How To Discover Your Authentic Self To Reclaim Your Happiness & Revitalize Relationships

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What is your essence? It's your authentic self, not the self that has survived by adapting to others who have influenced your early years of development.

These early years of development are the foundation of who you become as you mature.

Too often, you abandon your authentic self in order to survive the dysfunction in your family, the outside force that may have caused trauma and forced you to wear a survival suit to cover your essence.

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Your "survival suit" was created to protect yourself, but just as a bird is kept in a cage for protection from the elements, it limits your ability to fly and be free.

Discovering your authenticity is a process — not an event.

It takes time to cast off your survival suit and cannot be done without the help of a qualified therapist, just as it's impossible to remove a gall bladder without a surgeon.

There's natural resistance in taking away something that has served you well as a child. We can only let go when we realize that what was in your best interest then no longer provides the same intention and outcome as an adult.

In fact, staying safe inside your survival suit only prohibits your growth from becoming a healthy, mature adult.

The art of being your authentic self.

Even if you're not an art aficionado, most people can recognize the basic elements of art present in all great artists: They have the ability to be who they are, authentically.

In fact, they have no choice. They are compelled to be in their essence to create their masterpieces or compositions. This is true for anyone who is passionate about their work, whether they're an artist, musician, dancer, writer, or athlete.

If denied that authenticity, they could not produce the greatness that we are all fortunate to share throughout the centuries. However, this doesn't mean that their essence is projected in other dimensions of their personality.

One can be a great artist or musician and fail miserably in relationships — not unlike Van Gogh, Albert Einstein, Tiger Woods, and Diego Rivera, just to mention a few.

The relationship between authenticity and your inner child. 

Somewhere within each of us lies the essence of our being. It may be within the inner child due to abuse, neglect, and abandonment. Even the death of a parent when you're too vulnerable and young to understand loss and grief can leave a hole in your soul, too painful to grasp.

In trauma, you create a false self, sometimes bravado, sometimes indifference, and aggressive behaviors that were not there before. Those unconscious decisions made during a traumatic periodd are integrated as part of who you become. It's adaptation to survive.

You can choose to get tough or feel helpless, not unlike a victim.

These choices are not in your conscious awareness until a therapist explores behaviors that interfere with the quality of your life and you recognize that something is not working.

Relationships suffer if you're not authentic in your essence.

Being in your essence is mandatory for relational maturity. You need to reflect your authenticity that must be integrated, and not just compartmentalized. If not, your work and family life suffers, and so does your mental and physical well-being.

Relationships too often become "the killing fields" when your relational space becomes polluted with the manifestations of your survival self.

Your relational space is where you live along with your children and pets. When the space remains polluted, the children suffer and learn to adapt in order to survive.

We recreate what we learned from our dysfunctional families. All trauma becomes multi-generational, unless we clean the space.

Cleaning the space requires that you discard your survival suits. This requires therapy.

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Relationships flourish when we are our authentic self.

When two people are in their true essence, time is eternal.

When you don’t know what to do, what to say, and how to be, you feel awkward, uneasy, and uncomfortable in your own skin. We would rather be what others may want us to be, than to reveal our true selves.

This is our survival self — our adapted self.

To really be free — to know your soulful content and purpose in life, not defined by what you do, but who you really are — is to be free.

Once you're liberated from your survival suit, you can learn to love yourself, and others will want love you, as well.

Your self-esteem rises along with your self-image and self-worth. This can only happen when you've recovered your authentic self.

I grew up in the last "age of innocence," the 1950s in Miami Beach, a city that practiced apartheid, but we didn’t know it — let alone the word.

We saw the "colored" and "white's only" fountains, the segregated bathrooms, and the signs on the public buses that said, "Colored to the back." We never even knew that was wrong as children and teenagers, because that was the trance we grew up in.

It was our culture, defiled as it was. It wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I developed a social conscience that was apart from the world I grew up in. We lived in a bubble. Miami Beach was a very special place and the '50s, a special time.

Every one of us thought we were going to get married, have children, and live happily ever after in our lives.

When reality struck, we were in shock. I would say that it was the assassination of John F. Kennedy that was the beginning of the wake-up call that ended our last age of innocence.

Discovering your authentic self.

The art of being you and loving yourself relies on you — not anyone else.

If you can’t love yourself, no one else will either. To love yourself is to be yourself. To be yourself is to claim your essence. The child within you is waiting for you to claim them.

It's your responsibility to heal that part of yourself that was wounded a long time ago and learned to survive but now needs to be free to be who they really are.

To go to your grave never knowing who you really are is the greatest tragedy of all.

You, as an adult, must go back and reclaim your child, re-parent them, and become the champion that they never had and needed.

This process takes a qualified therapist, time, commitment, and money.

It’s the best investment you can make in yourself! The dividends are endless.

RELATED: How To Live A Life That’s Aligned With Your True Self, According To 86 Experts

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Joan E Childs, LCSW is a renowned psychotherapist, inspirational speaker, and author. For more information on how to create and maintain a conscious relationship, order Joan’s new book, I Hate The Man I Love: A Conscious Relationship is Your Key to Success.

This article was originally published at The Art of Authenticity: Recovering Your Authentic Self and Reclaiming Relationships. Reprinted with permission from the author.