By Erika Fehrenbach Prell
Glorious Wisconsin autumn...vibrant colors, warm days with crisp evenings, Octoberfest beers and seasonal ciders on tap at the breweries, apple picking, pumpkin patches with wagon rides, football rivalries, and Halloween as the big finale with the costumes and candy and Halloween festivities. Autumn is the last hurrah before the winter takes over and might be what keeps many of us from abandoning the midwest. Autumn and Halloween have always been one of my favorite times of year for all these things, and, let’s be real, with my birthday one week before Halloween, this autumn fun has been a highlight in many of my birthday celebrations.
And, don’t forget the Halloween costumes! You have the opportunity to be whoever you want for at least that one night. Who doesn’t love to pretend to be someone else? Your favorite sports figure or superhero, your favorite rock star or persona, something fun and creative-the possibilities are endless! One thing holds true for all of us-it’s liberating and fun to be someone else for awhile!
My brain works in interesting ways, and, as I reflected on Halloween, an interesting correlation came to me. Under the guise of a costume and playing a character, you have the opportunity to act differently than you would usually act, all in the name of taking on your character, right? You may act bolder or more daring, be more outgoing and confident. This made me wonder, could something else be happening here? Does Halloween offer an opportunity to show your authentic self? To act in a way that, deep down, you have always wanted to be? That under the persona of a different character, you can test out these sides in a safe way? YOU don’t REALLY act that way-it was in the name of playing a role!
Let’s take a quick theory sidebar. In psychology, there is mention that we have two selves, our adaptive self and our authentic self. The adaptive self is all about fitting in-changing how you act so that you get along with and fit in with others. On the flip side, the authentic self, or true self, is all about living life according to your values and pursuing your purpose. Both selves are important parts of our personality. The adaptive self is responsible for impulse control and helps us to be an acceptable member of society while the authentic self is the driving force behind all that we do. How we present ourselves to the world is a combination of these two selves, and it’s a bit like a balancing act.
Think of an old-school teeter totter, if these awesome relics of childhood still exist. With the teeter totters of my youth, you could manipulate your weight in such a way that your friend couldn’t get down, leaving them stranded until you shifted or they got annoyed and bailed. This is a great way to think of the balancing act between the adaptive self and the authentic self. Humans have evolved as herd animals, meaning, to be with others. The adaptive part of your personality allows you to still express your values, views, and purpose within acceptable group standards; meaning, the adaptive inhibits the impulses of our authentic self so that we are accepted and belong. Adaptation, to some extent, is necessary to not only satisfy your need to belong and be part of a group but also live authentically and in your true self. But, here’s the clincher! In your quest to fit in, your adaptive self can take over and leave your authentic self stuck at the top of the teeter totter waiting to be released. Here’s a quick gut check; if you are feeling inauthentic, meaning that your behavior seems fake or phony or that you are going through the motions, the adaptive self is running the show.
Why is it important to be in touch with your authentic self? By being someone you are not, you are telling yourself that there is something wrong with who you really are. This can lead to feeling lonely, disconnected, or worthless. When your adaptive self is in charge, it puts you out of touch with the core that is you and leads you away from your core values, purpose, and passion. In contrast, when your authentic self is in charge, any adaptation that you make to fit in is to allow you to more fully live out your values, purpose, and passion. Two important tools to getting back in touch with your authentic self is self-awareness and mindfulness, start by being aware of how you feel when you are participating in your life.
Okay, maybe this isn’t actively going on during Halloween when you decide to be the Man in the Yellow Hat carrying the baby dressed as Curious George the monkey. But, I am willing to bet that at some point in your life you acted differently than your usual and blamed it on something else...liquid courage, being tired, a life change with a new job, a new haircut. There was a catalyst that allowed you to give yourself permission to act authentically for a brief flash or to reinvent yourself as the person you want to be. That is amazing and exactly what you need to keep doing! This gets you closer to living and being the authentic you, the true you, and this is the key to unlocking your life’s passion, purpose, and dreams.
Jackie White has been writing about life and its ups and downs for many years. With a degree in Industrial Psychology and a life-long student of personal development she is intrigued by how each individual chooses to live their life. Jackie feels strongly that truly living your best life is imperative to attaining peace and fulfillment. SoulShine was borne of her desire to inspire and teach others to live their best life. This is her mission and her dream.