Emotional Competency

Explore the Logic of Passion

Authentic Self
Do who you are

Stop faking it and live the life you were born to fulfill. Rediscover your core values and return to your authentic self. Regain the passion, excitement, and confidence locked inside. Get real and leave the old phony behind.


Authentic: Genuine; literally self-authored or endorsed.

Self: Your physical and mental being with all its human and unique characteristics.

Authentic Self: The true you; aligned and congruent self image, stature, values, beliefs, goals, behavior, word, and public image.

Becoming Authentic

To become your authentic self begin by knowing yourself. Understand: human nature, what you can change and what you cannot, your own personality traits, learned behaviors, and your values, beliefs, sense of justice, needs, goals, and motives. Integrate these to form your personal model for human interaction. Analyze the events, choices, and people who have contributed to your self-spiral throughout your life. Understand what guides you throughout your life. Discover your signature strengths, and the basis of your true stature. Then apply those signature strengths toward your authentic goals. Become an authentic person by aligning your self image, stature, and public image. Have the courage to acknowledge your limitations and embrace your vulnerability. Gain the confidence to be humble. Choose to be content. Work toward integration, alignment, and congruence of what is with your values, beliefs, and actions. Express yourself authentically. Do what you say. Do who you are.

To understand the gap between who you are now and the authentic self you can be, begin by writing a list of words that describe who you want to be; who you believe you can be. To get started consider the list of trait nouns and trait adjectives. If these complete lists are overwhelming, use the shorter lists of personality trait markers, including both adjectives and nouns. Concentrate on words that describe who you are, not what you do. Now write down a separate list of words that describe who you are now. How many words are the same on both lists? How many are different? How closely do the lists compare? What changes do you have to make?

Authentic people respond to their intrinsic motives. They exercise autonomy, dismiss introjected regulations, and choose among the extrinsic motives available to them. Their thoughts, beliefs, words, and actions originate deep from within and are true and secure enough to resist destructive external pressures. The result is a genuine, quiet, deep, vitalizing, serene, and lasting fulfillment and confidence without anxiety, self-doubt, or other sources of stress.

Authentic people choose authentic alternatives. These include: wisdom, well-founded beliefs, valid conclusions, purposeful actions, candor, trust, placing needs ahead of wants, knowing when they have enough, balancing gratification with hedonism, nimble actions, treating others humanely, and establishing symmetrical relationships. We become authentic when he path we choose through life is congruent with who we are.

The alignment essential to an authentic person is illustrated here. Actions aligned with your authentic self are authentic behaviors. Actions misaligned with your authentic self are alien, false, fake, pretentious, stressful, insincere, fraudulent, strained, bogus, phony, and not authentic. This is typical of a person who is misaligned, off balance, stressed, alienated, detached, and faking it. When what you do is fully aligned with who you are, you are an authentic person. Authentic people “do who they are” and enjoy gratification, serenity, success, and significance. Authentic people act with more interest, excitement, and confidence and often demonstrate better performance, persistence, creativity, vitality, self-esteem, and general well-being. Authenticity reduces fear, anxiety, guilt, and shame.

Your authentic self is the unique combination of all your qualities including your skills, abilities, interests, talents, limits, insights, experiences, memories, beliefs, purpose, and wisdom. It is the expression of your core values through all your quirks and your strengths. Our authentic nature may best be revealed by how we enjoy playing—by what it is we most enjoy doing simply for our own pleasure—at any age.

Increase the congruence between what you do, and your goals, beliefs, and values. Pay attention to how you spend your time. Do the activities you spend your time on advance your most important goals? Do your goals reflect your values? Do your values reflect your authentic self? Reappraise your values, beliefs, goals, and actions to improve the congruence.

As people become more authentic they often become more: rational, realistic, intuitive, creative, independent, flexible, able to manage change, willing to accept blame and correct their mistakes, generous, respectful of others, fair, and cooperative. This congruence earns the trust of others.


Don Miguel Ruiz shares centuries of Toltec wisdom in his book The Four Agreements. To apply this wisdom, choose to create these profound agreements with yourself:

  1. Be impeccable with your word. Carefully examine what you tell yourself, what you tell others, and when you decide to speak. Use your word consistently to express and strengthen your values. Don't employ or overlook factual errors, fallacies or, distortions during communications. Express yourself authentically. Earn trust. Do what you say.
  2. Don't take anything personally. It's not all about you. Reject the fallacy of personalization. Rely confidently on your own well-founded self-concept; it is the only evaluation of your worth that matters. Challenge and balance your first-person viewpoint.
  3. Don't make assumptions. Suspend judgment. Readily acknowledge what you don't know and have the courage to ask questions. Carefully examine the evidence. Don't attribute intent to others. Retain a healthy skepticism as you avoid cynicism. Develop, refine, and constantly apply your own well-founded theory of knowledge.
  4. Always do your best. Do all you can while you recognize you can't do it all. All you can do is all you can do. When you have truly done your best, there is no reason for shame. It's ok to goof off if you do your best when it matters the most. Apply your time and effort toward your well-chosen and enduring goals.

When you understand and accept these agreements you can begin the hard work of transformation; the journey toward your authentic self. Question your own long-held answers. Carefully examine each of your values, beliefs, goals, judgments, and rules and decide if they are consistent with the four agreements. Reject those that are not consistent and adopt new values, goals, beliefs, and rules that support all four agreements. Eliminate your introjected regulations. Integrate these four agreements into your theory of knowledge. Constantly reprogram yourself until you can consistently keep the four agreementsExternal Link.

These agreements are essential elements of authentic expression and earning trust.


  • “Know thyself.” ~ Socrates (470–399 BC) 
  • “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance.” ~ Confucius (551 – 479 BC)
  • “One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself.” ~ Leonardo Da Vinci (1452 – 1519)
  • “Life is not a dress rehearsal.” ~
  • “It's not what they think; it's what you know.” ~ Nathaniel Branden
  • “Popularity is not self-respect.” ~ Nathaniel Branden
  • “Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too.” ~ Voltaire, in Essays on Tolerance
  • Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”
  • “Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” ~ George Bernard Shaw
  • “This above all: to thine own self be true” ~ Polonius' advice to his son Laertes in William Shakespeare's “Hamlet”
  • “Wherever you go, there you are.” ~
  • “The self that emerges through play is the core authentic self.” ~ Stuart Brown.
  • “These two simple processes—triggering intrigue and sustaining interest—are at the heart of a fulfilling life.” ~ Todd Kashdan
  • “Don't compromise yourself. You're all you've got.” ~ Janis Joplin


Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment, by Martin Seligman

Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Self-Motivation, by Edward L. Deci, Richard Flaste

I Am a Strange Loop, by Douglas Hofstadter

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55, 68-78.

Authentic Happiness Website, by Martin Seligman, director of the University of Pennsylvania positive psychology center.

Self Matters, by Phillip C. McGraw

Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, by Nathaniel Branden

The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz

The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, by Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica

The power of vulnerability, Brene Brown, June 2010 TED Talk

Peaceful Warrior — Dan Millman learns to enjoy the journey in this docudrama. 

Everybody Needs a Rock, by Byrd Baylor and Peter Parnall

Knowing Yourself, an Amazon.com Listmania List

Fear, Sadness, Anger, Joy, Surprise, Disgust, Contempt, Anger, Envy, Jealousy, Fright, Anxiety, Guilt, Shame, Relief, Hope, Sadness, Depression, Happiness, Pride, Love, Gratitude, Compassion, Aesthetic Experience, Joy, Distress, Happy-for, Sorry-for, Resentment, Gloating, Pride, Shame, Admiration, Reproach, Love, Hate, Hope, Fear, Satisfaction, Relief, Fears-confirmed, Disappointment, Gratification, Gratitude, Anger, Remorse, power, dominance, stature, relationships

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