New Year Plan: Be Real

Anne McCormack
By Anne McCormack
A Psychotherapist, parent, writer, Irish Times contributor, lecturer, runner and expert witness in the Family Courts in Ireland. Anne is passionate about adolescent mental health and mental fitness. For more information on the topic of social media and adolescents, go to annemccormack.ie

The new year has begun and as a fan of not making specific resolutions, I have spent some time instead reflecting on how I wish to be in the world this year and what way I want to live my life.

Thankfully, I’ve reached an age where I don’t worry about what others think of me. Once I’m doing my best, that’s going to have to be enough but that doesn’t mean that the effort to ‘be real’ or ‘be authentic’ isn’t still an ongoing effort. Every day it involves effort and in this world where so many aspects of what we see and hear can lead us down the path of thinking we will never have enough, or be enough or do enough, it takes a certain degree of vigilance to be okay just being ourselves, looking like ourselves, doing what we do and no more.

I read research recently, which was carried out by Abigail Mengers in 2014. She looked at how as humans, we each have a desire to be authentic and when we are, even if it sets us up to be different from others, it still correlates with increased levels of joy and well-being. We all have social roles to fulfil tasks to complete on a daily basis. Often, living life authentically is something that can get drowned out in the daily grind but it is my plan this year to give focus to carving out time to look at how I can live authentically. It is worthwhile for me to do this because my mental health is so precious to me. Tuning in to how I really want to be, saying what I really want to say, not being held back by fear of what others might think of me or say about me, matters. And so it is how I shall try to be. If you want to give focus to living life more authentically, here are three steps to set that up;

1. Ask Yourself How Authentically You are Living Currently

To be authentic simply means to be real, to not be a copy, to be genuinely yourself. So if you spend time trying to be like someone else, perhaps because you think they are admired or they look well or they are how you wish you could be, then take stock of that. If a person is always wanting to be as rich as/as beautiful as/ as powerful as someone else, it could be more about the pressure society places on people inadvertently, pressure that tells us all the time that in so many ways we are not enough. What if we all rejected that idea and decided instead that being genuine was absolutely enough? And the truth is being yourself is always enough.

2. Becoming Self-Aware and Making Time to Develop this Practice

Being alive means being in flux and so as we grow our values and our dreams can change. When life is hectic, our dreams and values often remain dormant because there is no time to spend acknowledging their presence. Making time for self-reflection, taking the time to really think about what matters to us and why and then taking action that is in accordance with these dreams; that will set you on the path towards greater authenticity. We can each change how we live and act in this world. And when self-reflection becomes a habit, this chance to really know how you wish to be and what you wish to do becomes more visible to us. Once you become more self-aware, new ideas and dreams have a chance to emerge. It’s easy to get caught up in a ‘doing/producing’ mentality and that can take precedence over all other things. But it’s worth stepping out of that to reflect.

3. Allow Yourself the Opportunity to be Vulnerable

Everyone needs to feel emotionally safe when it comes to relationships with other people. Particularly when you’re not feeling good; if you find yourself in the middle of something very difficult, it can be good to tell just those you really trust, at least initially. Pouring your heart out to everyone you meet can make a person feel somewhat exposed. Thankfully, the idea that expressing vulnerability is to admit weakness is one that has been massively challenged in society, so much so that the view is now held by many that to express vulnerability is a real sign of strength and courage. More and more, people can see that the expression of vulnerability is a sign of strength. This strength is witnessed by the person expressing vulnerability not allowing themself to be held back by fear. Expressing vulnerability means being transparent and that is part of what makes people authentic.

So I will continue to practice hard this year. I will try to be in the world just as I am, flawed, human, real….and for the sake of authenticity can I say instead of happy new year, wishing you a real one.

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