Want to Be Your Authentic Self? Get to Know Your Beliefs, Values, and Abilities

Social Psychologist
Over a year ago

If the only constant in life is change, as the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, finding your true, bedrock self becomes a problematic idea. How do you know when you've found it? Hasn't the search for yourself changed who you are? And don't your experiences in life constantly shape you into a new person? Suffice it to say that being authentic does not mean reacting to life in easily predictable ways. So if you are looking to be yourself — indeed, your best and strongest self — it is important to understand what you believe, what you value, and what your abilities are, says Amy Cuddy.

That comes down to an idea she calls "presence," which means bringing your best self to life's most challenging events. What these events are — a job interview, a stressful social or family situation — vary from person to person. But what is constant across these events is our true self: our beliefs, values, and abilities. If you go into stressful situations with a strong sense of what these bedrock qualities are for you, you'll perform better in the face of adversity, says Cuddy.

While a job interview or family dispute is probably not a matter of life-or-death, it may feel that way because your biology, e.g. your nervous system, is evolved to deal with life-or-death situations. Cuddy's point is not about overcoming evolutionary forces, but that noticing how your body reacts to stressful situations — what makes your palm sweat, for example? — is a way to identify what are your biggest life challenges. "So once you’ve identified what’s happening in the situation when those things happen," says Cuddy, "you start to become much more attuned to those bodily cues. And so when they happen in the future you can sort of course correct earlier."

Cuddy's book is Presence: Bring Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges.