How To Identify (And Live With!) The Truest, Most Authentic Version Of Yourself

A therapist breaks down myths & misunderstandings about what it means to truly be yourself.

 woman with curly dark hair standing in front of pink bushes JKstock /

Conversations about "wholehearted living" and "being your authentic self" can be found everywhere these days.

The message is certainly uplifting:

How wonderful it’s going to be, once you start living this way, allowing yourself to be vulnerable and authentically you!

If only that was the case 100 percent of the time. Unfortunately, when it comes to the concept of wholehearted living, the romantic stories we tell ourselves or are told to us don't always match our experiences.


What we really ought to be talking about is how to get the most out of a wholehearted life by taking the steps required to identify what it means to be your authentic self.

It begins with trust — trusting yourself, as well as others.

RELATED: 4 Things You Must Know To 'Find Your Passion' & Become The Happy Person You Were Meant To Be

How to recognize your authentic self

In this space of wholehearted living, as you learn more about yourself, you'll need to trust your emotions and your ability to manage them. You’ll live in your values and honor them in your relationships. You’ll be compassionate and vulnerable.


Again, start with an examination of your level of trust. 

  • Do you trust your own ability to manage your emotions?
  • Do you trust your responses to outside stimuli?
  • Do you trust that your lived experiences have prepared you for this?
  • Do you trust that you still have the ability to learn?

The goal is to learn to trust yourself and others with empathy and compassion as we practice being vulnerable. These are key skills that have to be practiced in order to live in wholehearted harmony with yourself.

RELATED: 3 Ways To Get In Touch With Your Authentic Self (That Will Dramatically Improve Your Relationships)

The unexpected drawbacks of wholehearted living

The unexpected impact of wholehearted living can mean losing key relationships because they are not on the same journey as you.


It can give rise to experiencing fears, because of the story your brain is creating of no longer belonging. 

It can lead to depression, anxiety, and the reliving of disturbing memories because of the loneliness, sadness, and fear that you may experience.

As one moves through the journey of wholehearted living, normal questions, fears, and thoughts can include:

  • How will I be received?  
  • Am I going to be accepted?
  • I’m already feeling lonely, now what do I do?
  • I don’t think this is the time for me to start on this journey.
  • My family is not going to be responsive to this;
  • No one told me that this was going to be this hard and I was going to feel this lonely.
  • I don’t trust myself to fully live this way, because I’m not sure how I will respond to my feelings or to the reactions I will get.

To counteract the potential drawbacks, I constantly challenge clients to practice awareness. I advise them to experience their emotions, which will allow them to cope with them using realistic skills that truly fit who they are.


RELATED: Why Emotional Self-Awareness Is So Difficult For Some People To Attain

Using TRUST as a foundation for meaningful change

The following is an anagram of the word "trust" that I use as a guide to assist clients with their wholehearted journey — T-R-U-S-T.

1. Teach and learn

We are teaching ourselves to respond to situations, emotions, thoughts, and our experiences differently. We allow our body to respond without avoiding discomfort. We practice teaching our bodies that we can trust that we will take care of them.

The more we practice, the healthier our responses will be when the body communicates concern.

When practicing a new skill, try the following:

  • I’m feeling overwhelmed and it’s OK to breathe and not push through it. So, let me take a breather and remind myself that this is new for me.
  • My body hurts, and it feels weird to just sit and not do anything. But I’m going to teach myself to slow down so my body can rest and I can respond authentically, not how I’ve been told I should.

RELATED: How I Finally Rebuilt My Self-Esteem Through Complete And Total Radical Acceptance

2. Rational approach

Acknowledge the learning curve and the reality of the experience, including the fixed beliefs that you may have. Trust that the experience you are having is real — even if you don't like it.

Now you get to identify if these thoughts and emotions are yours or have been fed to you.

Remember rational thinking is influenced by our lived experiences, which can cover disturbances, trauma, joy, family, cultural, religious, and societal teachings that may support and or challenge what you are working on doing.


When practicing being rational and realistic, try the following:

  • I’m annoyed that so-and-so did this and it sounds small, but it feels big, so let me verbalize it and address it.
  • I don’t like this job and I’ve been forcing myself to show up daily. They’re calling it “quiet quitting” but in reality, it’s actually I have no interest in the work, the company's values don’t align with mine or I’m burned out and overworking myself.

RELATED: When You Need A Reality Check Of What Truly Matters In Life

3. Understanding

Seek to clarify and discover the need. Reflect on this need and notice what it’s asking you for.

Let us understand the experience your body is having by being curious and fully aware of how you normally respond to situations — and how you want to respond. Vulnerability and self-compassion are needed.


Acknowledge and be kind to the way you are feeling and try this:

  • I do have a reason to feel this tired, I’ve been working non-stop all week.
  • I feel sad today and I have a reason for feeling sad today: I’ve been thinking about loved ones who are no longer here. I’ve been thinking about the status of the world, so this is understandable.

RELATED: What Is Self-Compassion? How To Be Kinder To Yourself With Deep Self-Love

4. Sincere mindset

Be honest about your true feelings. Acknowledge what you need and verbalize the story that your brain is creating to combat the feeling or protect you from it.

Allow yourself to take off the mask and welcome the true self with mistakes, failures, fears, and challenges — without punishing yourself.


Acknowledge your true emotions without protecting yourself from experiencing them and try this:

  • I’m smiling all day, but I’m feeling scared and I don’t feel happy. I’m going to talk to someone.
  • I’m wearing this mask because I’m supposed to be strong, I’m supposed to be able to handle everything. But I’m human, I’m stopping at the second level of stress.

RELATED: How To Ignite Your Charm — And Empower Yourself & Encourage Others To Grow

5. Tenderness in interactions with yourself and others

Practice tenderness the way you would with a baby. Self-compassion and kindness will help you build your strength, trust, and patience with your human experience. Practice loving yourself in the smallest ways and saying nice, sincere things to yourself.

When practicing tenderness try this: 

  • I need water. Let me get up now and get it.
  • I need to use the restroom. Let me get up and go use the restroom so I can focus better in this meeting.
  • I made a mistake. Let me go ask for help even if it makes me feel uncomfortable.
  • I want to feel love. Let me call a person that I know loves me.

Wholehearted living starts with giving yourself permission to trust yourself. Trust your ability to learn to teach yourself to be realistic with your emotions and this journey you’ve chosen to be in, with understanding and sincerity with yourself, as you practice being tender with these tools.

It is important to give yourself permission to be fully present in the journey, to challenge the stories your brain may create and the stories others may try to place on you.

Trust — T-R-U-S-T — can help you to fully experience your emotions and choose how you want to be present.

RELATED: How To Feel Better About Yourself When Everything Seems To Be Falling Apart


Nancy Andino is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with 22 years in the healing field. Her focus is on healing individuals by providing exploratory, tailored, and community healing experiences authentically.