To be authentic, we must cultivate the courage to be imperfect—and vulnerable. We have to believe that we are fundamentally worthy of love and acceptance, just as we are. I've learned that there is no better way to invite more grace, gratitude and joy into our lives than by mindfully practicing authenticity. Even when it's hard, and even when we're wrestling with the shame and fear of not being good enough, and especially when the joy is so intense that we're afraid to let ourselves feel it. It's these moments in life that demand we show up—that we let go of who we think we're supposed to be and embrace who we really are.

The Dares

Develop a playlist of three to five songs that bring you back to yourself and inspire you to be you. I listen to mine—a mix of Johnny Cash, Alicia Keys and the Who—on my way to parties where I won't know anyone and anyplace else where I might be tempted to do my dangerous chameleon thing to fit in.

Share your practice with someone you love and trust. Designate a buddy to help you keep it real. When I'm going into a vulnerable situation—say, a work event with an intimidating colleague—I might call my sister and say, "Help! I'm rehearsing what I think she wants to hear." Just acknowledging that helps me stay conscious of my choices. And it always makes me feel stronger when my sister says, "Be brave. Be you."

Have the courage to say no—and yes. Some of the greatest threats to authenticity are boundary issues like the need to people-please. Being authentic means saying no when you really don't want to do something. But it also means saying yes and trying new things that appeal to you, even when your never-ending to-do list is calling or you're worried about failure. Trust me: The real you is stronger and more capable than you even know.

Brené Brown, PhD, is the author of Daring Greatly (Gotham Books).


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