Very few of us feel comfortable being our authentic self because we don’t see ourselves as remarkable.
We don’t realize that our authenticity is the one thing (more than anything) that makes us unique.
You can visit any city in the world and it won’t take long before you realize what makes that place stand out. Maybe its the food, the culture, some historic landmark, or something else, but there is always something that captures our senses and leaves an impression.
I find it surprising that the places we visit so naturally leave an impression on us because the people we interact with on a daily basis, usually don’t
Think of all the people in your life — your co-workers, your acquaintances, your relatives — and ask yourself, how many of them have truly left an impression on you?
For most of us the answer is, very few.
This got me thinking. What is it about the world’s cities that makes them stand out and about the people we interact with that makes them blend in?
After studying this question for a while, I realized the difference. Cities make no effort to be like anywhere else; each one embodies its own identity and uniqueness. While people, on the other hand, typically do not do this. People usually conform to those around them.
Overcoming the Pressure to Conform
This tendency to conform — which is often subconscious — is called the Asch Phenomenon.
Most of us like the idea of being true to ourselves, but in the moment — almost like a reflex — we simply “go along to get along” and conform to what everybody else is doing.
In the 1950s, Psychologist Solomon Asch performed a series of experiments that proved people have an innate tendency to conform to social pressure. He found that people conform because they do not want to be viewed as “peculiar” or generally believe that others are more likely to be “correct,” according to Saul McLeod in Psychology Today.
Surprisingly, this is also the one thing (more than anything) that makes us unnoticeable. When we conform with the crowd it makes us just like everyone else. It leaves nothing noteworthy about us.
This is a tortured situation because our identity shifts from being our authentic self to being what everyone else wants us to be.
If you truly want to be remarkable you must first learn how to be yourself; this means living authentically with a deep sense of who you are and what you have to offer.
To walk this out, there are three areas where I cultivate authenticity in my own life: knowing my value, forming authentic relationships, and making authentic decisions. Developing each of these areas has helped me to know who I am and what I have to offer.
1. Knowing Your Value
Do you believe you are enough? It is impossible to know your value unless you believe that you are valuable.
To leave an impression on the people we meet, we must first leave an impression on ourself.
This begins with our inner thoughts. Think of your self-talk as the “seeds” you plant.
It is that age-old principal from the Bible at work “as a person sows, so shall they reap.” When a farmer plants a particular type of seed in the ground they expect it to produce a plant that comes from that seed. The same principal is true with our thoughts.
When we fill our mind with seeds of comparison and negativity, we produce feelings of inadequacy. Likewise, when we fill our mind with seeds of positivity, we cultivate feelings of worth and value.
This is a timeless truth that will always produce the same results. Whatever we plant in our minds, we will reap in our thoughts.
Every day I try to plant the following “seeds” in my own life and over time it has radically transformed my confidence.
- Begin each day with gratitude: No matter what is going on in my life, I can always find something to be grateful for. I begin each day by writing down (or thinking about) a few things that I find admirable about myself. I find that the more I appreciate myself, the more others appreciate me as well.
- Guard your mind: Like you, I get barraged with so much information each day. It is overwhelming! Whether you are aware of it or not, this information affects your thoughts and perspectives about yourself. I have become intentional about not living in passive-mode, accepting everything that comes at me. Instead, I approach each day by imagining I have a “mental secretary” who can accept or reject information. This allows me to be intentional about what occupies my precious mental space.
- Affirm your potential: Whenever I approach a new situation or challenge, I don’t just see it through the lens of my current capabilities, I also see it through my potential. I have found that when we affirm our ability to grow and become better, we shrug off public opinion and self doubt, which actually allows us to become our best self. Every day I try to affirm to myself not only what I am, but also what I can be.
2. Forming Authentic Relationships
There are generally two types of people in your life: those who make deposits, and those who make withdrawals.
To form authentic relationships we must distinguish between these two types of people. This allows us to know what to expect from each person in our life and engage with them wholeheartedly.
- Deposits Makers: These are our core tribe. They are those rare and treasured people who pour into us and add value to our lives. We can be vulnerable with them (and they with us) because our relationships are built on mutual trust. They genuinely care about us and show it by engaging with us on things that matter to us. These are the people who realize our potential and encourage us to walk in it.
- Withdrawal Seekers: These are the people in our life who make withdrawals. They are those negative people who constantly discourage us. They tell us to give up on our dreams simply because they gave up on theirs. They have no interest in engaging with us on our accomplishments and milestones, but rather prefer to belittle them or ignore them all-together.
The ironic part is, the people who are usually bold enough to act this way toward us are typically those closest to us. They are our relatives, our acquaintances, even our so-called “friends.”
The number one reason people fail in life is because they listen to their friends, family, and neighbours.
— Napoleon Hill
To form authentic relationships we must seek out the “deposit makers” in our life. When our core tribe is filled with these people we will thrive. Each day we will realize more of our potential and increasingly walk in it.
3. Making Authentic Decisions
Decisions are the way you navigate life; each one determines your course.
To make decisions that are authentic to your true self, you must first have a firm grasp of who your true self is.
When I coach or mentor people in this area, I always point them back to their values. Our values are the “north star” of our decisions. They are those constant markers that remind us of who we are and where we are headed.
The trouble comes when we make decisions — not based on our values — but based on public opinion, our circumstances, or what “everyone else” does. When we do this, we are not being true to who we are, but merely reacting to the world around us.
To make authentic decisions we must let our values shape our actions, our actions become our habits, and our habits become our character. When our character is consistent with our values, making authentic decisions becomes second nature.
- Values: Your values are what is important to you regardless of your circumstances.
- Actions: Your actions are what you consciously do.
- Habits: Your habits are your subconscious behaviors — what you do without even thinking about it.
- Character: Your character is your true self.
Putting This Into Practice
After aligning these three areas of your life with your authentic self, now its time to show your true self to the world. When you do this other’s will be attracted to you because deep down they want to be authentic too.
I have found that there is one thing that causes us to either “step in” or “play it safe” in any situation. To illustrate what that one thing is, I will share a personal story.
A few years ago my wife and I went to a karaoke bar while we were on vacation in Garmisch, Germany. If you ever get the chance to go I highly recommend it. The Bavarian Alps are absolutely stunning.
But as we sat in the bar, one bad singer after another went up and laid it all on the line. It was a fest of Aretha Franklin’s R-E-S-P-E-C-T and the Village People’s Y-M-C-A! It was a great time.
As I watched these hilarious performances, I wanted to join in on the fun and get up on stage, but I also didn’t want to appear weird or be “on the spot” and forget the words to the song. As a result, for most of the night I played it safe and sat in my chair. Have you ever been in a similar situation?
I am happy to say that I finally worked up the confidence to join in and was an amazing backup Y-M-C-A dancer. It was so much fun and we all laughed and joked about it for the rest of the night.
Although this is a comical example, it highlights something central to why we “play it safe” or “step in” during so many situations. The difference is one thing: our confidence.
When we are confident we step in, when we are not we play it safe.
When you find yourself “blending in” with the crowd in a particular situation and you know deep down that you are not being authentic, ask yourself the question, “Why am I not confident enough to be myself?”.
This will make you aware of when you are conforming with the crowd and empower you to take small steps to move out of your comfort zone. Over time — just like in the “seed” analogy — those small steps will grow into giant leaps.
Then you will not only know who you are, but you will also be who you are. Since there are so many people “following the heard” out there, when you decide to follow your own path you will look, feel, and be different from everyone else. That is why this is the one thing (more than anything) that will make you remarkable in every way.