THE BLOG
08/10/2011 05:48 pm ET Updated Oct 10, 2011

Cultivating Happiness by Expressing Your Authentic Self

So many of us hold back who we really are. It can be downright scary to reveal our true selves, whether to new people we meet or even in existing relationships. Aligning our inner life with our outer expression is one of the true paths to happiness. Here are some ways that can help get us there.

First some back-story: I personally find it challenging to reveal my inner self, especially in a public arena. This weekend I had to face those fears head on -- public speaking ... not just once, but twice! The first time was answering questions from the audience after showing a film I created and produced, Project Happiness. It's about a topic I care deeply about: Young people exploring the nature of lasting happiness. Answering questions from people who share the same concerns as I do was well within my comfort zone. I was not thinking about how I sounded, or about any mistakes I might make -- it was about sharing information with people who might benefit from it. My "inner critic" had left the room and it felt great.

The next day, I had to speak in front of a group of people at a workshop, and let me tell you, my "inner critic" was raging. It was hard to even think of expressing my authentic self. How would I sound? Would my words connect? What if I made a mistake or worse, what if I froze?

I took a deep breath and then followed these easy steps. They were effective in managing the "inner critic" and might make a difference for you too.

1. Know What You Are Excited About

It's much easier to talk about things that you care about. I began the talk with why I was even there in the first place -- what had touched my life in such an important way. Think about what you are excited or passionate about. What lights you up?

2. Share a Personal Story

Stories connect us on a deep level. They take us on a journey to laughter, new perspectives or poignant insights. Recalling all the details of how the story unfolded, especially how you felt, will make it come alive for both you and whoever you're speaking with.

3. Facts are Powerful Proof

As you are sharing your story, facts can also help. People who are more analytical prefer factual proof that your position is both accurate and relevant. If you are trying to make a point, facts can be your friend.

4. Nervousness is Part of It

Everyone feels nervous; it's human and it shows that you are primed to give your best. Don't apologize for being nervous -- most people will not even notice any hesitations. Tell that "inner critic" to take a hike!

5. Come From Service

If you are focusing on how others are judging you, the fastest way to reverse that is to think about how your perspective can help. What you have to say can add value to their lives, give a fresh perspective or empower others. It's not about how you look or sound, the focus is on helping or connecting with the person you are engaged with.

6. Experience is the Best Teacher

With practice, you will know what touches others, how to connect with them and even how to have fun in the process. Every musician or athlete will tell you that it takes practice to develop new skills. Sharing your authentic self will, with practice, just get easier.

The second talk turned out much better than I had anticipated. In fact, it was amazing to connect with others on such a profound level. The time passed quickly and it really surprised me how energizing and even exhilarating the experience turned out to be. I was downright happy!

We all have something to share with others that can add to their lives. If your intention is strong, you will absolutely find the courage. It's no longer about your fears at that point; it's about being your authentic self, sharing your passion and connecting with others. You have everything you need inside of yourself -- don't hold back who you are.

How have you dealt with facing these or other fears? Any tips that worked well?
If your "inner critic" was out of the picture, what might you like to share with others?

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