What look do you want?
How do you discover your authentic self by looking in the mirror? This might seem like a strange question that has little to do with life in retirement, but the answer is revealing because the look we pursue says something about us. It says, “This is the face I’m showing to the world. This is what I want to be.”
For some, it’s professional dye jobs and plastic surgery. For others, it’s the decision to stop all that stuff. I know of one coworker who said if she ever had a car accident just remember that L’Oreal # 56 was her hair color. Another friend said, “I just ignore my wrinkly neck and wear low-necked shirts.
My daughter-in-law recently asked me how long I was going to remain a blonde. “Oh, forever, I’m never going to stop coloring my hair.” Actually, that’s probably not true. I’m sure there will come a time when the maintenance becomes too much trouble, but it hasn’t come yet.
How does your authentic self dress?
Think about your look. What kind of clothes do you like to wear? What makes you most comfortable? Sweats? Athletic clothes? Classic ensembles? Jeans? Designer dresses? Are you artsy or Bohemian?
The way we look and dress says something about us. It’s one of the primary ways we express ourselves. What’s the vision you want to project to the world? It’s worth spending a little time thinking about it. The one where you’re the most comfortable is probably the most authentic.
Who does your authentic self want to spend time with?
I don’t know about you, but I’ve reached the time in my life when I don’t want to deal with difficult or high-maintenance people. If someone makes me feel small or less than I want to be, I limit my time with that person. If I need to play a part to keep them happy, then I can’t be the authentic person I want to be.
Conversely, those people who make me feel good and seem to accept me – warts and all – those are the ones I want to share my authentic self with. So think about who those people are for you. Take a few minutes to make a list: write down the names of those who you most love to spend time with and the names of those you’d like to avoid.
Make a conscious decision to make more time for the former and less time for the latter. This is real life, however, and sometimes we must spend time with difficult people. But it doesn’t have to take over your life. The trick is in controlling and limiting how much that time takes from our lives.
What things does your authentic self most value?
Of course, the most important “things” in life aren’t “things” and are probably pretty easy for you to list. I can quickly say that I most value, “my husband, my children and grandchildren, my larger family, my friends, my home, my spirituality, my fitness level and health.”
Your list may be completely different. Do you value financial freedom? Travel? Fitness? Learning? Think about the things that are most important to your life. Write them down.
The trick is then to figure out if we spend our time on the things we most value or if we spend it on other things. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll find out if we’re living authentically. If I say that I most value my relationship with my husband but spend little time with him, that’s not authentic. If I say that I value my relationship with my children but spend my time criticizing and arguing with them, that’s not authentic. If I say I value my health, but don’t find the time to exercise, that’s not authentic.
This exercise can be really eye-opening and even life-changing. Retirement offers us the chance and the time to make what we say we value and how we live match. We can take Shakespeare’s advice to be true to ourselves. We can become the real, authentic people we were meant to be.
This isn’t the first time we’ve written about authenticity. It’s an important subject. Take a look at this earlier blog.
Here’s to discovering your authentic self!