These days, we frequently hear, “Just be you.” And many talk about living authentically. But there are not many people out there telling us how to live authentically. In fact, it is difficult for most of us to even note a difference between living in an identity, and living from the authentic Self. But the way in can be found by using the following direct routes.

Understand that the person you act like most of the time, is not necessarily who you actually are.

You may be living in an identity, in which very early, so early you can’t remember it, you put on a mask and costume that matched exactly the projections you received in your family of origin. In other words, you became who they thought you were. We can live into an identity for years, without ever even noticing, except that we may have emotions that disagree with that identity. Or, a crisis might erupt that forces us to have to live differently.

Begin to listen and allow yourself to be directed by your internal messaging system.

We tend to think of emotions, particularly difficult emotions, as things that we just need to get rid of. In fact, if the emotion is unpleasant we are very likely to try to repress it. We do that in favor of our identity. We do that because our identity is not one which we think should allow that kind of emotion to be expressed openly. If, for example, I am living into a superwoman identity, I’m not likely to think that experiencing sorrow or fear matches my identity. I will repress those emotions because strong people like me don’t have those feelings. If I am living into what the book, Letting Go of Good: Dispel the Myth of Goodness to Find Your Genuine Self, calls the good guy identity, I am likely to repress emotions of resentment, or self-love because those would mean that I am selfish and, therefore, bad.

But our emotions are part of an internal messaging system. Our emotions are meant to deliver a message to us, for us and about us. We tend to believe that when we have an emotion, it has an external source. Someone or some circumstance caused us to feel that emotion. I feel happy because life is good right now. And I feel sad, mad, anxious or afraid, because life is bad right now. But actually the source is within us. Our emotions are meant to make us turn within and see what we are telling ourselves.

Sometimes we are telling ourselves things that are untrue, yet our emotions are responding to those things as if they were true. But our emotions can be just enough to get us to look within and see how we are interpreting life, how we are lying to ourselves, how we are misdirecting ourselves. They do that in order to guide us to something more true. We will feel the emotional difference when we begin to tell ourselves the truth. In this way, our emotions have helped us to live more into the truth.

But other times our emotions are trying to more directly guide us. As in the example above, of the good guy identity, when a good guy begins to feel resentment, she might go see a therapist and ask that the therapist help her to get rid of these terrible feelings of resentment. She feels that resentment is evidence that she is a bad person. She cannot stand the thought that she might be a bad person, because it puts her in touch with deep unresolved issues of unworthiness, for which she has been trying to compensate by trying very hard always to be good. She’s been trying really hard to make these feelings go away, praying, repressing, trying to reshape the emotion, trying to think differently, but nothing is working.

Why isn’t it working? Because the internal messaging system is very wise. It is not going to go away until the message has been heard. Why, then, is she feeling resentment? Because she has been spending her life trying to serve others, negate herself , driving herself to maintain responsibility for other people’s emotions, pushing herself, even when she’s tired, to always be there for others—all in the name of should. She should do these things because if she doesn’t she might have to see herself as bad. The resentment, then, has come to tell her that she is spending a lot of her energy, time and effort to do things that are not really authentic. She’s not doing these things because she feels compassion that drives her to do them. She’s doing them because she’s afraid she’ll feel guilty if she doesn’t. That’s not genuine. And her internal messaging system knows it. So, it is trying to tell her this by giving her this emotion of resentment.

That’s why we have emotions. They serve a purpose. They are not just frivolous energies that we do not need. Nor are they evidence of our worth or unworthiness. We are worthy because we exist. But we must learn how to use our emotions as messages to us, for us and about us, if we are to begin to live authentically.