When we’re young, most of us are taught to measure how we feel about ourselves by how others react to our behavior. When someone praised you as a child, for example, you naturally tried to repeat that smile-inducing, head-nodding behavior. When some scolded or criticized you, you were probably taught that you did something wrong.

Thus began a vicious life-long cycle for many people of trying desperately to please everyone – parents, teachers, friends, relatives, co-workers, and even strangers that may be judging us. After all, the rules of socialization tell us that we must fit in, conform, and abide by social norms that were most likely (and ironically) set by disconnected people in a largely dysfunctional society.

Many people forgot long ago to listen to the only voice that really matters: themselves. Their real, authentic self. Not who society says you should be. Not who you think people want you to be. And not even how you were taught to be. But rather, who you want to be (and are) to your core.

How do you know what your authentic self is? And why is it so critical to come from a place of authenticity? First of all, not caring what other people think, and tuning out the voices and advice of others, can be a daunting task. After all, it’s not that your friends and family don’t mean well. But they all have their own biases, agendas, limitations, and viewpoints – which may or may not be right for you. In order for you to discover your authentic self, you have to dig deep and do some soul-searching. What makes you tick? What makes you happy? What truths resonate with you??

Most people that are successful, happy, and fulfilled come from a place of authenticity and sincerity. They understand and accept themselves, and feel confident that the world will understand and accept them as well. Ironically, the secret is, when you stop caring about what other people think, and come from a place of truth and self-acceptance, people are usually more drawn to you. They sense your connection to Source (or soul or God) and they unconsciously pick up on your positive energy.

In fact, all your relationships with other people are simply a reflection of the one true connection – the connection with yourself. The more you do what inspires you, indulge your passions, and honor your emotions (which may seem selfish at first), the more you begin to follow the call of Source (or your authentic soul self).

You may find that being 100% authentic is not always the easiest road, but ultimately an immensely satisfying and fulfilling one.