How often do you feel like you alter yourself in order to fit someone else's expectations of yourself? And, how often do you wish you could show up as your authentic self instead?
We crave the day we can speak our minds, or show up to a party wearing an outfit no one would expect, or the day we're able to admit we have a secret talent we spend our free time perfecting.
So many of us are craving for authentic connections, yet we're too scared to show up as the true versions of ourselves.
When you consider where the fear of being our authentic selves comes from, it makes sense why so many of us are scared to show that version of ourselves to the world.
Where did my authentic self go?
When we were children, things happened that caused us pain. Pain that we couldn’t process because we didn’t have the capacity and knowledge to advocate for ourselves. Our brains were too immature to understand and, often times, we had parents who didn’t understand themselves.
So when something painful happened, our brains found ways to ease the pain, even if that meant that we had to abandon ourselves. This often lead to roles that we learned to play and masks that we put on to get our needs met.
These roles and masks served the purpose of protection when we were younger, but are hurting us as adults. The reason being because they’re creating a separation between us and our authentic selves.
Our authentic selves are who we are underneath these masks we wear and roles we play. It’s who we are when no one is looking. It’s made up of the things we do, enjoy, and believe when we’re not trying to receive outside validation or putting others’ needs above our own. It’s the way we spend our time that is true to us. It’s the things we value despite others’ beliefs, perceptions, and opinions of us. It’s the version of ourselves we know we are despite any fears, doubts, and anxieties. Our authentic self is who we are at our core when we feel most like ourselves.
I want to say that finding your authentic self is a one and done exercise. But, from experience, it’s proving to be the opposite - a constant unraveling of layers and conditioning. Half of the battle is learning who your authentic self is, and the other half is maintaining that self within society.
Because of this, I’m constantly reflecting on if the ways I am showing up in my life are aligned with my authentic self. It can be challenging, but I’m proud of the layers I’ve dug through and how much closer to my authentic self I am now than I was a few years ago.
Here are a list of books that have helped me along my journey. This is so much more than a list of books on finding yourself. This list is filled with different perspectives to help you learn how to be your authentic self when every part of you wants to hide behind your masks.
The Gifts of Imperfection - Brene Brown
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown is a personal, all time favorite of mine. I remember reading this book back in 2017 and it changing my life. I recently reread it because I’ve been dealing with a LOT of perfectionism issues, and it’s interesting how you can read the same book multiple times and get something different out of it each time.
This is a non fiction, research based, self help book. Emphasis on the research based. Brene Brown is one of the leading researchers in shame and vulnerability. And while she was documenting her research, she founded this concept of whole hearted living (in other words is living an authentic life).
Whole hearted living comes down to knowing that you are enough, and owning yourself in everything you do. It’s being your authentic self, and not trading your authenticity for approval.
If you feel you aren’t worthy, if you struggle to own your story, if you want to be someone else, if you are searching for perfectionism as the answer to all your problems, this book is for you!
Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self - Sarah Ban Breathnach
In Something More by Sarah Ban Breathnach, she encourages you to become an archaeologist of your Self: to delve into your past to “excavate” the authentic woman buried inside.
She talks about the different roles we take on throughout our life, and how we loose ourselves when we over identify with those roles. She challenges you to explore who you are outside of those roles. You are a mom and a wife…but who are YOU? What do you like to do? What are your passions?
This book is about finding that person again. And about the importance of finding it now. It can be tempting to wait until the “perfect” time to become the person you want to be. To wait until you have the perfect body, or are perfectly healed, or have the perfect relationship. But you are doing yourself, your life, and your happiness a disservice by not starting in the present.
I suggest if you’re on the journey of finding your authentic self, you read this book with a highlighter handy!
Authentic: How to Be Yourself and Why It Matters – Stephen Joseph
In this book, Stephen Joseph answers questions like what does authenticity mean? And what leads to true happiness?
He uses his research on authenticity to reveal his formula to an authentic life. That formula being, know yourself + own yourself + be yourself = an authentic life.
He explains that authentic people know themselves, are able to listen to their intuition, and are able to face the truth about themselves no matter how unpleasant. And that in order to start becoming more authentic, you have to look deeply within yourself and uncover your barriers to authenticity in order to start to begin to dismantle them.
Joseph doesn’t just give an inspiring perspective on authenticity, but gives practical advice and exercises for you to start uncovering your layers to step into your true self.
Live True: A Mindfulness Guide to Authenticity – Ora Nadrich
“What does it mean to live authentically? The definition of authentic is genuine and real. Or in other words a combination of all of your true qualities and characteristics. However, I like to describe authentic as living your truth in the present moment. I know, its easy to want to hide or conceal certain aspects of ourselves we may not love, but once we start to hide our realness and who we really are, it can slip away from us to the point of living dishonestly to our true nature. And why would we want to do something like that?” -Ora Nadrich
Live True is a deep dive into the process of living in alignment with your authentic self, with guidance on how to find your authentic self and live an aligned life with purpose. Nadrich breaks down authenticity into fundamental pieces that will help you live intentionally as your true self in every moment. The book is broken up into bite sized chapters designed to read and practice/meditate on one lesson per day. Her writing is thoughtful, approachable, entertaining, full of wisdom, and will help you live a more present, intentional life.
Daring Greatly – Brené Brown
Another Brene Brown book, don’t yell at me! She’s too phenomenal to not mention twice.
In Daring Greatly, Brene Brown addresses that in order to show up more fully in our lives, we need to embrace vulnerability as a strength instead of a weakness. As human beings, we have a fundamental need for connection, love, and belonging. But that’s not always easy.
Every time we are introduced to someone new or start a difficult conversation, we take a risk - because doing so puts us at risk of rejection. So in order to protect ourselves from potential rejection, we act in ways that we think we need to in order to avoid feeling shame that we are not good enough. That shame is what prevents us from putting ourselves out there and being ourselves.
So instead of acting in ways that are inauthentic to ourselves, Daring Greatly talks about owning your shame, being brave enough to show your vulnerability, and having the courage to being imperfect. When doing this, you can start to accept yourself for who you are.
How to Be Yourself: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety – Ellen Hendriksen
This book is great for introverts and people with social anxiety. Since Hendriksen has experienced social anxiety herself, the book is filled with incredibly relatable content that describes the experience vividly. Each chapter contains an interesting and useful tool to help overcome social anxiety so you can start becoming your true self around others.
Hendriksen uses entertaining stories that bring the stories to life to be both relatable and inspiring. I love a book that’s full of wisdom, and equally entertaining and with Hendriksen’s witty language and cultural references this book is just that!
A Radical Awakening - Dr. Shefali
This book is for women who are beginning to feel a sense of discontent or disagreement with the expectations of women within society. It is for anyone who feels like their family, society, or culture has caused them to lose their true selves, and are looking to awaken to their authentic self.
Dr. Shefali talks about the various roles that women tend to take on based on their childhood, and how taking a look at your conditioning will help you see why you are the way you are. The book explains that these roles are the ego’s protection mechanism that is now hurting us as adults, and she goes into practical ways to start shedding those masks in order to start stepping into your true self.
I hope that through these books you can start to answer questions like what does authenticity mean, who is my true self, and how do I show up as that person. It can be a challenge, but it’s an essential exercise on your self discovery journey!
Are there any other authentic self books you would add to the list?
If you’re looking to dive deeper into the authentic self, we have some resources for you! Check out these links to learn more: