How Authentic Living Changed My Life

— Written By Luke Shealy and last updated by
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Living authentically is all about being true to who we are in all the situations that life throws at us. This practice can be vital to for both our activism and personal well-being. This youth-submitted essay is about the author’s personal journey with living authentically.

Flower with many colors painted on

By Hailey Rodgers

“Be fearlessly authentic.” These were three words I began to live by in my second year of university. The result? Happiness and success.

My name is Hailey Rodgers, I am twenty years old, and I recently published my first-ever book, See Me, in December 2019.

See Me is about the importance of living authentically as a young adult. While young adults tend to talk about authenticity, it can actually be the hardest time in your life to feel confident in yourself. This book is a tool to help you stay true to who you are amidst the pressure to conform to societal norms. It aims to inspire young adults through guiding principles and the incredible stories of others who comprehend the value and consistently work to live an authentic life.

The journey leading up to my publication was filled with both adversity and incredible self-discovery. My journey began in high school. I was a timid, shy girl who never showed who she truly was. I was compelled to be someone I was not, believing that was the only route to gain societal acceptance. I spent many long days by myself in the library, hoping that good grades would be the ticket to a new life. At the time, I experienced significant mental health problems, including extreme depression and anxiety. I did not know who I was or where I fit into the world.

I was finally accepted into one of the hardest programs in Canada, having a 6% acceptance rate in my year. However, I was still experiencing extreme unhappiness and this hopeless craving for success.

When I started my first year, I met many people with whom I felt I could be my true self around. In university, I believe everyone can find their niche group of people who resonates with them. I found my niche in my first year. In my friend group, I found that I began to show my true self without the fear of being judged as we were supportive of each others’ unique journeys. However, other parts of me still hesitated to show those outside my friend group who I really am, as the fear of judgment was still a prominent struggle I experienced.

Through reflection, I found that the person I presented to my friends and family while I was in high school wasn’t actually ‘me’. While everyone’s reflection process may differ, for me, writing allows me to both internally focus on my beliefs and authentically share those with the world.

Midway through my first year of university, I started writing for Her Campus, a platform for young women to publish articles. I began to realize it was easy for me to share who I truly am through writing. Suddenly, writing authentically began to translate into other aspects of my life, and I began to live authentically. As I started to live authentically, I became happier and began achieving my goals. I realized that there was a gap that I was missing during high school. In order to feel successful and happy, I had to be authentic. I am fortunate to have been able to realize this at such a young age as I see so many young adults experience this struggle until they are perhaps in their forties or fifties. So I asked myself, “Why not now? Why can’t we be authentic now at this young age?”Young woman in red dress sitting at a white table reading a bookBeginning in January 2019, which was during my second year in university, I was approached by one of my best friends, Julia Sun. She told me she was offered to write a book through an organization called, Creator Institute, who was looking for additional passionate writers to embark on this (crazy, insane, unimaginable) journey. She asked me if I wanted to hop on board and write a book in less than a year. At first I was perplexed at the thought of writing a book while in school, working part-time, participating in various extracurricular activities, and overall, being only 19 years old. Instead of succumbing to self-doubt and being intimidated by this daunting endeavor, I thought to myself, “Why the hell not?”

I began to think about that question I had asked myself earlier in university, “Why can’t we be authentic now at this young age?” I decided I would create a self-help (rather, self-discovery) book for young adults and provide my insights for how they can live an authentic life. I decided to incorporate my own experiences and twenty other individuals’ stories to explain how every person is both capable and deserving to live an authentic life. My goal with my book was to inspire authentic living in young adults because we all deserve to feel confident in who we truly are.

I finally published my first-ever book in December 2019. To this day it feels unreal that I am a published author. But I know that this is what I want to do. The world of authorship is the world I want to be in. Writing makes my heart pump.

 “Be fearlessly authentic.”

Always being authentic is a challenge. It is something that takes practice and requires deep self reflection. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t struggle with it, as the fear of being judged sometimes clouds my mind. However, as I continued to share myself–my true self–with the world (whether it be in various friend groups, my family, social media, etc.) I became so much more happy and so much more successful. It is something we can all work on till we reach that point of authentic living (being authentic in ALL facets of life). Young woman in a read dress sitting and reading in an armchair

One of my favorite quotes is: “Be fearlessly authentic.” (unknown). I think the fearless element is a significant component of authentic living. To be authentic, is to feel confident in who you are as a whole, and to be able to express that in all facets of life. It’s one’s uncanny ability to go against the norm and to remain true to who they are. It’s one’s ability to love who they are, flaws and all. It’s one’s ability to pursue their values, goals, and dreams regardless of what anyone else tells them. Ultimately, being authentic is to be unapologetically yourself.

In my book, See Me, I hope to instill in you the same sort of passion and excitement that I have for authentic living. Ultimately, I want you to see this book as a tool to help you stay true to who you are amidst the pressure to conform to societal norms.

Questions for Extended Dialogue

  • In this essay, the author discusses the importance of reflection and how she uses writing to engage in reflection. What tools or processes do you use to reflect?
  • Do you think it is possible to be true to oneself in all situations?
  • How does the word ‘authentic’ relate to your definition of activism?