Risk Being Yourself

Risk being yourself. This concept is far from new. Throughout the ages, the most consistent prescription for personal well-being is this: Be who you must be. The Greek poet Pindar said, “Grow into what you are.” Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Insist on yourself, never imitate.” Famed psychologist Erich Fromm said, “Man’s main task in life is to give birth to himself, to become what he potentially is.” Robert Louis Stevenson said, “To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end in life.” Abraham Maslow said, “A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be.”

These sages said explicitly what we all know implicitly, that when you have become far removed from who you are supposed to be, when your work-self and personal-self are wholly different people, and when the masks you wear don’t look anything like your real face, you expend too much energy living a life of pretense.

Who Are You?

When the person we portray to the world is the same as the person we truly are, we are being our authentic selves. When we are authentic, we are who we are, take us or leave us. To live authentically is to live without pretense, and to express and assert the gift of your individuality. Living authentically means being psychologically patriotic, and proud of who you are. The benefit of being our authentic selves is that instead of wasting time pretending to be someone we are not, we have more impassioned energy to get on with the business of living. Living a life of authenticity represents the end of an exhausting game of make-believe.

What about you? Are you living authentically? Would you know if you were? Ask yourself these tough questions:

  • Are you living a lie?
  • Does your life stand for anything? What?
  • Are you selling out in some area of your life? Have
    slow, incremental compromises turned you into the
    person you never wanted to be?
  • Would the person you are at work be welcomed into
    your home?
  • Do you judge others mainly by their appearances?
  • Does your life revolve around money? Which of these
    do you equate it with freedom, happiness, security,
    status, and/or power?
  • Would people describe you as “genuine,” “real,” or
    “down to earth”? Are you?
  • Is your true self the self that the world gets to see?
  • Are you the person that you always wanted to become?

Don’t Like the Answers?

If you are disappointed with your answers, take heart. Living authentically does not have to be forever. Like Dante, the main character in Alighieri’s seminal work Inferno—the first part of the 14th-century epic poem Divine Comedy, it is never too late to save your life. But, like Dante, to become the person you are supposed to become, you may have to go through hell to get there. Why? Because being our authentic selves is a huge risk.

Yes, the greatest risk of all is to be yourself, even if being yourself means losing stature, money, prestige, or the identity that others prefer. Living a life of authenticity is an act of personal fidelity. When we stop betraying ourselves, our life takes on meaning, substance, and relevance. You cannot escape the longings of your soul, nor should you. The closer you get to your authentic self, the less you diverge from your own identity. It all starts with a choice, the exercise of prerogative. Will you be who you are, or will you be who you are not?

Risk Being Yourself with Authenticity

walking by yourself on a journey

Taking the risk of authenticity means embarking on a journey of liberation, the journey of your destiny, your own personal freedom march. There are no maps, few boundaries, and plenty of hazards. Yes, you will have to give up a lot, and yes, you will suffer through hardship. You will be called to do what is uncomfortable and inconvenient, to stand alone and face your fears, and then to bring the full potency of your authenticity back into the world.

Why do it? For the same reasons, you take any other Right Risk. In the struggle to overcome your fears, in the courage to face your demons, and in your willingness to take a stand for what you believe in, you build and fortify your integrity. When you risk because you feel called to do so, when you risk out of your authenticity, you risk with greater confidence and less regret. Right Risk-taking, then, is about something much more important than adrenaline, control, or machismo. Each Right Risk becomes a projection of your character, an external manifestation of your theology. Thus, the greatest reward for each Right Risk taken is an intimate encounter with the magnificence of your soul.

Are you living a life of authenticity? Decide today how you’re going to risk being yourself.

This post is based on an excerpt from Right Risk: 10 Powerful Principles for Taking Giant Leaps with Your Life.

Want to learn more about the benefits of taking risks? You might like these other blog posts:

You Might Also Like…

The Open-Door Policy

The Open-Door Policy

Leadership is often defined as a set of behaviors by which one person influences others toward the achievement of goals. Put more simply, leadership is about momentum and results. While these definitions are true, they somehow fall short. What mechanism should a...

Opportunity Focused Leadership

Opportunity Focused Leadership

Do you aim to be a problem-focused leader or an opportunity focused leader? Many work environments place a premium on leaders with critical thinking and problem-solving skills. However, that premium often places too much emphasis on being critical and dealing with...

The Anatomy of a Butt Kick: Overcoming a Career Setback

The Anatomy of a Butt Kick: Overcoming a Career Setback

In any given month, I have upwards of twenty one-on-one executive coaching sessions. It’s very common for those conversations to center on helping a coachee process a career setback. The setbacks are often painful, like a swift kick in the rear end. As painful as they...