By Sophie Scott
One of the things I realised from writing about vulnerability is just how universal an experience it really is.
So many of us are dealing with stressful challenges every day, with a gap between how we want to live our lives and how we are actually living our lives.
When I first started writing about vulnerability and being your authentic self, I was heartened by so many readers and viewers getting in touch.
I want to share with you some thoughts from one of my readers, a 70 year old man from Belgium.
Ian wrote to me about his struggles, how he feels that as a society, we place an irrational value on the approval of others, on how others perceive our role, careers, physical appearance, material achievement and even the number of likes we score on social media.
"I've spent almost 70 years living my life subconsciously seeking the approval of others. But now I feel I have found, to some extent, my true or inner or authentic self," he said.
"For me, despite our flaws and shortcomings, I feel we all have a compassionate loving caring authentic self. That discerns right from wrong, cares for the sick, the homeless, the disadvantaged and persecuted minorities.
He told me he feels most of us would sooner do someone a good turn than a bad one.
"We have an authentic self that realises that human beings are made of good stuff, of moral stuff, despite minor or sometimes major aberrations that seem to deny that," he said.
The challenge is to listen to that authentic self that Ian has found and that lies within all of us.
But how exactly do we find that authentic self?
Most psychologist describe 'authentic self' as an experience, not something that is fixed.
Psychologist Alison Lenton calls it 'the subjective sense of being one's true self."
Living your authentic self comes to you in those moments when you feel you are being real and living how you want to live your life.
And to me, the strongest, deepest relationships flourish when you can be your authentic self whether it's with a friend, lover or colleague.
Harvard Professor Amy Cuddy in her book 'Presence' writes about accessing your personal power through your mind and the body to bring your boldest self to life's challenges.
And high on her list is identifying the values, strengths and traits that we really value, that expose our 'authentic self.'
Here are four questions she suggests to get you thinking:
Grab a pen and jot down your thoughts.
* What three words describe you best as an individual?
* What is unique about you that leads to your happiest times and your best performance?
* Think about a time, either at home or at work, when you were acting in a way that felt natural and right. How can you emulate that behaviour today?
* What are your signature strengths and how can you use them?
Identifying your authentic self is the first step to believing and owning your own story.
And why is that so important?
It's because there will be challenges and changes in life that throw you off course.
Things will happen that will make you question yourself, question your ability and your sense of equilibrium, whether it's a relationship breaking up, losing someone you love or making mistakes at work.
When that happens, you need to dig deep and hold on tight to your authentic self, the values you embrace and that feeling that no matter what happens, it will be ok.
When this happened to me recently, I went back and read the words Ian had sent me about vulnerability.
"As hard as it is to accept, we do not need the validation of others," he said.
"We can, if we listen to that self, triumph over any adversity."
His words filled me with an immense sense of comfort.
When you are smack bang in the middle of crisis or one of life's challenges (and inevitably these will come) these are the feelings and sentiments we need to hold on to.
"Everything passes. At the end of day, only the authentic self remains to provide us with our reason for being and our basis for action," he said.
As it should.
I would love to hear your thoughts :)
Until next time,
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