The Courage to be Your Authentic Self

“It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not.” – André Gide

An opinion piece by David Brooks in the New York Times, “Lady Gaga and the Life of Passion,” caught my imagination. The article is about living with passion, and what that REALLY means.

Brooks wrote, “People with passion have the courage to be themselves with abandon. We all care what others think about us. People with passion are just less willing to be ruled by the tyranny of public opinion.”

These people “somehow get on the other side of fear.”

I completely understand and have written extensively about the importance of letting go of fear – it does nothing to move you forward in your life goals. Yet the other side of the fear coin, and one that must be acknowledged, is the courage to truly be yourself.

Some of us are so afraid of what others think that we have NO CONCEPT of our authentic selves. This fear not only stops us from our passion, but prevents us from living an authentic life. We exist to please others, to make others like us, to gain acceptance – oftentimes at the expense of our own happiness.

The result is that we wander aimlessly trying to “find ourselves.” I am amazed and astounded about how difficult it is for some people to identify what makes them happy. We are so concerned with external approval that there is no room left for internal insight.

Courage comes in many forms. It takes courage to defend our country, to raise a family, to fight cancer and other chronic illnesses, to save a life, to move away from one’s home in search of a better life.

And it also takes an everyday type of courage to venture outside your comfort zone, to explore what really makes you happy – to discover your authentic self. And then it takes even MORE courage to actually live your authentic life, to make mistakes and learn from them, to pick yourself up again and again until you FINALLY start living your passion.

I believe that the core of my happiness comes from living my authentic life – from finding the courage to discover who I truly am and then transforming that knowledge into action. It did not happen over night, and I am still a work in progress. But simply being on the journey to an authentic life gives me endless joy. 

At the end of his opinion piece, David Brooks asks the question: “Who would you be and what would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

Answering this question is a crucial step in discovering YOUR authentic self.