"It's not that bad." "It's not like I tooooootally hate it. It's just not 100% me. But what is? Is that even a realistic expectation?" "Part of being a grownup is doing things you don't want to do. That's just how it goes."
Can you feel your heart sinking a little bit as you read those? Your shoulders creeping up around your ears? Me, too. We've probably all muttered excuses like this a few times a week for most of our lives. But selling ourselves short, selling ourselves out and tamping down our true, authentic nature serves no one.
Not surprisingly, the more your life reflects your genuine nature, the more joyful you will be. If you're really honest with yourself, you probably know what lights you up and what dims your brightness. You know where you thrive and where you drag your heels. The problem often lies with acting on that knowledge.
It's easier to give into expectations and obligations, and it can be pretty hard to be true to yourself.
With that in mind, here are seven mantras you can try to help you live your most authentic life. Write them down, post them somewhere visible, or just recite them aloud in the car on your way to work.
1. I will abandon what I think I "should do" for what I "want to do."
I'm not talking about the fact that you "should" go to the dentist. What about mowing the lawn, or serving on the committee you don't even like, or the old friendship that's gone stale and negative? What if you took that class that interested you and let the grass wait for one more day? What if you quit the committee to spend more time with your family?
2. I will grab a pocket diary and give myself a gold star every time I engage in an activity that lights me up.
Grownups need gold stars, too! But when you're an adult, you're the one giving them out. Each time you do something you love, give yourself a little reward.
3. I will take time to daydream.
Real, actual daydreaming. Stretch out in a park and give yourself over to fantasies of moving to a cabin in Montana or becoming a professional cupcake maker.
4. I will write a letter to my 6-year-old self and tell her what she is exceptional at.
My 6-year-old self had amazing penmanship, was in the top reading group, and was always the (somewhat annoying) peacemaker on the playground. From the distance of 30 years, I can see that I was developing skills and loves that would serve me for the rest of my life!
5. I will allow myself to fully want what I want.
It's OK to want to be a stay-at-home mom. Or a millionaire. Or fit and stylish and charming. Pretending that we don't want things doesn't change those desires. It just puts distance between us and our dreams and makes it a lot less likely that we'll get there.
6. I will follow my curiosities.
As adults, a lot of us somehow fall into the same hobbies: cooking, travel, wine, mountain biking. But I bet if you're really honest with yourself, there are ideas and projects that pique your curiosity: ballroom dancing, motorcycle racing, civil war reenactments. Give yourself permission to follow your curiosity wherever it leads.
7. I will keep an interest log.
Each time you find yourself perking up, leaning in, flooded with ideas and energy, take note. What were you doing? What were you talking about? Who were you with? Track the things that excite you.
Being your truest, you-est self isn't always easy. But it's unquestionably worth it.