Ann Allen’s new book Authenticity at Your Best is a practical and inspirational guide to learning how to be your true self. Ann believes being your authentic self is the solution to coping and succeeding in our current chaotic world. It is easy to be dissuaded from following what is best for us when bombarded by the media telling us what we should do, think, and be. Being your authentic self means standing up for what you believe in and refusing to go along with the crowd, even when that may be the easier thing to do.
In the book’s foreword, Jack Stucki, a pioneer in Ann’s field of biofeedback, talks about how this book is a gift because it encourages us to be our true selves, free from distraction. When we live authentically, with honesty and integrity, we also inspire others to do the same.
Ann defines authenticity as not only being honest but finding congruency between our inside and outside worlds. She states, “Your inside world is your beliefs and values, your feelings, your gifts and talents, your passions and dreams, and your challenges and experiences. Your outside world is work, home, community, play, and life.”
Ann illustrates how to find this congruency first by telling the story of an ethical work decision she needed to make, which meant either following her truth or caving to peer pressure. When she chose to follow her truth, the universe rewarded her for doing so.
It is easy to conform to the crowd. Because we tend to fear becoming outcasts, we find it difficult not to go along with others, but Ann makes it clear that when we do that, we do not benefit the world, but rather take from it. She states, “To understand this great need to be authentic, look at life as a great symphony. Only you can play your unique instrument. Without the music of your soul blending with all the others, something essential gets lost in life’s expression of itself.”
After establishing the importance of being authentic, Ann asks us to examine two fundamental questions: “What are your truths?” and “What do you actually believe?” She states that our beliefs and patterns are two of the greatest stumbling blocks to authentic living. That’s because we have often taken on certain beliefs and patterns that are not authentic to us in our efforts to be liked and accepted, while not realizing how this has hurt us. I love the quote Ann gives from Jack Kornfield, which states, “I think the greatest wound we’ve all experienced is somehow being rejected for being our most authentic self. And as a result of that, we try to be what we are not to get approval, love, protection, safety, money, whatever.”
Ann then walks us through the essential qualities for living an authentic life, discussing each one in depth. Those qualities are: courage, vulnerability, honesty, trust, presence, judicious communication, honor and respect, limits and boundaries, and vision and insight. The discussion for each of these qualities is insightful. For example, Ann states that judicious communication requires not saying white lies and not giving off negative body language.
While we usually want to be authentic toward others, the hardest part is being authentic with ourselves. Too often we lie to ourselves or just aren’t kind to ourselves. We can resolve this issue by learning to practice self-love and by honoring who we are. Ann explains that we want to develop our sense of self to the point where our inner world remains constant so that when we look at the outer world, it does not fluctuate. An excellent example Allen provides is of Elizabeth Gilbert, the bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love. In her book on creativity, Big Magic, Gilbert talks about how she vowed to honor her work as a writer; doing so was being true to who she was, regardless of whether or not it ever made her famous. Of course, we all know where her authenticity got her.
To honor the self, Ann also tells us to become more aware of our own self-talk, especially the negative voices that hold us back. We also need to listen to messages from our body. And we cannot ignore our gifts and talents; we must use them to better ourselves and the world. She provides advice on how to be authentic in all these areas.
There is much more in Authenticity at Your Best that I could talk about, but I’ll end with
Ann’s own words about the importance of authenticity for our own time:
“We are at a crisis point. All of humanity is staring at a moment when we must change. Our future depends on it. Fortunately, the path forward is simple, yet not always easy. Each of us, in each of our own personal lives, must commit to authenticity… We can choose to surrender to our fears and continue on the road of familiar patterns, thereby obstructing our next step forward toward wholeness. Or we can refuse to accept the status quo we see around us and insist on celebrating and supporting a more authentic way of being.”
I hope you will choose to read this book and choose what is best for you-to be your authentic self.