Today, September 19, 2021, is my 50th birthday. A day that I pause each year to celebrate my life in a way that speaks to me, that speaks to my authentic self.
Growing up as an immigrant in three countries, I truly appreciated the blessing of a meal and the value of a piece of chocolate or toffee which was extremely rare. I watched my parents educate themselves, work hard, make sacrifices, and still find time to regularly volunteer in their community and practice gratitude and compassion. Through my father’s vivid story telling, I saw that these core values were passed to him from generation to generation. These then molded me and became my experiences, my voice, my core values, my authentic self. And for this I am truly grateful.
Over the years, I learned the importance of honoring my authentic self each day. This lead to learning to celebrate my life especially on my birthdays in ways that connected me to my core values and passions, whether it is volunteering at a shelter, going on a retreat, traveling to a new country, learning a new instrument, or sky diving. This year, to celebrate myself and homage to the sacrifices my immigrant parents went through, I purchased my own office condo and meditation studio. A full circle from the struggles we went through as immigrants chasing the American dream for a better life and education. And for this I am truly grateful.
The Importance of Celebrating Ourselves
Often we are so busy trying to meet deadlines, acquire things, and cross items off our to-do lists that we forget to stop, breathe, and acknowledge ourselves for who we are and where we are, right now. Celebrating ourselves means witnessing and accepting ourselves with love and compassion. It is seeing that our true worth isn’t measured in dollars, status, or material things, but by how we live according to our heart and soul.
Take some time to think about where you are on your life’s journey. Celebrate the progress you have made, the skills you have learned. Don’t forget the little wins! Maybe you finished reading a book, or got to bed by 10pm. And remember to celebrate not only what you’ve done, but who you are. Celebrate your dreams, your passions, your quirks – the things that make you, you!
Self-celebration isn’t about bragging or thinking you are better than anyone else. It is simply doing for yourself what you likely do for others all the time. Celebrating ourselves also makes us less reliant on outside approval. When you know who you truly are and that your worth is unconditional, your self-esteem won’t be so easily influenced by others’ opinions. You will be free to live your life as your authentic self.
How Do We Find Our Authentic Self?
Start with what is important to you. What are your core values? If you’re not sure, set aside some time for reflection. When do you feel happiest, or most like yourself? What kinds of activities do you find fulfilling? Maybe it’s teaching others, or being in nature, or walking your dog. If you find yourself feeling uneasy or your energy easily zapped, your actions may not be aligned with your values. Spending more time doing what is truly important to you is key to being your authentic self.
Another valuable tool for discovering our authentic self is using our 5 senses through mindfulness. The ability to be present and mindful is essential to authenticity. We can’t connect to our authentic self if our mind is constantly elsewhere. If you have never practiced meditation before, it can seem daunting, but starting with just two minutes each day (i.e., breathing, being in nature, slowly enjoying that birthday cake,…) is enough to make an impact. Buddhist Monk Gelong Thubten explains how to develop a simple daily meditation practice for mindfulness and integrate it into your daily life.
Does Living an Authentic Life Make Us Happier?
Studies show that people who are more authentic feel happier and have higher self-esteem. Authenticity also increases satisfaction in romantic relationships. When we know who we are and what we stand for, deep connection becomes possible. We also start to understand where to set healthy boundaries and how to say “No” when we mean “No”.
When we are able to express ourselves confidently and honestly, we attract others that share our values. We know that our relationships are genuine, because we are genuine. External approval becomes much less important and the people pleasing diminishes. If our goal is to be liked or to impress, and we fail, we can feel disappointed. But if our goal is authentic self-expression, there is no failure, no matter what the reaction.
Authenticity also gives us resilience. The confidence and unconditional self-love we develop through being authentic gives us firm ground to stand on, and the ability to bounce back from adversity. We have recognized what we are capable of, and rather than search outside of ourselves for answers, we know that we can turn inward to our own strength and guidance.
How would you like to practice authenticity in this moment? Can you be grateful for that?
Photo by Ben Sassani