Mental Health: Authenticity…. a key to mental wellbeing

When we live inauthentic, fake lives we wear masks that hide our true selves

As discussed in previous articles, mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a meaningful contribution to their community.

One of the barriers to mental wellbeing is a lack of authenticity. When we live inauthentic, fake lives, wearing masks that hide our true selves, we can eventually become emotionally distressed and struggle to thrive in life.

What is authenticity?

  • To align your behaviour with your beliefs and values
  • To know and understand yourself, to have a realistic view of oneself
  • To be comfortable in your own skin, accepting your uniqueness and not trying to be like anyone else
  • The ability to stand by your values and beliefs and not shifting and changing to suit each situation
  • The ability to be open and honest about your challenges and mistakes and being able to ask for help when you need it
  • The humility to be able to accept correction and constructive criticism

What is the impact of authenticity on physical and mental wellbeing?

When we are able to live an authentic, real life where we align our lifestyle to our beliefs and values:

  • we will understand ourselves better and have less mental strife and internal conflict
  • we will trust our internal voice and be able to make decisions better aligned with what we truly value in life
  • we will be less stressed and anxious, this results in lower stress hormones
  • we will be able to sleep better, a clear conscience, a life aligned with one’s values and beliefs allow for a peaceful night’s sleep

What issues can make it difficult for us to be truly authentic in life?

  • Being consistently silenced as a child, if when we were children, we were constantly harshly criticised we eventually disconnect from our true selves and start living to please those around us
  • A fear of rejection
  • An unhealthy desire for acceptance
  • A fear of being shamed or embarrassed for just being ourselves
  • Fear of being judged and criticised even as adults
  • Low self-esteem, self-worth and self-confidence
  • A lack of self-love and acceptance

How can I become a more authentic person?

  1. Work on getting to know yourself and to understand yourself
  2. Know what values and beliefs are important to you and what you will not compromise on
  3. Do not cross your conscience even under duress
  4. Do not lie to yourself
  5. Have a realistic perspective of yourself, your weaknesses and shortcomings and be willing to be honest and vulnerable about these and to work on your shortcomings
  6. Develop healthy boundaries so as to not be pushed into changing yourself in order to ‘fit in’ with others
  7. Surround yourself with people who will build you up but also challenge you to be your authentic self and call you out when you are being inauthentic

If you think that you or someone that you know maybe struggling with a mental health problem, please contact your nearest health care provider and get help.

*Dr Chido Rwafa-Madzvamutse is a consultant psychiatrist. Feedback:  WhatsApp: +263777727332

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