression, authentic people are out there doing their thing and standing for what they stand for (whether you like and agree with what they stand for or not).

It’s not that they’re doing whatever they want without regard for consequences, or that they’re always transparent. If they’re holding back, it’s because they want to because they or the outcomes they care about benefit in some way, and they’re aligned with that. They’re not holding themselves back because they think that’s a good or noble or appropriate thing to do by definition.

Authentic people express themselves with a felt sense of freedom. They have a clear sense of themselves, as distinct from their relationships, results and situations.

There’s no formula to be more authentic. It’s different for everyone and that’s kind of the point. If it’s something you’re instinctively craving, I invite you to genuinely consider how you can do more of the following:

  • Connect with, accept, honor and love what you feel, think and want. Without worshipping or wallowing in yourself, or over identifying with any of it. Deepen, open — and keep going.
  • Own the stories that you tell about yourself as just that. Distinguish story from fact. You can be authentic and keep using stories to navigate, influence others and to shape you. Stories — including identity — aren’t truth, but they’re great for that.
  • Practice being at choice for all you think, do and say, as well as how you relate to your feelings. Actions are only automatic as long as we have no insight or no say.
  • Reflect on who you are now, and who you could and want to be. Own your real and ideal self as equally valid and valuable parts of you. Recognize you and others are never entirely demoniacal or perfect. That ugliness is in the end beautiful, and that you’re human — it’s much more than OK.

Authenticity is not a journey for the faint of heart, but it’s one of the most rewarding.

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Casey Onder, PhD

Casey Onder, PhD


Psychologist, success coach, believer in solid behavioral science and the power of tuning in.