How to find your most authentic self

May 10, 2023 0 Comments

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Some call it instinct. Others call it intuition. Or an inner voice. Whatever we call this innate awareness of what is best for us or our true selves, it is almost unerringly accurate. But only if we are ready to listen to it.

Each of us has a different relationship with the voice of our authentic self. For some, it can be a close and trusting relationship. Others only hear their inner voice when they slow down long enough to pay attention. Many are barely aware of its presence and desperately want to hear it, but can’t because of the constant chatter and incessant internal dialogue in their heads.

Whenever we don’t listen to our inner voice, we tend to look outside for guidance, even for our sense of our true self, consciously or otherwise. We buy things to gain the approval of others. We achieve milestones to earn the respect of others. We want to live in certain neighborhoods, drive certain cars, wear certain labels, hang out with certain people, have our children attend prestigious schools, make reservations at the latest restaurants, even practice yoga “correctly” to confirm that we are okay.

We become like gerbils on a never-ending wheel, running as fast as we can to do, have, or be everything properly so that others will approve of us. None of these things are inherently wrong or bad, especially if they are meaningful or enjoyable to you.

However, trying to keep up automatically puts us behind every time you look to something outside of yourself that you think speaks to your worth. you need to take a step back to decide if these things truly matters to you.

Whenever you build your life around the approval or validation of others, you will find yourself in trouble. This is simply not sustainable. Lily Tomlin famously said, “The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.” It’s a setup for frustration, exhaustion, and the never-ending feeling that you’re never enough.

And I can promise you something: even if you get everything you think you want, one day something will make you stop running. You look at all the things that you think define you and ask, “What was I running for?” “Why is my life filled with all these things I don’t even care about?” It’s a shocking and disturbing moment when you realize that you’ve been searching your whole life for something that ultimately didn’t make you happy

How to remind you about yourself

Living life integrity— what I define as living according to our deepest truths and greatest desires means that you get out of the rat race. You stop looking to others to find out what you want.

To experience life holistically means that you must learn to believe that you have all the answers. Instead of looking for truth in the outside world, we need to go back to ourselves, learn to go deep within and discover the voice that has been there all along. I call this the process of self-referral. It’s a way of constantly looking to yourself rather than the outside world for approval, answers, and guidance.

Self-reflection brings you back to you. It gives you strength. Deepak Chopra said, “It is an inner way of being that is independent of external circumstances.” You remove the voices of society, friends and family and determine what you like, what worries you and what your priorities are in this life. This allows you to access an authentic checkpoint that is unique to you. It is your touchstone, your true essence, the part of you that knows what is best. It’s the part of you that isn’t clouded by all the “must haves” you might tell yourself.

Although many teachers advocate learning to go within, it can be difficult. Our point of reference is clouded and confused by the voices of others. We have spent so much time being guided by the outside that sometimes, even when we think we are being guided by our authentic self, it is actually the voice or wishes of others. We have lived with this voice for so long that we consider it our own.

I am not saying that living an honest life means shirking responsibility. Of course, there are things in this life that you must do. They cannot be avoided. But you can also try not to lose touch with the fact that you are the co-creator of your life. You are not a helpless victim. At any time, you can register and make sure that what you want is what you really want. And if not, you can always change it. Starting with your next decision.

The stronger the power of the opposite party trying to influence your decision, the more difficult it will be to return to yourself. But when you can stand up to your parents, bosses, or lovers and stand firm in what you know, you become even more confident, self-reliant, and independent.

10 things to ask yourself

Consider the following questions:

1. Do you try to make people perceive you in a certain way?
2. When you get an idea about how to improve some aspect of your life, are you more inclined to start interviewing people to get their opinions rather than just going ahead?
3. Do you often say “yes” when you would rather say “no”?
4. Is your home more a reflection of someone else’s design ideas than a reflection of your personality?
5. Does guilt often affect the decision-making process?
6. Do you tend to define yourself in the context of your relationship with someone else (I’m X’s wife, Y’s best friend, Z’s business partner)?
7. When you make plans with your friends, is your first reaction “I don’t care what we do” or “You decide” or “Whatever you want”?
8. Do you tend to avoid expressing your needs and desires to your loved ones?
9. When you work long hours and juggle multiple responsibilities, do you tend to drink caffeine instead of taking a break?
10. In your family of origin, do you still tend to play the role you played as a child because that is what is expected?

The more questions you answer in the affirmative, the more you may want to know why you make these decisions and how you can begin to be more true to yourself.

You are the only expert in your own right. Explore ways to calm the noise, whether it’s yoga, meditation, hiking, or dancing. Be interested in what you want. Be interested in what is holding you back. When you start asking questions without demanding an immediate answer, you’ll likely begin to discover the voice you’ve silenced. These responses and emotions can bring you back to your authenticity, your wholeness, and yourself.

This article has been updated. First published on October 31, 2017.

RELATED: 10 Ways to Be Your Authentic Self

About our contributor
Kelly Kosow is a master integrative coach, program and workshop leader, and CEO of the Ford Institute, a personal development organization that has helped tens of thousands of people around the world. She is the author of The Integrity Advantage: Step into Your Truth, Love Your Life, and Claim Your Magnificence (Sounds True, November 2017). To learn more, visit or connect with her on Facebook or Instagram.

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