When we’re aware of our thoughts, feelings, and needs, we can speak and act on our own behalf. That’s authenticity. And when we’re authentic, we reap rewards like: joy “just because,” increased ability to focus, reduced stress, greater wellbeing, more energy, feelings of contentment, passion, resolve, connectivity with life, and strength within our self, soul and relationships. That said, applying the steps to become and stay authentic, can be both easy and hard at the same time. Here are four steps that my clients and I use daily.

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STEP ONE: STOP before we say or do anything.

In this day of action, reaction, overreaction and stimulation, stopping for silence can feel both unnatural, and like a relief. When we stop to receive intuitive guidance, recognize our deepest feelings, and organize our thoughts, authentic reality can become clear. A moment of silence can also allow us time to reflect, before we say something we might regret. To remember step one, think of Diana Ross singing, “Stop!” in the name of authentic love.

STEP TWO: ASK … two internal questions.

Before we speak, ask ourself, “Is that my deepest truth?”

And before we act, as ourself, “Is that what I really want?”

It may seem easy to convince ourself that we need to speak meaningless words to fill a gap of silence so others feel comfortable. Let’s not use that as an excuse to say something inauthentic. As we begin to ask ourself these two internal questions, we may find that we’ve been lying to ourself and others by saying and doing things that are not completely true and not what we really want. For example, we might say “I love football” when we hate sports, or, we might eat the gallon of ice cream, when what we really want is love.

STEP THREE: LISTEN … for our internal answers.

After we ask the two internal questions, we can listen for our answers. If our answer is no, that it’s not our deepest truth or not what we really want, then don’t say or do it. Because whatever we were about to say or do, it’s not coming from our genuine, authentic self.

STEP FOUR: WATCH … and observe ourself.

By watching ourself, we can learn more about what we think, feel, say, and do. Our ability to observe ourself is absolutely vital to our ability to be authentic. Because authenticity cannot be achieved, it can only be experienced. No amount of force within us, or desire to rush, push, or hurry the process, can quicken our uptake. Besides, when we force ourself, it can stir up a tornado of impatience and criticism within us. And when we get impatient with ourself, we may also get impatient with the people around us. And our impatience with them, may cause more tornados of difficulties in our relationships. As Bob Marley sang, “we don’t neeeeed, no more trouble!” So, let’s allow becoming more authentic to be easy. To remember step four, think of James Brown saying, “Watch yo self!”

Each of us can become the resident expert of our authentic self.

But not until we’re aware of our deeper thoughts, feelings and needs, and choose to speak and act accordingly. By applying the four steps, we can increase our awareness.

Authenticity is powerful.

There’s a reason that the famous saying, “know thyself” is so famous. Being authentic is the most powerful, fulfilling, heart-eye-and-soul-opening experience available to us. Authenticity allows our relationships to be trusting and connected, steady and joyful. And it all starts by building a trusting, connected, steady, and joyful relationship with our authentic self.

The four steps build trust.

When we stop, ask, listen, and watch, we protect and care for our authenticity. This builds trust with ourself and others. How? Because this process allows us to say what we mean and we mean what we say. And that builds trust, which is the most valuable currency known. Just ask anyone who’s lost trust in their relationship. How much would they be willing to give, to get that trust back?

What will people think of my silence and authenticity?

If we’re worried about what other people may think of us while we stop, ask, listen, and watch, we can remind ourself that our authenticity is more important than expediency. Getting to know and be ourself is a once in a lifetime opportunity. And, our choice to stop and be silent gives the other person an opportunity to listen to their own thoughts, feelings, and inner guidance. It gives them the opportunity to grow their patience and support of us as we become more authentic. Or not—this is their choice. If, during silence, we feel that we’d like to say something authentic, yet we are not ready to give a complete answer, here are some options. We might say, “I’m not ready to respond to that” or “I’m not ready to do that,” or “I need to reflect on that,” or “Let me get back to you later, with an authentic answer.”

We are supported on our journey to authenticity.

Even if no one around us is supportive of our journey to become authentic, we can support ourself. We can continue to take the four steps. We can embrace what we learn. We can enjoy our freedom to choose to become authentic. We can be patient with ourself. We can also ask for support and guidance from our inner wisdom/Life/God, counselors, wise elders, and mentors. Simply being grateful for the support we already have feels good. For further support, we can asking inwardly, which is simultaneously known by the great mystery called life, and invites serendipitous opportunities of support to occur.

What say ye?

I’m excited to get to know your authentic you, your real you, your shiny, bright, true you, and I hope you are too! Please share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section so we may learn and grow together …

Always with love,