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The challenges of being your authentic self

Updated: May 5

Living authentically is all floating in bubble baths, candlelit massages and deep inner peace.




Sure, if by bubble baths you mean feeling like you're lost in a frothing sea. And by candlelit massages you mean feeling like someone’s lighting fire to your skin. And by deep inner peace you mean feeling slightly anesthetized.  


The truth is, finding our authentic selves isn’t a straight, easy path. It’s more like a mining expedition – sweaty, dirty and, sometimes, a bit like being in mortal peril.


Which is fitting because to become our true selves, unhelpful, conditioned parts of us must die.


The more authentic I become, the more I am challenged. Not because I’m being punished. Not because it’s a “no pain, no gain” situation.


But because I’m upleveling. This is what it means to grow.


If being your true self feels hard, that means you’re on the right path. Keep going.


(If you’re wondering what authentic self means, see here.)


Becoming your authentic self is like a video game; you must triumph over obstacles and develop necessary skills on one level before you can advance to the next. You get endless chances to learn how to conquer the threats and hone the skills (even if it requires you to “die” to try again). And each time you uplevel, the vista changes. There are new colors, new powers and new challenges.

person playing a video game


In other words, you don’t level up and then lounge in a hammock with a book. All progress is rewarded by greater challenge.


We think we don’t like challenge. We say we want easy. We want certainty. No thank you to change.


But we want to be in the arena. We want to play. We are designed for growth. We hunger for it, long for it, seek it out. We love the tug of inspiration, exploration and expansion. We couldn’t stop growing if we tried.


Because without challenge, we are bored, restless and dull. We are asleep at the wheel.

Diamonds form under pressure. Immune systems grow strong thanks to invaders. Muscles build by being torn down. Broken hearts know the deepest love.


Expansion is life-giving to us. Challenge and triumph give us fulfillment, purpose and joy.


Still. Sometimes the challenges of being our authentic self can derail, disorient and discourage us.


But if we know what to expect, process can feel less hard, less lonely and less confusing. It can actually be empowering, exciting and fun.


Here are a few unexpected things about being your true self.


It’s scary to be your true self.

Like legit terrifying. When you are used to living by proscribed standards and expectations, stepping outside of them can feel like walking around without your skin on.


My core issue was a fear of not belonging if I was my true self. I spent years conforming, tucking myself in and making myself small so I could belong. I feared that if I stopped doing this and showed up as myself, I wouldn’t belong with those I love.


I believed I could either be me OR I could belong. This is a very painful fear to face and for a long time I could not justify the risk of being myself. But in the end, I hit my tipping point. (see below)

We often have to reach a tipping point.


The tipping point is when not being your full self is MORE painful than the risk of showing up authentically.


As you near your tipping point, be compassionate with yourself. And simply pay attention. Notice the fear that surfaces when you feel called to express yourself authentically. Notice what it feels like to shrink back, to put someone else’s comfort over your own, to swallow your words because you fear rejection.


Don’t judge. Just notice. This helps us shift through the tipping point without damage to ourselves.


There are good reasons we act from our conditioned self instead of our true self and most of them are rooted in safety. We all have a deep need to belong. Doing something our group/family/culture/boss would not approve of is a huge personal risk.


But then again, so is banging around your life as someone other than yourself.


Let yourself teeter. You’ll shift when the time is right for you. Authenticity requires bravery but it does not require forcing.


When you hit your tipping point, the whole process gets easier because the torture of “will I/won’t I” is removed. The energy of struggle has shifted.

antique scales

Some parts of our true selves are wrapped up in old pain.


While reclaiming our true selves is a process of clearing the old debris that obscures us from ourselves, sometimes it’s more complicated than that.


Some parts of us may have split off and been stored inside deep pockets of pain. Inside trauma. Inside experiences we have repressed or simply do not wish to revisit. It’s understandable. And we are entitled to choose that. Freedom, after all, is in the ability to choose.


But we deserve to know what we are choosing.


I’m greedy now. I don’t want any part of myself to be off limits. I want all of me. And I’ll go wherever I have to in order to restore my pieces.


(Please get professional support with this part if you need it.)



We will do it imperfectly.


We are building a relationship with our inner self. It’s a fragile thing at first and we are amateurs. We must grow strong in our skill and competency.


We aren’t just allowed to do it imperfectly; imperfection is expected. We will abandon ourselves sometimes. And we might not know until after it’s happened. We might realize it while it’s happening. We might know what we need and disregard it. We might honor ourselves halfway.


It’s okay. It really is. It’s all part of the process. Again, we notice and observe how we feel. We let ourselves learn from both our “failures” and our “successes.”


(I honestly think I’ve learned more from the times I consciously abandoned myself than when I chose myself. It started to feel so bad to me each time I did it that it strengthened my resolve and pushed me closer and closer to my tipping point.)


We will be tested.


Life will give us the most triggering and frustrating situations to test our ability to be ourselves. They will be almost laughable in how specifically customized to us they are – dynamics that bring up our deepest fears, doubts and core wounds. You can side-eye life or scream at the sky, but I promise you: this is a gift. It’s who we are when we’re challenged that really expands us.


Tests are simply a chance to practice being who we are and how we want to live.


When I first began uncovering my true self, I was tested heavily and repeatedly. I would get angry - this again? – as I kept having to set the same boundaries in different situations, as I would express my truth and be told I was wrong, as I would state my needs and have them ignored.


It took me months to realize my thinking was totally backward. If I want to live as my authentic self, if I’m no longer going to bend and morph to other people’s expectations and social narratives, I am going to have to get really good at boundaries. I need the practice.

And though the types of tests have changed, I'm still being tested now. We can assume we will always be tested as we dare to expand.

woman with her head buried in a book


Now I mostly thank the people and situations that challenge me to own myself. Because uncovering our authentic selves is one part of the process but owning and protecting it requires a different set of skills. Tests are how we learn those skills.



Support is essential.


Lean on the people who love you as you are. Those people whose only expectation of you is that you are you. I cannot overstate how essential these people have been to me on my journey. They held space for me when I could not. They knew my worth when I did not. They saw me when I was blind to my own goodness.


I trust we all have people like this. At least one person – or dog – who adores you just as you are. Without needing to please them. Without needing to change. Without needing to align with their wishes.


Lean hard on them. Borrow their belief. Trust what they see in you. Learn to see yourself as they do.  


And, by contrast, limit your time with those who make it harder for you to be your true self. You know who they are. They don’t mean to do this – they are just working out their own stuff. Perhaps they don’t feel they have this option and resent you doing it. Perhaps they are threatened. It’s not about you. Give some space to these relationships early on.


Learning to be our true self is like learning to walk. Don’t put yourself near people who might inadvertently push you over.


We will feel whole.


Of course we will. Because there is no substitute for being yourself. No acquisition, no state of health, no job or bank account balance or completed project can ever give you what authenticity can.


This is our homecoming, our reclamation. This is our most purposeful, most joyful, more true existence.


Something profound happens to us when all parts of ourselves are allowed. We discover unknown gifts, reservoirs of creativity and stamina, alcoves of hidden brilliance. Living authentically is about trusting in the goodness of ourselves.


quote: "Passion led us here."

There is power when we stop looking outside for permission, approval and value and we start claiming it for ourselves, deep within. When we own our right to be ourselves.


Everything we want comes through our authenticity. The marriage we want. The opportunities, work and money we want. The relationship with others that we want. The health, vitality and body we want. The happiness we want.

The Eras tour tickets we want.


You don’t need to do anything to be authentic. You only ever have to be YOU.


Easy, right?


(Not easy. See above.)

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