Authenticity Is The Key To Your Health!
Have you ever experienced that feeling of being pulled in too many directions? The pressure to be all things to all people can cause us to behave like chameleons. We can keep adjusting and shifting our preferences and behaviors to fit in with what is expected of us. Our level of self esteem and measure of self worth is closely tied in to how prepared we are to do what is right for us as opposed to what others expect of us.
Family beliefs and values will have informed the way we feel it is correct to behave. The schools we attended, the organisations we belong to or work for all have a distinct impact and can determine where we set our own expectations of what we can achieve or deserve to have. We are all at the mercy of cultural, social and religious pressures too. All of these areas influences us and as the social norms change in a fast moving world we experience the dilemma of living lives that we may never have chosen for ourselves had we been encouraged to trust our own instincts.
There are countless ways we live non authentic lives and it so often begins with living someone else’s idea of what we should be doing. When I was a lecturer in Further education I had a group of secretarial students in my tutorial group. I asked them what had caused them to choose to become a secretary. I was astonished to hear that out of 15 students only one had chosen this for herself. The other 14, without exception, told me that their mum dad or teacher had said a variation of ‘Be a secretary you will never be out of work’ .
In the coaching work I do I often ask clients ‘When you were seven what did you want to do when you grew up?’ In all my years of asking individuals and groups this question I only met 1 person that followed through on that dream job. The others find themselves habitually following a life path that was never their dream or chosen from their passion. When I ask what got in the way of that dream the answer is always similar the reasons those young secretaries gave me. It’s no surprise then that:
It is estimated that work related stress, depression or anxiety affected 442,000 individuals who had worked in the last 12 months with a corresponding estimated 13.5 million lost working days due to these work- related conditions…..making….stress, depression or anxiety the largest contributer to the overall estimated annual days lost from work-related ill health in 2007/2008
Source: LSF Survey Health & Safety Executive
My career choice when I was 9 years old was I wanted to be a ‘journalist, poet or an actress’ You can just imagine the response from my working class family! I can tell you it was not even remotely an option for me. So I had been offered a job as a hairdresser, my sister was a hairdresser and as I had no clue how to be an actress or a writer and hairdressing was considered by all as ’ a good trade’ so that’s what I did. The problem is we literally sacrifice our health when we give up who we truly are and quash our natural talents to conform to a more ‘realistic’ or ‘secure’ path.
It is not just in the choice of work we do that can rob us of our Authentic selves it is so often a fear of offending another person. It may be to avoid conflict or anger of an authoritarian figure in our lives.That figure can be ourselves wielding impossibly high expectations that we strive to meet over and over again.
You are not being authentic when:
- You hate your job but it took you years to get the training.
- You are unhappy in your relationship?
- You are studying a subject you don’t enjoy because it will give you great prospects?
- You are juggling a lifestyle that you can’t afford?
- You say yes to keep the peace or to get the promotion?
- You offer to do things and then resent it?
- You want to prove to someone you can do something
- You are expected to live or be a certain way?
- You owe it to someone to do or perform well?
- You have to do it perfectly?
- You just feel that a piece of you is missing
- You are doing the wrong Job
- You are living your parent’s dream
- Measuring up to someone else’s ideal
- You are Living a lie
- You are trying to prove someone wrong
- You are avoiding something
- You over-give to others thus ‘I only exist if I am needed or you are grateful’
- You feel that you are not enough
- You keep going because you are convinced after all this effort something has to give –It will – it will be your health.
We rationalise all this away by saying things like well its all very well but I have bills to pay and people rely on me. How many times have we read that it is important to love what we do and do what we love if we are to live healthy and happy lives? Intellectually we know it and we yearn for it. The difficulty is we know this instinctively when we are small and then we listen to others or are too fearful to do the thing that makes our heart sing. So we do what is practical, we do what pays the bills, We move further and further away from our passion and our purpose and most importantly we move away from who we become an impostor in our own life we are not really who we are meant to be.
We tell ourselves that one day we will get round to writing the book, starting the business, moving to another country, starting a charity or whatever we dream of. The personal development movement is exploding with seminars, workshops, e- forums, cd’s, dvd’s mastermind groups, books.
People are hiring coaches because they are searching for that key; to find their purpose and their passion and create the joyful balanced life we all deserve. The challenge is;
Where is the key?
How do you know when it’s the wrong key?
And when you do find it-.what do you do to ensure you don’t lose it?
My own quest has taken me a long way and I am thankful to have finally found the answer to those questions. The road had many wrong turns,false starts, short cuts that were anything but and dead ends. I was hairdresser because I was bored at school and my sister was one already, I taught in a college loved the students hated the paperwork, I went into direct sales and loved running the events hated selling, I worked for a corporate training company and had to train people who hated their jobs and lived a half life . I co -founded a coaching training company loved the training delivery and hated the office work. Each wrong turn that felt like I was stuck in a wasteland not really knowing how I got there or how to get out. I would feel lost and didn’t really know who I was anymore. Simple really I was always pretending on some level that what I was doing mattered to me.
The interesting thing is that when I was asked what I wanted to do when I grew up I said I wanted to perform and be a writer Guess what? I now write programmes for magazines, newsletters, books and present, train and speak for audiences. So not too far away from the instinct of a nine year old.
Examining your self for Authenticity helps us go back to basics. It clears all the illusions away and helps us to recognise that we have all the answers to create a joyful life – one we can live authentically because we are at peace with who we are.