“Be yourself” is a familiar, and ancient, refrain. The idea of living an authentic life has been a topic for philosophers and psychologists for millennia. Lao Tzu, the sixth-century BCE Chinese philosopher behind Taoism, tells us in the Tao Te Ching, “Knowing others is wisdom; knowing oneself is enlightenment.” More recently, research has reinforced the long-held idea that people who follow their own path in life have deeper, more meaningful relationships and are more resilient to external pressures or rejection.
Authenticity may very well be the key to living a happy and fulfilling life, but how do we achieve it? Living our truth starts with self-awareness — knowing who we are and what we want. It’s an understanding that can evolve throughout our lives, prompting us to regularly reconsider our passions, priorities, and values, even when that means resisting the comfort of conformity.
Across the ages, writers, artists, scientists, and leaders have offered their wisdom about what it means to live authentically, leaving little doubt that being true to yourself is worth the introspection and effort it takes to get there. In her seminal poem “The Summer Day,” Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver asks, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?” As the following quotes attest, there may be no better answer than simply, “Be myself.”
To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.
— e.e. cummings
There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice.
— Michelle Obama
Young people searching for their “real self” must learn that the real self is not something one finds as much as it is something one makes; and it is one’s daily actions that shape the inner personality far more permanently than any amount of introspection or intellection.
— Sydney J. Harris, journalist
Don’t compromise yourself. You’re all you’ve got.
— Janis Joplin
This above all: to thine own self be true.
— William Shakespeare
The authentic self is the Soul made visible.
— Sarah Ban Breathnach, author
Weirdness is what sets us apart, gets us hired. Be your unapologetically weird self. In fact, being weird may even find you the ultimate happiness.
— Chris Sacca, investor and entrepreneur
In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen. Really seen.
— Brené Brown
The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.
— Joseph Campbell
Knowing who we are is hard. Eliminate who we’re not first, and we’ll find ourselves where we need to be.
— Matthew McConaughey
It’s very important that we pursue truth in our artwork. You change the world by being yourself.
— Yoko Ono
The real religion is not imitation of anybody else, it is a search to find out your own authentic self, who you are.
— Rajneesh, religious leader
Be who you were created to be, and you will set the world on fire.
— St. Catherine of Siena
Only the truth of who you are, if realized, will set you free.
— Eckhart Tolle
I’ve always done whatever I want and always been exactly who I am.
— Billie Eilish
We are constantly invited to be what we are; as to something worthy and noble.
— Henry David Thoreau
Accept right now that you are magnificent. Being your real, true, authentic self is what’s most awesome about you.
— Gabby Bernstein, motivational author and speaker
No matter what, people are going to like you or not like you. So be authentic, and let them like you or not for who you actually are.
— Kobe Bryant
Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life.
— Steve Jobs
If you’re always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be.
— Maya Angelou
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