On the surface, you might tell yourself that you’re happy, but there might always be an inkling of tension hidden that surfaces every once in a while. It might be when you’re at your desk at work, completing the same task over and over, when you’re at a party with people who you don’t want to talk to, or just when you’re finally alone with your thoughts. What is that nameless feeling of discontent tugging at you that you just can’t place? While there are plenty of possibilities, there’s a good chance that it’s a lack of living life as your authentic self and/or self-advocacy. After reading this, you should have the necessary tools to get into the beginnings of introspection.
No matter where you live, there’s always a status quo for how life should be lived. Generally, it involves getting married, having children, working a “normal” job, and not chasing after any pesky pipe dreams that were leftover from adolescence. For some, this is actually the life they want to live, which is completely understandable. Having a “normal” and stable job can bring stability and having children and getting married can fill a life with joy, fulfillment, and love. Just because it’s the status quo, though, doesn’t mean that it necessarily aligns with your ideals and desires.
There are so many people who know that they don’t want children, don’t want to be married, and don’t want to have a “normal” job, but do so anyway for the desires of others or to be seen as “normal.” On the one hand, this is understandable. If you have poorer parents, for example, and want to give them a life they didn’t have, sacrificing your desires for a different career and getting a higher-paying “normal” job you don’t really like is fair and admirable. However, you don’t have to follow in anyone else’s footsteps, especially if it will make you incredibly unhappy.
When living life and doing practically anything, it’s important to understand why you are doing something. People are frequently pigeonholed into categories and trapped by the status quo. This leads to them doing whatever they feel like others would want to see instead of what they really want to do. For example, if you’re a man who doesn’t indulge in feminine things, think about why. If you really just don’t like them, that’s completely fair and valid. However, if it’s because you’re scared to show others that you like feminine things, you’ll constantly be in an inner war with yourself by not living your authentic desires.
Discovering your Authentic Self for an Authentic Life
There are a couple of techniques you can use to think about what you really want and incorporate it into your life. First, think about what used to make you truly happy and see if anything changed. If you loved to take dance lessons, for example, and after you stopped it felt like your life had lost some spark, that might be an indication that you need to incorporate dance into your routine in some way. Another tool, when presented with different options, is to act as if you’ve already chosen a course of action. The visceral, immediate gut feeling you get inside, positive or negative, will help guide you towards what will make you really happy.
You can go days, weeks, years, or even decades convincing yourself that you’re happy with the job you chose for others, the clothes you wear to appease others, or even the way you act to not seem “odd,” but at the end of the day, you’ll feel sadness and lack of fulfillment creep in. What’s so important about discovering your authentic self and living authentically is that you’ll feel as though you actually lived your life. Some of the most “normal” people who go against those who don’t fit the status quo are also those who do the most “outlandish” things in private. It seems like everyone tries to hold everyone else to a standard that doesn’t actually exist. That is the myth of “normal.”
Obviously, it’s not 100% possible to live your authentic life at all times. If it’s unsafe to do so or if you need to put someone else’s needs or desires first, it can be difficult. The most important thing is to ensure that you are striving to do what you want at the base level. Otherwise, there could be serious and mentally corrosive consequences. Whether it be choosing a career that lights your passion even when everyone else says you shouldn’t, authentically expressing your gender in a way that makes you feel whole, or choosing a partner (or not!) and deciding whether or not to have kids or get married only because of what you want to do can make life feel like it’s being lived. Otherwise, you may just feel all the days blend together and try to pass the time as quickly as possible.
One of the best ways to determine the efficacy and ‘realisticness’ of a decision is to write out the pros and cons and weigh them against each other. It sounds simple and ineffective, but having the choices laid out in front of you with their effects can give you incredible insight into what you’re trying to choose.
Others may try to detract from your decisions. This is where it’s so important to have a sense of self-advocacy because authentic living can only be realized when there’s the determination to back it up. It’s easy to prostrate to the will of others after having authentic breakthroughs because it may seem too hard to go against societal norms or loved ones. It’s vital to weigh the pros and cons of your actions and maximize your true happiness as opposed to the happiness you feel will be created when you exist for others. Once you determine what you want, don’t allow yourself to be discouraged. You’re your own best ally, and you need to have the mental fortitude to support yourself.
Self-advocacy and living authentically can make a huge difference in your self-worth, your feelings of success, and just your quality of life overall. When you put on a facade or do things just to please others, you won’t have anything to celebrate for yourself. If you spend your life following what everyone else wants, what do you really have in the end? If you have a job you don’t want and come back to a house of people you don’t enjoy being around just to do more performative actions for them, the mental stress of just acting instead of really feeling happy will be terrible. This, again, is not 100% possible, especially if you’re in a living situation that doesn’t permit it (i.e. poverty, abusive household, etc.). However, it’s so important to try and do what you want when you can, because knowing what you want and chasing it is a vital skill to have.
It may seem simple to know what you want, but so many people have no clue. When you know what you want and are less and less afraid to go out and get it, you’re way ahead of the crowd. You have the drive to ensure that you’re living life the way you want, without allowing the fear of others’ opinions to stop you. When you live this way, you create the life that you want for yourself. Everyone only gets one life, and being able to consistently reassure yourself that you’re doing what’s best for you can make a world of difference in your happiness down the road.
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