How do we know who our own authentic self is? A starting place is to determine what we believe, what our strengths are and how they can help us achieve happiness and satisfaction in life. After all, isn’t that what we want—happiness and satisfaction? Authenticity Requires Knowing Your Strengths. Do You Know Yours?
Authenticity vs. impersonation
Before you answer that question, let’s enjoy a bit of levity with Kevin Spacey. Kevin Spacey is a great actor and a gifted impersonator. Below is an interview he had with James Lipton of The Actor’s Studio that would leave you asking, “Who is he—really?” I’m sure the audience got to see some of the “real Kevin Spacey” on the rest of the program but it compelled me to ask, “Who are we imitating and why?”
Now let’s grapple with the question, “Who am I.” Brene Brown states, “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” It is difficult these days of ever-present-media to have a chance to define your own personal, unique identity. And if you really want to find happiness and contentment it is a question that must be answered. I invite you to strip away the influences of the media that tells you to walk a certain way, talk a certain way, dress a certain way and “be” a certain way. Take those false accouterments off like you would shed layers of clothing and get to the place where you are alone with you—not needing or trying to please anyone but you.
Authenticity requires knowing your strengths
This takes courage!
Alone with your self, ask yourself some questions. Start a journal and write the questions down. Let the answers flow from within you. This is not a one stop exercise. You may spend the rest of your life asking and answering some of these questions: What do I believe? What makes me happy? What do I want out of life? What do I want to do to help the planet and its inhabitants? How do I want to be remembered? What does happiness look and feel like to me? What are my strengths? Today, we will work with that question—What are my strengths?
What are my strengths?
When you begin identifying your strengths, don’t get judgmental and falsely humble here, protesting that you don’t have any strengths. You have strengths.
What are they?
If you have trouble identifying your strengths, get a copy of the book Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman. He lists 24 signature strengths and helps you determine what yours are. Look at the strengths he lists and do a self-assessment of each one. The strengths he lists are:
1) Curiosity/interest in the world
2) love of learning3) judgment/critical thinking/open-mindedness
4) ingenuity/originality/practical intelligence/street smarts
5) social intelligence/personal intelligence/emotional intelligence
7) valor and bravery
10) kindness and generosity
11) loving and allowing oneself to be loved
13) fairness and equity
17) humility and modesty
18) appreciation of beauty and excellence
21) spirituality/sense of purpose/faith/religiousness
22) forgiveness and mercy
23) playfulness and humor
(from Authentic Happiness. Seligman, Martin (2002) New York: Free press, pp. 137-161)
Now ask yourself:
- How can I use these strengths to get personal happiness and satisfaction?
- What’s occupation or profession best utilizes my strengths? If I’m in the wrong one for me and I know it’s wrong for me, how can I change to something that gives me satisfaction?
- What recreational activities best utilize my strengths? Do the friends I have now allow me to demonstrate my strengths or do I have to hold back?
- What do happiness and satisfaction look and feel like to me?
I know I didn’t give you any answers. I can’t. I don’t have them for you and I am working on my own. Your answers will come from within you.
So go on an amazing adventure in discovery and find the strengths you have that help make you uniquely you. It is not arrogance. It is authenticity.