A Coaching Power Tool Created by Kristin Vierra
(Life & Career Coach, ARGENTINA)
Be your authentic self. Your authentic self is who you are when you have no fear of judgment, or before the world starts pushing you around and telling you who you’re supposed to be. Your fictional self is who you are when you have a social mask on to please everyone else. Give yourself permission to be your authentic self. – Dr. Phil
Authentic people generally take action in pursuit of their goals, dreams, and ambitions. As quoted by Dr. Phil above, they are capable of releasing the fear of judgment, outside influences, and societal expectations to be their authentic self. Merriam Webster defines authenticity as “not false or imitation, real” and “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.” While some seem fearless in going after what they want, others can feel the pressure of outside parties (society, family, friends) to fulfill certain expectations. They often feel the need to “conform” to a life that was outlined for them without reflecting on where the outline originated. Merriam Webster defines conformity as an “action in accordance with some specified standard or authority.” This could be societal standards or authority members like family, professors, mentors, etc.
People may think they need to fit a certain mold that has been created by societal standards and important figures in their lives. They may think they need to look, act, dress, work, speak, etc. in a certain way to be valued, loved, and accepted. Living in accordance with what has been dictated solely by outside influences can often leave an individual feeling lost and unbalanced. They may pursue goals and ambitions that are not their own and be living out the life they think is “right”. They may think that the key to happiness and success is living up to this image that they have created based on the influences of others. People living in a place of conforming to societal norms rather than their own desires may feel stuck, unfulfilled, and unhappy. The key is to gain awareness and trust to take action to move from a space of conforming to living out their authentic truth.
The Keys to Authenticity: Awareness and Self- Trust
How does one live more authentically? The first step is awareness. People must first grow aware of when they are not living their life according to their passions and what brings them joy or greater fulfillment. They must become aware of the mask or costume they are disguising themselves as to live up to the expectations of others. This is no easy feat but once they make this realization, they can choose to look within themselves and remove the masks and disguises they’ve been hiding behind. They can then decide to choose to live differently.
Let’s look at the following example to demonstrate this.
Mary grew up in a close-knit family and always highly respected her parents for their career successes. Her mother and father both worked as successful lawyers and her father ran his own practice. Mary inherited their hard work ethic and graduated high school valedictorian with a full-ride scholarship to Harvard University where she later graduated with high honors. Mary didn’t need to take much time to think about the next steps since law school had always been in her plans.
After three years of hard work at Harvard Law, Mary graduated passed the bar and began her career as a corporate lawyer in New York City. Her parents frequently talked about her settling down, starting her own practice, and building a family. However, Mary was extremely busy and wasn’t having much luck with dating in the city. She grew exhausted from the client workload and city grind. Needing a break, Mary decided to do something for herself and booked a trip to Southeast Asia to travel solo for a month.
During these travels, she met interesting people from all over the world that we’re living out many different realities. Some were traveling for extended periods of time, some worked in tourism, and others were on vacation. She fell in love with yoga and decided to pursue certification through some local connections she met. Mary fell in love with the pace of life and reflected on her lifestyle back in New York City. During this time alone, Mary grew aware that she had been living her life to fulfill familiar expectations and had never really stopped to think about what she wanted. Mary knew she wanted a different reality, but the question now was what does Mary want?!
It took Mary time away from her busy routine for her to gain more awareness around her current reality. She discovered she had spent her career conforming to the expectations outlined by her family without thinking about what she wanted. Mary realized that she was not living a life based on her own wants or needs.
After gaining awareness, it’s important for people to build trust within themselves to take action in pursuit of their own desires. Often times, those conforming to outside expectations have never known any other way to live. They may have been afraid to make big decisions or changes as they’ve always relied on outside influences for validation. Thus, it is fundamental to build self-trust to create the change needed to live authentically. This takes looking inward to discover their values, passions, and desires and taking action to live in alignment with what brings them fulfillment.
Let’s continue with the example of Mary.
Mary was nearing the end of her travels and dreading the return to reality. Her time for reflection had led to new passions and insights. Her lack of excitement for the return home to work and daily life felt like further confirmation that she needed to make a change. Mary decided to leave her job and extend her time traveling to figure out what she wanted to do next. When she contacted her family to let them know, her parents expressed their concerns around her decision and how it could impact her career. Confident in her choice, she reassured them that she had a plan. Her action to leave the role and manage her parent’s disapproval was building Mary’s self-trust.
She spent the next month traveling throughout other countries in Asia and looking inward to find her values and passions. On this personal journey, she realized that she wanted to open a yoga studio in New York City while practicing law on the side as a consultant. Through finally looking inward and living in alignment with her desires, Mary was strengthening her self-trust.
Mary’s time focusing inward to discover her passions and taking action to pursue them was building her confidence. Her ability to manage her parents’ disapproval and continue to move toward her goals was also strengthening her self-trust. When people grow aware and begin to act based on their own passions, beliefs, and expectations, they strengthen both their confidence and self-trust. With each decision, their confidence and trust build supporting them to make their own future choices and live out their authentic truth.
Only the truth of who you are, if realized, will set you free. – Eckhart Tolle
Self-Application- Living Authentically:
Authenticity is not something we have or don’t have. It’s a conscious choice of how we want to live. Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen. – Brené Brown
How does one feeling lost, stuck or unfulfilled move towards living with greater fulfillment? How does one go from a life clouded by outside expectations and influences to living authentically to their desires? There are several factors that can support people to release the need to conform and live out their authentic aspirations.
As demonstrated above, the first step is gaining awareness. People may have grown so accustomed to living according to the judgments and expectations of others that they lose sight or haven’t had the time to reflect on their own beliefs, passions, or desires. They must first become aware that they feel stuck, unhappy, or unfulfilled with the way they are living or with what is dictating their reality to create change.
Identify passions and values
It is important for an individual to reflect within and identify their passions, beliefs, and values. They can start to dig deeper to find what lights them up inside and brings them greater fulfillment. They can do this by using self-reflection, tools to uncover their passions, personality tests, working with a coach, etc. However, it is important for the individual to reflect within to discover what they value and what brings them happiness and fulfillment.
Release fear of judgment
People may have allowed others’ opinions to dictate their reality for years and may have never reflected on their own perspective. This is where they have the opportunity to reflect and challenge their perspectives. In order to look within, they need to separate themselves from the expectations and beliefs of others that they have been conditioned to believe. They need to free themselves from the outside judgments that have held them back from their own decisions. The key is for them to learn that the best answer is their own and to work past fear in pursuit of what they desire.
Through taking action towards living in alignment with their own values, beliefs, and passions, they can build confidence and self-trust. Each small, successful step they take in the direction of living a life aligned with their ambitions will contribute to strengthening this trust. People can build self-trust by honoring themselves, committing to creating change, and taking action in pursuit of their goals.
Action is fundamental to creating change. Once people grow aware that they are unhappy, stuck, or unfulfilled with the way they are living, they can choose differently, move to action, and create change. These actions may involve reflecting within, studying, and investing in passions, questioning beliefs, writing out goals, changing careers, moving, working with a coach, etc. Each small, successful action will propel them forward to future actions that lead to greater fulfillment.
Self- reflection Questions:
- How do you define authenticity?
- What does it mean for you to ‘live authentically?’
- Think about a time that you released the fear of judgment and outside influences to do something that you wanted. How did you do it? How did it feel?
- What’s one small action you can take today towards living authentically?
Authenticity can be challenging for clients who have been trying to fulfill a certain image or version of success based on others’ expectations or standards. They may have heard messages from family members, society, the media, teachers, etc. for years that have impacted their lifestyle and decisions. They may have never had the time to pause, reflect, question their reality, and think about what brings them happiness or fulfillment. They may feel unfulfilled, stuck, unhappy, and lost as to why they are feeling this way. They may feel unsure or hopeless about how to create change.
A key in the coaching conversation is to challenge clients’ current perspectives and support them in reframing these perspectives and discovering their own. The coach can do this by posing powerful questions like:
- How do you feel about your current reality?
- If fear was not a factor, how would you choose to live your life?
- What brings you happiness and fulfillment?
The coach can use powerful questioning and active listening to identify what perspectives the client holds. They likely will uncover the outside influences, fear of judgment, self-doubt, and limiting beliefs that may be holding the client back from creating change. The coach can support the client as they work to reframe these perspectives.
The coach can also support clients in uncovering their own passions, beliefs, values, and purpose through powerful questioning. Some questions that can support the client in discovering these are:
- What are your core values?
- What’s something that you lose track of time while doing?
- What could you talk about, share advice on, or write about for hours that lights you up inside?
- What do you want to be remembered for in your lifetime?
- What is your “why”?
The coach can also use helpful exercises to support the client in discovering their passions, values, and purpose. For example, the coach can ask the client to identify three people that inspire them and describe the qualities they admire. They can then reflect back on their personal values and what values they identified in the individuals. They can also use other resources to support the client such as worksheets, personality tests, etc.
Another helpful tool the coach can use is visualization. The coach can first make sure the client is free of distractions and comfortable. With the client’s permission for the exercise, they can ask the client to close their eyes and begin to picture their “ideal” life- Where are they? What are they doing? Who are they with? How are they feeling? The coach can continue the questions and ask the client to describe the scene in detail. As a client defines their future vision and goals in the coaching process, the coach can also invite them to create a vision board where they create a visual representation of this “ideal” life.
The coach can support clients as they move to action in pursuit of their goals and ambitions. They can support the client to create action steps and hold them accountable throughout the journey. With each successful action step, the coach can celebrate clients’ wins as they build confidence and self-trust to continue working towards living out their authentic truth.
The privilege of life is to become who you truly are. – C.G Jung
- How can you support your clients in moving towards living more authentically?
- What types of exercises could support them in discovering their personal values, beliefs, and purpose?
- How can you support a client to navigate the fear of judgment and doubt as they work towards living out their authentic truth?
- How can you challenge the client’s perspectives that have been conditioned in them for years?