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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Spence

6 Signs You’re Living Authentically

You decide who you are. There is great peace and power in accountability.

It’s soul-draining to feel like you’re living a lie. Are you hiding? I was.

Sometimes we don’t recognize we’re doing this; I didn’t. Have you ever hidden how you really feel, saying things almost on autopilot (yet later reflecting it was simply what someone wanted to hear), or even doing things you don’t want to because you’ve been conditioned to think you should?

It is understandable that most of us struggle, at least some of the time, with living our truth; authentically. I thought I was authentic but after deep soul searching I realize I was deeply afraid of what it would take to change my life, drastically.

From your family of origin, teachers, and the society we grow up in we’re taught to be “good” – to fall in line with everyone else, to strive for perfection, and to avoid making any waves (or suffer the consequences). Who was taught to do as their told, instead of thinking for themselves? I was shamed for being too loud, to high energy, and was never allowed to express my feelings.

Were you curious? Were you encouraged to foster that curiosity or creativity? If so, congratulations because you’re in a minority. Instead, most fill a “box” that is given to them along with their peers and praised for rote learning. In elementary school I would finish my work early and “bother” the other children because the work wasn’t difficult enough for me. The school system I was raised in at the time believed in the “no child left behind” rule so they taught to the slowest learner in the class. I was restless from too many constraints – physically and philosophically. Just memorizing facts was easy to regurgitate on tests, but I was not encouraged to think freely for myself. Were you?

What I was encouraged to do, though, was to compare my accomplishments and progress with everyone. I bought into the idea that my value would be validated when I appeared successful (or producing something amazing) in relation to others. I don’t remember being exposed to the concept of seeking fulfillment from within myself; everything outside of myself was of great value.

Add to this emotional, physical, spiritual, verbal, and sexual abuse all before the age of twenty and I was destined to be a people-pleasing, overachieving, perfectionist full of insecurity yet driven to prove to the world I was valuable. I became a great actress; a chameleon, a mask-wearing (albeit successful) CEO of my own company using my career as my main source of self-worth. I was defined by my titles. Mother, CEO, wife, daughter, friend; all of which filled every waking moment leaving little time for self-inquiry.

I never stopped long enough to figure out what I felt or thought because I was busy. Busy trying to wrangle my monkey mind into a place that seemed peaceful, with yoga (which helped) – but not to the extent that I needed. Yoga was my healthiest tool, but not enough. It was a band-aid. A daily dose of calm in my ever-shifting life of complications, commitments, and demands. And all of this, I now see, I had “created” and “wanted” yet at the time I was so numb to my inner world I simply appeared to be happy all the time because of the smile I had worn my whole life. A smile that grew weary as time sped on.

I felt like a lonely warrior. Alone, scared, and tired. My tool was isolating. I felt like no one really understood, accepted, knew me. But how could they when I didn’t even know myself?

I crashed and started over. That life-transformation became my book, Yoga Wisdom: Warrior Tales Inspiring You On And Off Your Mat and I’m grateful for that crash. I radically re-designed my life and am passionate about helping others avoid (or at least soften) the crash.

I live a life of unlimited potential, on my terms. Hard work and self-love had allowed me to step into my dharma of educating and inspiring others to live a life where they feel whole. Real. Authentic.

I live out loud and am grateful for the authentic, fulfilling relationships I now have. I derive joy from helping others. I don’t waste energy trying to be anything other than me. I’m free.

In addition to being treated for all forms of abuse and PTSD, I have done a lot of work to design a life that fills me with joy. This meant facing my fears, digging deep into the conditioning that I was taught, and releasing (over and over again) old patterns that no longer serve me.

With this in mind, I created this reminder of what it looks and feels like to be true to myself so I can refer back to it if ever I think I’ve lost my way.

If you also value living your truth and freedom, perhaps this will be useful to you too.

You know you’re living authentically if….

1. You focus more on your own values than what society deems acceptable.

It’s still a radical thought that you should place your health, dreams, desires, vision, and values first in your life. Of course you will want/need to place other relationships front and center at times, but the cliché of “securing your mask first” became a cliché for a reason. It’s healthy to take care of yourself. If you’re still living a script someone else handed you perhaps it’s time to reevaluate.

Check in with yourself. Do you know how? I check in daily, using a journal, with my body, intellect, emotional self and spiritual self. I not only discern for myself how I feel, I also ask myself what I need that day. This is a daily priority.

2. By checking in with yourself, you can be honest with yourself about what you need, want, think and feel.

Before you can be honest with anyone else you have to be honest with yourself. Make space in your life to connect with yourself, perhaps through yoga, meditation, journaling, or time in nature. This also means you may have to develop some new behaviors or emotional intelligence. Learn how to actively listen, have courageous conversations, leave toxic relationships, and develop deep and lasting relationships.

You may stumble and fail at times, but the willingness to ask yourself questions most people spend their life avoiding will garner huge results.

Add to your daily check-in questions using a reporter’s technique; why, what, how, and when. Ask yourself why you’re doing something, what you are getting from doing it, and how you want to show up as your best self (for yourself). If not now, when? Make a life plan and adjust when needed. Set personal goals. Evaluate your life, daily.

3. You freely share your thoughts and feelings, which includes saying no when it conflicts with your values.

Even if it’s terrifying, push yourself to speak up. This one has been challenging, but critical, for me. I’ve yet to find anyone, as of this post, who isn’t afraid of being vulnerable yet also amazed at how freeing and empowering it can be. Your feelings, thoughts, dreams, values, time, ideas, creations, hopes, wishes, fears, concerns, etc., etc., are valid. You are valuable, as is. Sharing them in a safe place will ensure healing, health, and vitality.

4. You’ve learned to surround yourself with people who support and respect you, as is. Some people like you, some don’t; and that’s okay with you.

You’ve developed an understanding that sometimes it’s NOT your stuff. Yes, you’re responsible and accountable for treating others with respect and kindness, always. Yet being disliked by some is a natural byproduct of being real and genuine. Spend time finding your tribe, you’ll be all the happier and healthier for it. It’s a proven fact that people who have developed a healthy community live longer, happier lives. More does not equal more in this case. Pick and choose your inner circle wisely.

5. You listen to your intuition and trust that you know what’s best for yourself, changing your mind if you recognize you made a choice that wasn’t right for you.

Yoga is the best tool that I know of to learn how to listen to that wise voice inside of you. I’m confident you’ll enhance every aspect of your life by practicing yoga. I know of no better system for developing self-awareness. There will be times when outside people, places, and things will influence you (and perhaps divert you from listening to your own wisdom) yet being flexible in body, mind, and spirit will be reflected in your ability to shift and change your mind when needed.

I’ve developed a connection to my inner voice that now has become my greatest champion. At times I still stumble into old patterns of thinking or behavior, yet am happy to report that the awareness that I’ve developed has allowed me to quickly recognize when this is happening and recalibrate to a state of pure potential, which I believe we are all meant to dwell in.

6. You allow yourself to evolve and let go of what you’ve outgrown.

This is probably the hardest one of all because it’s not just about living your truth; it’s also about letting go. Even when you’ve developed a high tolerance for change, sometimes when you’re in it (or faced with uncertainty of something not of your making) being brave enough to embrace change can feel scary. That’s perfectly normal. The difference is when you’re accountable for the direction of your life that it can also feel like you’re living your life on purpose. This empowering way to exist can feel light and free. When change occurs, you understand that you have the capacity to move through life’s inevitable ups and downs with courage and grace. Hopefully you’ll dwell in a space that allows you to continue to grow and when you do start to feel stuck you’ll have the confidence to know that your feelings of helplessness are temporary. Getting into action is the key.

How you do yoga is how you do life. Use it as a mirror to reflect and take your practice off the mat and into your day. By looking, examining, analyzing, adjusting your behaviors, recognizing and validating and dwelling in the wisdom of yoga you will continue to live an authentic life free to be you, perfect as you are.

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