Finding Your Authentic Voice

I read an article recently called Taming the Mammoth: Why You Should Stop Caring What Other People Think. For those of you who have not read this article, ask yourself these few questions:

  1. Do you sometimes feel inadequate, boring, and not-so-special?
  2. Do you compare yourselves with other people your age who are bringin’ in the dolla dolla bills y’all?
  3. Do you feel pressure from friends, parents, loved ones, and society to perhaps be someone you are not?
  4. Is there something you really want to do but you’re afraid to pursue it?

If so, my friends, this article is for you. It pretty much talks about this “mammoth” over you which is preventing you but being the “best you” you can be. The article speaks a bit about finding your “authentic voice.” Essentially, your authentic voice is how you really feel about things, what you really think about things, and who you really are. It is that voice that says, “No thank you, I will not go to medical school mom,” or “I think I will watch TV and eat cheese today instead of going to the gym.” While those for me have always been no brainers, there have often been times where finding my Authentic Voice is incredibly different. For example, should I pursue my dream career of being a children’s poet or should I have a stable job in Corporate America? Do I really want to be stinkin’ rich or do I just think I want to be stinkin’ rich because people who are seem to be more respected? Does external validation drive my ambitions and if so, am I cool widdit?

So I embarked on a quest to find my Authentic Voice. I believe it is a quest most people will embark on for a while—some of us may have an easier time, but hey, like the cliché goes, it’s not about the destination it’s about the journey. I believe that when we find our Authentic Voice or when we get closer to finding it, we can be honest with ourselves when it comes to big decisions or choices and we can feel more comfortable in our own skin. When I was at the tender age of 19, a much wiser and older person told me that he was happier now (he was 26) than he ever was in his early 20s. It wasn’t because he was jetsetting around the world or launching the next start-up or anything like that, but it was because he felt like he knew himself better and thus felt more accepting of himself. That was something that truly resonated with me through my early 20s and hopefully will continue to do so.

So this post will talk about steps I am and have been taking towards finding my Authentic Voice. It is definitely a work in progress. Hopefully some of these steps will resonate with you as well.

1)      Stop publishing everything you do

Facebook is great. I love it because you can keep in touch with people from high school, be reminded of birthdays, and try to sell tickets to shows you can no longer want to go to. It is a great way to connect and I won’t deny that it has its positives in our society. However, what Facebook and other social media platforms have propelled in our human race is the constant need to publicize what we do. The first time I realized my condition was at a beautiful and ancient temple in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Instead of appreciating the grandeur of the structure and the history in the engravings, I was pondering over what photo op would get me the most likes. The problem with publishing everything you do is that you begin to crave validation and when you crave that validation, your future actions may be based on what will give you the most validation, not really what you truly value. See that nasty cycle?

So how this helps you find your authentic voice is that once you stop publishing everything, you will realize what you truly enjoy doing and what you were doing just to post pictures. You’ll learn to enjoy the actual moments as opposed to the so-called picture perfect moment.

2)      Write things down

If you’re feeling upset, moody, angry, overwhelmed, or any other type of unsettling emotions, write it down. I break it up into three buckets:  Feelings, Reasons, Remedies. In the Feelings bucket, I write down what I am feeling (anxious, overwhelmed, freaked out). In the Reasons bucket I write down why I am feeling these feelings—it could be your job, your relationship, money problems, etc. Finally in the Remedies bucket I think about what I could possibly do to help myself out of my situation. Most of the time, I only apply one of my remedies but it at least helps me feel like all hope is not lost. Also it gives some sort of direction.

By writing things down, you’ll have a written record of things that bother you. You may even spot a pattern. Does your job appear on your list more often than not? Maybe then it’s time to start looking at that Remedies list.

3)      Go out in nature

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” –John Muir

There is something about being in nature that reminds you that the earth is filled with countless complexities that your brain can never comprehend. Whether you believe in creationism or science, or some kind of crossbreed, nature is fascinating. From scented greenery to the tiny specs of life that inhabit pockets of the earth, it is pure and unfiltered. It is also a reminder that if you shut off your phone for a few hours, the social media world does not forget you, because well, no one was on Facebook waiting for your updates anyways.

4)      Take a break

Now that success is constantly published on the interwebs, it is easy to look at yourself and think, “Damn, what am I doing with my life? That 14-year-old is conducting research on finding the cure for cancer, that 21-year-old just sold his start-up to Google, and a person like Elon Musk exists in our world.” It becomes a habit to place immense pressure on yourself to constantly live up to another person’s standard that even when you take a break to watch a TV show, eat dinner with your significant other, or eat a bag of Hot Cheetos, you start to feel guilty that you aren’t devoting enough attention to attaining your goal, whatever it may be.

Breaks are important. They provide clarity for chaotic brain activity. My favorite breaks include:

  • Watching a comedic television sitcom
  • Reading food magazines
  • Going for a run/walk
  • Eating ice cream

5)      Identify your nay-sayers and yay-sayers

We have nay-sayers in our lives—people who always try to find holes in your ideas, bring you down with negativity, and ultimately just make you feel bad about yourself. Sometimes you don’t realize these people are buzzkills because they are people who you care about and love like your family members and friends. Nevertheless, these are individuals who are counterproductive towards finding your authentic voice—they are people who make you feel stupid about your thoughts or ideas. Instead of supporting and encouraging your individuality, they prevent it, hopefully unintentionally.

Now, your yay-sayers are your biggest cheerleaders. They will root for you from any little accomplishment to grand achievements. They are your biggest fans and try their best to support you with love and encouragement. They will still provide critique and feedback, but only in the effort to understand you better, and offer any assistance you may need.

Needless to say, yay-sayers will help encourage you on your quest to finding your authentic voice while nay-sayers just get in the way.

6)   Be nice to yourself

Finally, be nice to yourself. Give yourself some credit for all that you have achieved and find healthy ways to push yourself. It is true that you are your own worst enemy and your harshest critic, so be mindful of how damaging your negativity can be on your authentic voice search. The common saying goes that you should treat others like how you want to be treated. In this case, try treating yourself like how you treat others. Do you ever notice how you’re really good at giving other people advice, encouragement and support, but when it comes to yourself, you can’t follow your own advice and you’re super harsh?

Be nice to yourself and maybe the real you will come out.

Good luck and happy hunting!

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