How Authenticity Can Improve Mental Health

“To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody but yourself – means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight – and never stop fighting.” – E.E. Cummings

What is Authenticity?

“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” – Brene Brown

Grijack (2017) further explains that authenticy is the owning of one’s personal experiences, including: thoughts, emotions, needs, preference and beliefs. He states that being authentic is knowing oneself and behaving as your true self.

What Makes Authentic Living Hard?

As humans, we have this intense need to feel like we belong. It is written in our DNA. Our ancestors needed to belong to a group in order to survive and if they were ostracized it was very likely that they would not survive. Although the immediate physical threat is not as severe as it was years ago … connection is still vital to our health.

Therefore, we sometimes go the extreme of being a chameleon. To blend into whatever group we find ourselves in; however, when we do that, we lose our sense of self. We may feel like we are constantly faking it and that no one truly understands us. Even worse, inauthenticity breeds shame.

SHAME – ouch! Now, this is a tough emotion to feel.

What I See in Practice

Time after time I see clients struggle with this sense of loneliness. Even if they have a large support system and are in a romantic relationship.

They often find themselves withholding their thoughts and emotions in hopes to be accepted. Yet, they’re confused and hurt when the people who are important to them continue to misunderstand them.

They continue to react with behaviors and, at times, hurtful comments. This further drives a wedge in relationships with others.

Furthermore, our culture is not the best at being able to identify feelings. Sometimes we even label emotions as “good or bad” when they are, in fact, just feelings. Emotions are there to give us messages; however, we are not always the best at being aware of our emotions. Sometimes, we tend to stuff them in the deepest corner of our being and get stuck in our thoughts as a way to avoid … hence; anxiety, depression, addiction, and the list goes on!

To respond authentically means you have to identify and share primary emotions and true thoughts. Then, people will begin to understand you better and you will feel more connected.

How to Live Authentically

The goal is not to be liked. The goal is to not abandon yourself for the approval of others.

Authenticity is a practice, and wow, can it be a challenge some days.

Brene Brown (2010) shares that choosing authenticity means:

  • Cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable
  • Exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of strengths and struggle; and
  • Nurturing the connection and sense of belonging that can only happen when we believe we are enough.

We are able to more authentic when we start to believe that we are enough. YOU are ENOUGH!

To start being more authentic I recommend you start with the people you trust. Recognize and share those tough emotions.

Instead of, “I’m fine.” Try, “today was a tough day and I’m embarrassed by a mistake I made.”

Sharing our feelings will prevent us from reacting from stress or avoidance and allow us to heal by connecting with someone we trust. More than likely, your trusted person will be able to reassure you. You will feel seen and less lonely.

Resources

http://feelingswheel.com/

References

  • Brown, B. (2010). The gifts of imperfection: Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are. Center City, Minn.: Hazelden.
  • Grijak, D. (2017). Authenticity as a predictor of mental health. Klinička Psihologija10(1–2), 23–34.

10 Guideposts for Whole Hearted Living with Brené Brown, Ph.D., L.M.S.W.

Often times, the clients I work with struggle with who they think they should be. In therapy terms, they “should” on themselves. I have found that people experience symptoms of anxiety and depression trying to fit into whatever mold they think they should be.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in this “should talk.” Messages come flying at us from all angles. Our family, our jobs, social media, advertisements … everywhere we look!

Distress happens when our “ideal self” does not match who we actually are. Brown encourages us to be brave, to give up who we think we’re supposed to be, and to start living as our authentic selves.

Speaking candidly, Brené Brown is a badass.

Her book, “The Gifts of Imperfection,” is the number one book I recommend to my clients.

She begins this book by explaining the three concepts of living wholeheartedly.

  1. Courage
  2. Compassion
  3. Connection

Her guideposts help us live a courageous, compassionate, and connected life.

Guideposts
#1 Authenticity – Letting Go of What People Think
#2 Self-Compassion – Letting Go of Perfectionism
#3 Resilient Spirit – Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness
#4 Gratitude and Joy – Letting Go of Scarcity and Fear of the Dark
#5 Intuition and Trusting Faith – Letting Go of Need for Certainty
#6 Creativity – Letting Go of Comparison
#7 Play and Rest – Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth
#8 Calm and Stillness – Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle
#9 Meaningful Work – Letting Go of Self-Doubt and “Supposed To”
#10 Laugher, Song, and Dance – Letting Go of Being Cool and “Always in Control”

This book is a must read. Brené is able to deliver research based facts with humor and storytelling which engages the reader. The chapters are short enough to be able to read one during your morning coffee and reflect to start your day off right.

Get ready to “DIG deep:” to get deliberate, inspired, and going.

More on Brené Brown can be found here.

References:
Brown, B. (2010). The gifts of imperfection: Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are. Center City, Minn.: Hazelden.

Understanding Grief

Oofta, lets talk a little bit about grief!

Grief is a HUGE concept to even begin to wrap our heads around so understand that this is more of an overview.

It seems like one of the most prominent themes I have had in sessions lately has been that of grief. Most of us have lost someone, something, or the idea of something; however, a lot of us do not understand grief and how to manage it.

Our society has a tendency to hide death. Really think about that. Hospitals, nursing homes, mortuaries, first responders and so on have done an amazing job of handling death for us. Unfortunately, since the details of death are hidden from us, it has robbed us of the ability to accept the idea of death. Our society has managed to deny the inevitable. Is that not crazy!? Literally, everyone dies and we are just out here avoiding it. Pretending like it doesn’t happen. Therefor, OF COURSE we have a difficult time understanding grief!

What is grief?

Grief can be defined as a deep sorrow for something that has been lost. Most of us relate grief to the loss of a loved one; however, it is so much more. People can experience grief related to a miscarriage, to being single when they envisioned themselves being in a relationship, the loss of a job, loss of a belief, retirement, a status change. You name it!

Many mental health practitioners believe there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These stages are not felt in any particular order and we can go through each stage many different times. Some days it might feel like you’re on a roller coaster of emotions with how fast you are switching through the stages. Other times, it might feel like slow moving waves. What’s important is not giving into the temptation of pushing those feelings away.

How do we heal?

We have to have the courage to FEEL and not compare our grieving process to that of others. Everyone grieves differently and on their own timeline. It takes self-love and the support of others to lean into the tears that can come from uncomfortable (not bad) feelings of sadness, anger, anguish, loneliness, fear, longing, etc.

Judy Tatelbaum has identified strengths that can help us, which include: knowledge of death, emotional maturity, our support system, our purpose in life, and our courage.

Sadly, in today’s world, we might not have as many people as we need for support. Luckily, we can also depend on other things like a pet, memorializing what was lost, meditation, religion/spirituality/beliefs, the arts, traveling, bereavement groups, therapy, medication, or physical activity. It doesn’t matter! Just get creative with it!

The main take away is to not deny that loss happens and FEEL those feelings. Feeling is not a sign of weakness. Instead, it is a sign of courage.  

Hi! I’m Mo.

Hi, I’m Mo!

Most people call me Morgan; however, friends and family call me, Mo.

It is my hope that you will relate to me as “Mo” as I share authentic thoughts of a therapist and research informed mental health info.

I am currently practicing in a rural community of 7,000 people and see a large variety of people and presenting problems. I provide services to children as young as 3 and all the way up to the geriatric population. I am able to work with just one person in the room, couples, children, families, and groups. Every day is different with some pleasant (and not so pleasant) surprises!

Practitioners in Madison, South Dakota do not have the ability to specialize in any particular area since the demand for therapists is high while we are so few; however, I do have some favorite presenting problems and modalities to work with. I particularly enjoy my work with couples, the military demographic and trauma. Surprisingly, kids have found a special place in my heart, as well. I love being around their carefree nature since they have yet been influenced by society to fit into a perceived mold of what they think they should be.

Eventually, I am hoping to start my own private practice with a holistic treatment approach so this blog will be a start in developing my “brand.” I aim to share relatable, research-informed information while also advertising myself. Contact me if you have any questions or would like more information about a mental health related issue and I will cover it in my posts. I’m interested in what interests you all!

Right now, I can be found at Community Counseling Services if you wish to see me for services.

Subscribe to this blog and you can follow me through this experience of being a beginner at blogging and learn some things along the way!