“What’s your name, dahhhling?” Mariah Carey asked me, as I was whisked on stage by two women in skimpy maid outfits.
“I’m Chris!” I exclaimed, exasperated and shaking from finally meeting my all-time favorite diva. We air kissed on both cheeks.
“Everyone give Chris a festive welcome!” Mariah told the crowd of 4,000 people. The Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas erupted with screaming and clapping.
The same two women in scant maid outfits led me to a circular bed where I was blindfolded and placed in handcuffs, just as Mariah’s hit song “Touch My Body” started playing. Moments later, Mariah was tickling me with a feather and serenading me to one of my favorite songs of all time.
It was three and a half minutes of pure bliss.
Before I knew it, the performance was over and I was sent back to my seat with a Polaroid picture of the experience, still in a state of shock. People kept coming up to me after the concert to ask what it was like to be on stage with Mariah. “She smelled like cotton candy and sounded like a baby angel!” I said, half joking. High-fives and hugs became my life for the next few hours.
Needless to say, I was on cloud nine.
That night, on the way back to my hotel, I realized that Mariah and I had more in common than just a love for her discography. We were both masters of the over-the-top performance.
Mariah’s over-the-top performance featured a flirty fantasy for all her concertgoers to see. My over-the-top performance, on the other hand, featured a lot of smoke and mirrors that basically meant that virtually no one would see the real me.
Truth is, I spent the majority of my adult life putting on a show. I presented a carefully crafted, larger-than-life version of myself to the public so people would like me. Or at least validate the version of me I was comfortable letting them see.
I thought having a glamorous job would make me cool. I thought having nice things would make me happy. I thought I needed a life that would be worthy of everyone else’s approval.
Mariah was all done up in makeup. I was living a life that was made up.
I lacked awareness. I lacked clarity. I lacked authenticity.
Authenticity is not a destination; it’s a way of being. It’s comprised of contentment, joy, realization and sight. Contentment with yourself as you are and without labels or identification; joy in the everyday tender moments that arise in your life; the realization that it has always and will always remain inside of you—you need only allow yourself to be understood; and the shift in your perspective that allows you to truly see and appreciate all your fantastic flaws as gracious gifts for the first time.
You don’t find your authentic self; you uncover it by peeling away the expectations and mechanisms piled on top of it.
And that’s exactly what I did.
Once I gave myself permission to live the life I wanted instead of the one I thought everyone else wanted for me, I was able to peel back the layers of validation and perfectionism to bask in my inherent worthiness.
Below, I detail eight ways you can step into the light of your authenticity as well. Because you deserve to be happy. You deserve to be free. You deserve to be genuinely you.
There’s only one of you in the world. It’s time to own your rareness.
1. Give up the act.
It’s exhausting trying to be someone you’re not. Compartmentalizing and presenting a different version of you to all the various groups in your life will drain you to your core. Reallocate your energy to living in line with your values. You can never be led astray if you operate on a clear set of standards for yourself.
True authenticity is born when you give up trying to please everyone and say, “this is me whether you like it or not.”
All it takes to affirm your new authentic self is to give up your act. So, do you dare?
2. Get comfortable being vulnerable.
There is no authenticity where there is no truth. And there is no truth where there is no vulnerability. So, learn to lean into the discomfort of expressing how you feel, speaking up for yourself and calling out the B.S. in your life.
Honesty and openness are oxygen for authenticity to thrive. There is no genuineness without a candid dose of reality first.
Speak from your soul and you’ll never lack authenticity. It’s that simple.
3. Do it for you.
If you want to live a more authentic life, you’ll have to ditch those things that made you comfortable living an inauthentic life to begin with. And that means shifting your priorities. Instead of operating based on the expectations of others, learn to trust your own intuition instead.
Charting your own course and blazing your own trail can indeed be scary. But at least you’ll know it serves you best because you trust your own instincts.
And that’s what genuineness is all about.
4. Focus on connections, not possessions.
Close relationships built on trust add a lasting value to your life that the fleeting and ephemeral value of belongings can’t touch. Ultimately, it all boils down to meaning. Items and possessions only have meaning because of the value ascribed to them by a group of people. When the tastes or standards of the group change—as they are prone to—the meaning associated with the objects shifts.
Bottom line: Very few tangible things add any real value to your life. But investing in people actually pays significant dividends over time.
Life is about experiences and memories, laughter and love, happiness and healing. But none of those things have any meaning without other people. Your legacy will be the lives you touch and the love you leave behind. The rest all fades away with the sands of time.
Building a more authentic life means focusing on what matters. So, devote your life to your relationships. They are critical for your success, happiness and health. And they keep you true and honest—and authentically you in the process.
5. Be humble.
Humility and authenticity go hand in hand. Think about it: You didn’t come out of the womb bragging about your achievements and trying to conquer the world. Your ego learned to prop you up with that kind of behavior and affirmation. If you want to live a more authentic life, approach everything through the lens of humility and curiosity. Become an explorer, feeling your way through the twists and turns of the jungle that is your journey.
It all starts with your willingness to take a step back and cultivate modesty.
6. Act, don’t react.
You can’t live an authentic life if you’re constantly riding on the coattails of what other people are doing.
Instead of following along, take the lead.
Instead of living according to everyone else’s expectations, embrace your intuition.
Instead of basing your reality in reaction to those around you, act out of your own power.
This is your life. Start living like it!
7. Give love first.
One of the perks of living a more authentic life is learning to give from your core gifts—all those qualities that make you uniquely you. When you give of yourself in this way, you honor and lift everyone and everything you touch, including yourself.
So, what are you waiting for? Pay someone a compliment. Take the lead organizing that trip. Surprise a loved one with a gift.
You are a force of love and compassion in this world. It’s time to go forth and express it.
8. Embrace your imperfections.
Do you find yourself trying to perfect your Instagram, your career, your appearance and more? The reason why you may be struggling with authenticity is because you’re striving for perfection. But you’ll never achieve it because the bar always gets raised. You’ll drive yourself crazy if you keep trying to tweak every little thing about your life.
Accept the messiness and complexity of your reality. That’s what makes your wild heart beautiful.
What are some of the ways you’ve embodied these tips to living a more authentic life? Tell me in the comments—or Tweet me @crackliffe!
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