10 Characteristics of Authentic People (Part 2)

ÂSunset in Siena
Creative Commons License photo credit: MarkNick

As I stated in my previous post (the first 5), I take no credit whatsoever for outlining the 10 Characteristics of Authentic People.  Neil Clark Warren did a great job of that in his book, “Finding Contentment.”  For me (and hopefully for you), this post is a reminder of where we find our authenticity and what it means to live according to our Core Self. Â

6.  Authentic People are Adaptable and Flexible

People who have learned to be authentic are not annoyed and upset by every little change that comes along.  They aren’t so rigid and unbending that the inevitable twists and turns of life rock their world.

Authentic people have what I call healthy adaptability – the kind that is free from resentment and feelings of abuse.  They are so inwardly secure and sure of who they are that change for the benefit of a valued relationship will seem relatively easy.  On the other hand, someone who is insecure and out of sync will tend to be defensive and angry when confronted by the need for change.  Survival in life requires constant adaption, and those who master the skill are headed toward contentment.

7.  Authentic People Have a Strong Sense of Gratitude

Dr. Lewis Smedes, a professor of social ethics and the author of many acclaimed books was asked the secret of attaining contentment.  He says, “Gratitude is a the very heart of contentment.  My sense of satisfaction in life springs from the feeling of gratitude.  I have never met a truly thankful, appreciative person who was not happy.  So close are gratitude and contentment that I would equate them.”

Think of that!  This brilliant thinker and social ethicist says that when  you are grateful you are almost sure to be enduringly content.  At the heart of this principle are two aspects fundamental to contentment:

Gratitude means appreciating what you have, not yearning for what you don’t have.  Being thankful to God for all that we’ve been given – instead of complaining about what we’re missing – is at the core of well-being.

Gratitude is the recognition that we cannot do well in life on our own.  We need people to invest in our lives, nurture us, and help us along at critical points.

8.  Authentic People Love to Laugh and are Lighthearted

Sunset in Siena

Norman Cousins highlighted so powerfully the therapeutic effects of laughter.  In his classic book Anatomy of an Illness, Professor Cousins related the poignant story of his personal victory over cancer – a victory that involved listening to numerous comedy tapes and viewing hilarious old movies that made him laugh unendingly.Â

In addition to being therapeutic for the body, laughter and lightheartedness also signify inner wholeness and tranquility.  I think of the Proverb that says, “A merry heart does good, like medicine, / But a broken spirit dries the bones” (17:22).  Of course, not everyone who laughs frequently and freely is perfectly centered in his inner world, but I suspect that any person who lives authentically is almost certainly able to laugh and see the lifer side of life.  A buoyant and jovial spirit is a by-product of authenticity.

Study the people you know who are enduringly content.  See if these people don’t exude winsome spirits and fun-loving attitudes.  See if there aren’t twinkles in their eyes and perpetual grins on their faces.  See if you don’t find yourself getting carried along by their lightheartedness and frequent laughter.

9.  Authentic People Exhibit a High Degree of Dignity

Authentic people treat everyone – themselves included – with the utmost respect.  They can do this, I think, because they are sure and confident about who they are.  Whatever you tell them will never have ultimate power over them, so they don’t become anxious and frantic that you are going to push an agenda or apply pressure to get your way.  They engage in two straightforward and highly practiced acts – collecting information and making decisions.

Dignity involves a peaceful spirit, and a peaceful spirit is the result of one experience after another in which you are attentive to your inner world and make choices that show respect for yourself at every point along the way.

10.  Authentic People Sleep Well

Sunset in SienaThere is something highly diagnostic about peaceful sleep.  Show me a person who sleeps unusually well, and I will show you a person who is fundamentally in harmony with his or her world.  Let me reason in reverse for a minute.  Four factors usually contribute to sleep problems:

You may be under a lot of stress.  If you frequently sleep poorly because you are stressed from overwork, it is a clear sign that you’re serving a false master, that you’re trying way too hard to establish your worth through achievement.

You may drink too much alcohol.  Millions of Americans drink large amounts of alcohol in an effort to feel better about themselves.  Even though alcohol may give you temporary relief, it almost always exacts a high price for its momentary value – a price that often includes the loss of peaceful sleep.

You may be overweight or may not be getting enough exercise.  Fifty million Americans weigh significantly more than they should, and it’s time that we begin explaining what this self-sabotaging behavior is all about.  It frequently indicates a lack of “internal friendship.”  That is, many people do not value themselves enough to make healthy living a priority.  This lack of internal friendship is close to what I mean by being out of sync with your deepest and most central inner self.

You may be anxious or worried.  There are a myriad things to worry about – finances, relationships, car problems, deadlines – and unless we deal with these in a healthy and authentic way, we will suffer the consequences.

The point is, if you consistently fail to sleep well, it’s likely that one of these factors is to blame.  And if any of these factors applies to you, it’s also likely to signal a deficit in authenticity.  When you stay true to yourself, when you manage each moment as it comes your way, you can’t live life any better.  This kind of life management prepares you for the relaxation that is required for deep and peaceful sleep.

These Ten Characteristics Are the Crucial Indicators

If you want to find out about your own authenticity and in-syncness – or someone else’s – look for the preceding ten characteristics.  It’s almost unbelievable how reliably they indicate emotional health.  When you are internally in harmony with yourself, everything else about your life will suddenly get better.

About the Author:

Jennifer Slingerland Ryan knows a thing or two about kids and families. First, she knows they are joyous, exhilarating, loving and so darn fun. Second, she knows they suck your life dry and make you weep like a baby. By day she’s a psychotherapist; by night she’s a mom and wife. She claims to love therapizing couples, educating parents, reading dystopian fiction and sleeping in her free time (read: she never sleeps). Jennifer has spent over 12 years in private practice working with individuals, couples, and parents who are faced with kid-drama, mamma-drama, and family-drama, and she claims that although some stories make a grown woman cry, she loves it.