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Carol Adrienne Authenticity
by Carol Adrienne, Ph.D.

The idea of being authentic has caught our attention much like the word empowered did a few years ago. It’s curious why authenticity seems so valuable to us that we talk about what it means, wonder if we have it, and search for ways to find it and express it. What makes us think we aren’t authentic?

The other day I was talking to a thirty-four-year-old mother of two small children who lives in Minnesota. I’ll call her Rae. She told me, "I’m not real thrilled with life right now. My kids are two-and-a-half and four-and-half, and I went back to work last January selling real estate. I’ve done sales, customer service, and public relations but I don’t like the idea of hopping around in my jobs. Real estate is okay, I guess, but I really love metaphysical stuff. Reading books on spirituality recharges me. My family all goes to church, but church doesn’t seem to fit for me anymore. I need to find my life purpose!"

When Life Changes or You Wish It Would by author, Carol Adrienne

Becoming Aware

She went on to describe her inner restlessness, her feeling she is "not doing something right" and her growing conflict with her parents and husband. My hunch is that Rae is in a process of shifting values within a milieu that is familiar but not very supportive of her search for fulfillment. Like many of us who are unhappy with where we are, Rae was putting the focus on finding her purpose—which for her meant finding the right career. However, finding the right career can be a mythical panacea that is not the answer to our deepest inner longings to feel recognized, happy, and fulfilled.

Last month in this column, I mentioned the book by Paul Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson, The Cultural Creatives. In that book the authors describe three main streams of consciousness operating in the United States: the Traditionalists, the Modernists, and the Cultural Creatives. As Rae and I talked about the values and interests of these three groups, she realized that most of her friends and family held beliefs that sounded like the Traditionalists—e.g., a patriarchal view of family life, traditional roles for men and women, family, church and community are where you belong, and adhering to conservative customs that maintain familiar ways of life. She felt particularly at odds with the idea that all the guidance you need for your life can be found in the Bible. Her desire to work and have an independent income was not only viewed with criticism by her parents who thought she should devote herself completely to being a wife and mother, but also by her husband. Their frequent fights over her work hours is costing her much anxiety and guilt.

Original Nature is Shaped by Conditioning

As children we have no trouble being authentic. Remember when you woke up in the summer happy with anticipation for the day? Remember the joy you took in having your friends sleep over? Remember your parents’ mixed reaction when you blurted out some delightful, albeit disconcerting, blunt truth? Growing up, we naturally question authority or the status quo because curiosity and the need to understand how the world works are prime motivations in our developing psyche. At some critical point, however, it is inevitably driven home to us that in order to get along in the world, sometimes we need to withhold our opinions, listen to our elders, deny what we see and hear, lie low or even lie. We begin the process of putting a lot of stuff—beliefs, opinions, self-criticisms, pain, fear, disappointments, humiliations, anger, rage, feelings of distrust and abandonment in a closet—with the idea that maybe it will go away or we’ll sort it out later.

Making a Break

Each of us is born into a family or a situation that already has a code and a belief system that works to some degree. For those of us who are adventurous enough—or unhappy enough—to search for personal fulfillment, we may find we are attracted to interests, cultures, lifestyles, or beliefs that don’t jibe with past conditioning. Usually, without any conscious intention to upset the status quo, we find that we’re "not in Kansas anymore, Toto," as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz once said. One of the most poignant interviews I had was a few years ago with a teacher named Jim who lived in the Mid-west. His wife was also a teacher and one day they were looking over the salary schedule for teachers. He said, "My wife looked at it and was excited to know that every year she would receive a 5% pay raise and would retire at 65 with a pension. We had just bought a house and all the furniture we would ever need, and when I thought about how the next forty years were all mapped out for me, I got profoundly depressed."

By his family’s standards, Jim and his wife had everything. He said that given his family’s outlook, he would have found it easier to commit suicide than to get a divorce. Eventually, he told his family he was going West to give himself a chance to pursue his dreams of being a comedian. As painful as the decision was, he later divorced, met the love of his life, and now is active in spiritual teachings and is a master of ceremonies in a comedy club. Jim’s need to live an authentic life was literally a life or death issue.

Inner Listening—Alert Presence

The voice of the authentic self seems to be the same as the intuitive voice, that quiet, but persistent voice that whispers new ideas to us in the middle of the night, on vacation, or after meditating. Intuition speaks in short, clear messages that are qualitatively different from the repetitive mind chatter that makes us feel anxious. Intuition tells us where the authentic choice is—for us.

When we are birthing a more authentic version of ourselves—especially when we are unconsciously growing away from the familiar unspoken contracts and agreements we have with people, we experience some or all of the following feelings, which Rae expressed in our conversation. I asked her to state what she does not want as the first step in identifying what she does want. She said, "I don’t want to be dependent on anyone. I don’t want to feel unsure of myself. I don’t want to be tired all the time. I don’t want to be negative, to always see the down side, or to expect the worst. I don’t want to be a fearful worry wart. I don’t want to be a people-pleaser. I don’t want to feel that I am not being authentic."

In a recent article in Noetic Sciences Review (March-May 2003), Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now, says, "More and more, you realize that you are not your thoughts, because they come and go. They’re all conditioned; they’re all just the contents of your mind. Instead of deriving a sense of self from those contents, you realize that you can simply observe the contents. A deeper sense of self arises then. That is the aware presence, and it feels very spacious and peaceful, no matter what happens in your mind."

Below is a list of some of feelings that comprise a syndrome of inauthenticity—which occurs when our inner needs, values, and self-image don’t match our outer expression, behaviors, and accomplishments—and some major characteristics of an authentic person.

Inauthentic Self

Feels anxious
Is a people-pleaser
Second guesses every decision
Is rigid
Wants to impress others
Says or does things he regrets
Doesn’t expect much
Hides or denies feelings
Feels like a victim
Is paralyzed or hyperactive
Uses addictive behavior
Feels confused and overwhelmed
Feels helpless or hopeless
Is depressed or angry
Gets trapped in endless mind chatter

Authentic Self

Feels optimistic
Is honest and open
Commits but is flexible
Thinks for himself
Goes with the flow, open to change
Wants to do her best
Knows when to apologize
Knows how to accept and receive
Listens to feelings
Takes responsibility
Acts when appropriate
Makes healthy choices
Knows when to stop and reevaluate
Knows how to ask for help
Feels happy a lot of the time
 Is tuned into a larger field of intelligence

Challenging Situations

It’s easy to assume that once you learn the secret of authenticity, you are going to be confident, balanced, wise, and resourceful all the time! However, some situations carry more stress, which may cause us to regress into old patterns. Think of the times you have attended cocktail parties, business meetings, job interviews, high school reunions, and blind dates. These are the Authenticity Olympics for most of us!! Begin to notice with which friends you feel more yourself—more authentic. You may feel more comfortable in small gatherings--or oddly enough, meeting a stranger on a plane where you find yourself spilling out feelings you haven’t shared even with family members. It’s easier to be authentic when your identity is secondary to other actions, like chatting with the owner of an adorable and friendly dog. A good sign that you are feeling authentic is when you feel expanded and relaxed. Feeling hemmed in or contracted is a sign that you are shutting down and not being as present as you could be.

Start Now

Becoming a self-confident, happy, and fulfilled person who uses her talents to create prosperity and well-being--as well as to give service to others--is a life-long task. How might you increase your sense of being truly authentic?

  • MEDITATE. Practice clearing the mind regularly. Observe passing thoughts as if they were clouds.
  • SPECIFY THE FEAR. When you feel fear about some new action or decision, write down exactly what you are afraid might happen. Get very clear about the shape of the fear and what you are actually dealing with.
  • FIND THE ROOT. Ask yourself, Whose voice is talking to me? Who is making me afraid? Is it my voice? My parents? The voice of mass media?
  • MANAGE AROUND THE FEAR. Write down specific things you could do to work around the fear so that you can take a small step in spite of it.
  • DROP SELF-DOUBT. The best way to feel good about yourself is to complete something that you have been putting off, or to set one small goal and achieve it. Nothing begins to erase self-doubt more easily than a little string of successes.
  • LOOK FOR A THIRD SOLUTION. Whenever you are agonizing over two choices, remember that this polarization serves a purpose—to keep you from taking any step. When lost in black and white thinking, look for a third option.
  • APPRECIATE YOUR UNIQUENESS. Everyone has a special knack, talents, and skills. Everyone.
  • STOP STRUGGLING. There is a time for perseverance and a time to let go.
  • ENJOY THE MOMENT. Take delights in small pleasures and beauty. Be with people you love and enjoy.
  • TAKE TIME. Slow down. Avoid the tendency to fill up the space.
  • STAND UP FOR WHAT YOU BELIEVE. Nothing drains energy more than suppressing action, passion, and commitment.
  • SIMPLIFY. Troubles arise when we set ourselves up to do too many things or to manage too much stuff. Being authentic is being able to say yes when you mean it and no when you need to.
  • SPEND MORE TIME IN NATURE. The beauty, quiet, and harmony of nature helps you observe your thoughts as separate from who you are. Natural surroundings help put options into perspective. Peaceful sounds of birds, flowing water, wind, and waves lull the mental chatter and clear the mind. To quote Eckhart Tolle, "When your sense of self is no longer tied to thought, is no longer conceptual, there is a depth of feeling of sensing, of compassion, of loving that was not there when you were trapped in mental concepts. You are that depth."

You need not make huge changes in your life to experience being more alert and present. Acting on any one of the choices above can immediately change how you experience your life.

© Copyright 2003 Carol Adrienne, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.

Carol Adrienne
Carol Adrienne, Ph.D., is an internationally-known workshop facilitator and author whose books have been translated into over fifteen languages. Her latest book is When Life Changes, or You Wish It Would. Oprah hailed, The Purpose of Your Life: Finding Your Place in the World Using Synchronicity, Intuition, and Uncommon Sense a must-read. She is also the author of The Numerology Kit. An electronic copy of Your Child’s Destiny—a numerological guide for parents is now available at www.CarolAdrienne.comm. Carol is available to for keynotes, workshops, and seminars and can be reached at Carol22@sonic.net or (510) 528-2226 weekdays 10 am to 6 pm PST.



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