How To Be True To Yourself As A Young Adult

A new study published in personality and individual differences explains how living authentically is a product of team effort. Research suggests that while you can develop certain aspects of authenticity yourself, external intervention can have immense positive effects on developing authenticity holistically.

“In a nutshell, authenticity means being true to yourself,” says psychologist Petra Kipfelsberger of the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland.

Kipfelsberger’s study defined authenticity along three dimensions:

  1. self-alienation. This dimension can be illustrated by the subjective experiences of “not touching oneself” or even “not knowing oneself”. A person with a high level of authenticity typically has a low level of self-alienation.
  2. Authentic living. Authentic living results from behaviors that remain true to one’s core in most situations. A very authentic individual would be high in this dimension.
  3. Accept external influences. This dimension measures the degree to which a person is driven by and conforms to the expectations of others, rather than their own values ​​and beliefs. A highly authentic individual typically ranks low on this dimension.

According to Kipfelsberger and her research, an authentic individual is someone who seeks a match between the inner self (i.e., cognitions, emotions, values, and beliefs) and their outer expression. This definition implies that individuals in many contexts and roles, such as B. at work and at home, may have difficulty achieving authentic self-expression.

The study was conducted with a sample of 170 students enrolled in an eight-month career and personal development program to help them develop authenticity in their freshman year at university.

At the end of the study, the results of the treatment group were compared to those of the control group (which did not complete the program). The study revealed three key findings:

  1. There were different effects on the three dimensions of authenticity: some dimensions of authenticity developed naturally, while others developed through the intervention.
  2. The intervention increased participants’ authentic lives but had no impact on self-alienation.
  3. The acceptance of the external influence naturally decreased, but even more so with the intervention.

Kipfelsberger has the following suggestions for anyone who has difficulties living authentically:

  1. Ask yourself which authenticity factor or behaviors you are struggling with. It is important to become aware through self-reflection that something in your life is not what it could be.
  2. Distinguish between “should” and “could” thinking. While the “should” could represent norms and expectations of others, the “could” could symbolize your hidden potential or your dreams.

“These questions could allow someone to see the benefits of his or her thoughts and, at best, let him or her retain the positive side of self-reflection, doubt, and hesitation while uncovering the inhibiting factors and potential paralyzing factors inherent in those thoughts.” , Kipfelsberger clarifies.

Kipfelsberger’s research also contains important wisdom for people in their mid-twenties:

  • People in their twenties can help other young people develop their authenticity by being involved as coaches—that is, asking good questions, listening to them, and helping them experiment with different options for authentic living.
  • People in their late twenties and beyond may still struggle to stay true to themselves, not because they’ve had a lack of natural or formal development, but because authenticity is a lifelong journey.

A full interview with psychologist Petra Kipfelsberger about her new research can be found here: Authenticity consists of these three parts

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