Cover of 'X Life Lessons to Live By' book – a collaboration between the author and Chat GPT, offering extensive self-help guidance and tools for mental well-being, specially curated for Mental Health Month, May 2023.

Chapter 3: Embracing your "Authentic Self"

Chapter 3: Embracing your “Authentic Self”

This has become a mental health catchphrase in recent years, and to be honest with you (the reader), I am not 100% certain what people mean when they say it. Half the time, it sounds like something similar to a cliché, a filler to add to conversations to help feel like they are part of the "in crowd" of people who are hip to what "embracing our authentic selves" means.

Much like "gender identity," I am unsure what this actually is or what it looks like when someone has fully embraced their "authentic self." For some people, becoming the person they feel and think they should become is a lifelong process of learning and growing that only ends when they pass on from this mortal realm.

Is there an endpoint in which someone has fully embraced their "authentic self"? Do other people notice and accept them as their "authentic self"? Where do manners and conforming to social norms, which are important parts of growing in life, fit into embracing one's "authentic self"? Those are just a few rhetorical questions I have had about this phrase over the last few years. But setting these issues aside for a moment, I do think there is a lot of mental health things we can learn if we examine this topic a little. I also think that the "mental health journey" for everyone is a lifelong process of learning and growing and forgetting. And at some point in time, it is probably helpful to give a go at embracing the "authentic self."

So I asked Chat GPT-3 about what this life lesson is about since it also came up with this life lesson. Based on the description, it sounds a lot like the situation that was the social network of my high school in Fairfield, CA, in 2004. My high school was not dissimilar to many high schools in suburban America at the turn of this century. There were 3,000 hormonal teenagers all in one school during a time in which cell phones were not really in everyone's pocket, and the internet did e-mail and definitely not artificial intelligence. My computer classes were using typing manuals from a couple of decades earlier and were preparing us to become secretaries and office assistants. By today's standards, it might as well have been Pleasantville or Leave it to Beaver.

I lived about an hour away from both San Francisco and Sacramento. Most of the students were very accepting of the LGB classmates. My high school did have a "That's gay" issue. Straight people used to say that phrase for pretty much anything. Our 15-year-old vocabulary had not developed enough to express any kind of emotion or feeling, so everything was "That's gay" or "That sucks" or any other variation of that thing. The reason why I mention this here is that the phrase "embracing one's authentic self" has emerged around the same time as the transgender community has gained a lot of recognition in society since 2015. In 2023, I suspect that the mental health thing of embracing one's "authentic self" is also some kind of "That's gay" thing that I remember from high school.

The straight female population at my high school around this time made something up they labeled as "connections" to describe feelings. To be perfectly honest, they had no idea what they meant by it, and about 0 guys at my school knew what they meant by it either, which makes it not dissimilar from any other high school in the country. The funny part is that this made-up high school life hack that my female classmates made up is almost exactly what Chat GPT says about embracing one's "authentic self."

Chat GPT Embracing one’s Authentic Self

Embracing one's authentic self is an important life lesson to learn because it allows us to live a fulfilling and meaningful life by being true to who we are, rather than trying to conform to the expectations of others.

When we try to be someone we're not or hide aspects of ourselves that we think others won't accept, we end up feeling disconnected from ourselves and those around us. We may experience feelings of anxiety, depression, or dissatisfaction, as we struggle to live up to expectations that don't align with our true selves.

On the other hand, when we embrace our authentic selves, we feel more aligned with our values, interests, and passions. We feel a sense of inner peace and fulfillment, as we're able to live in a way that feels true to who we are. We're also more likely to attract positive experiences and relationships into our lives, as people are naturally drawn to authenticity and genuine connection.

Of course, embracing one's authentic self isn't always easy. It requires a willingness to confront our fears and insecurities, and to challenge the beliefs and expectations that we've internalized from others. However, the rewards of living authentically are well worth the effort.

In conclusion, embracing one's authentic self is an important life lesson to learn because it allows us to live a fulfilling and meaningful life by being true to who we are. By embracing our authentic selves, we can experience greater happiness, inner peace, and genuine connection with those around us.

In Other Words

I also read Hamlet in high school, and I am 99.9% sure that Shakespeare summed this up better than any AI program will ever do when he wrote, "To thine own self be true."

One basic problem that this solution is trying to address is a basic reality that does not really ever get fixed. I have yet to meet a single person of any sexual orientation, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or sex who welcomes someone else putting them into a societal box and defining who they are. Society is not a person; people are individuals with their own unique set of experiences, memories, feelings, turns of phrase, and bodies. Every single individual person is different from another individual person.

However, that does not stop reality and society from commercializing everyone to buy something or conform to a social norm or way of behaving. The balance between behaving in a socially acceptable manner and conforming to a social norm because it is good manners to do so and standing out from the rest of the crowd to be your own person is a struggle for everybody at times.

I empathize and understand the importance of embracing an "authentic self" when it is expressed from communities such as the transgender community or another group. However, there is a time and place for being "authentic," and sometimes, when it goes against a major societal norm, it is okay to question the change. For example, there are bikers who enjoy riding Harley Davidsons and hanging out in biker bars on the weekend. They like the culture, and to them, that's their "authentic self," but sometimes those bikers are also businessmen and women who put on a suit and tie and work a white-collar job. They understand the social norms of the biker bars and do not bring their suit and tie to that establishment, and they do not bring their Harley and leather vest to their job.

The turn of phrase "authentic self" comes from the world of self-help from books written in the 1970s. Much of the rhetorical style of the self-help world is nowhere near the level of Shakespeare or others. Like me and my classmates in high school, they lack an extensive vocabulary to express ideas and feelings. In short, a "true self" is an "authentic self." To "be genuine" is to be "authentic." To look toward your "inner self" is to discover your "authentic self." To "be real" is also to be "authentic." All of these were popular to a degree in the media in the past. Essentially, it's all part of the myth of self-help and psychology.

There's also a lot of psychology in this cliché of the "authentic self." As a writer, I am sometimes mindful of etymology. Etymology as a word is Greek and comes from the word "etumos," which means true. Etymology is the study of the true meanings of words. If words have an "authentic self," etymology has the answer of how best to express it.

So let's look at the true meaning of the word "psychology." The etymology of the word is also Greek; it comes from the Greek word "psyche," which means breath, spirit, soul. The second part of the word, "ology," comes from "logos" and means the logical study of.

Psyche is also a Greek character in their mythology of the Gods. The story of Psyche and Cupid is one that goes in and out of fashion at different points in history. Around the time of the American and French Revolutions in Paris, the story was popular among artists and influenced many works of art during that time. The story is also one that fits in examining what it means to embrace one’s “Authentic Self”.

ChatGPT Psyche and Cupid and Authentic Self

In ancient Greek mythology, Cupid and Psyche are a famous couple whose story illustrates the importance of embracing one's authentic self. Their tale is a timeless reminder that true love and happiness can only be found when we accept ourselves for who we are, rather than trying to be someone we're not.

In the myth of Cupid and Psyche, Psyche is a mortal woman of great beauty who attracts the attention of Cupid, the god of love. Cupid falls deeply in love with Psyche and takes her as his wife, but he warns her that she must never look upon his true form or he will leave her forever.

Despite Cupid's warning, Psyche becomes curious about her husband's true nature and sneaks a look at him while he sleeps. She is shocked to discover that Cupid is not the handsome mortal man she thought he was, but a god with wings and a bow.

Cupid, furious that his trust has been betrayed, leaves Psyche. She embarks on a quest to win back his love, and through her trials and tribulations, learns the importance of embracing her authentic self.

In her quest to win back Cupid's love, Psyche is given a series of impossible tasks by his mother, Venus. One of these tasks is to collect a golden fleece from a dangerous riverbank. Psyche is about to throw herself into the river to drown when a reed speaks to her and advises her to wait until the river calms down. Psyche follows the reed's advice and is able to collect the golden fleece safely.

The reed's advice to Psyche is a metaphor for the importance of listening to our inner voice and trusting our own instincts. When we embrace our authentic selves, we're better able to tune into our own inner wisdom and make decisions that are true to who we are, rather than relying on external validation or the opinions of others.

Later in her quest, Psyche is given a box and told to deliver it to Venus without opening it. However, her curiosity gets the better of her and she opens the box, only to find that it contains a deadly sleep that causes her to fall into a deep slumber.

Psyche's decision to open the box represents the consequences of denying our true selves and giving in to external pressures. When we try to be someone we're not or hide parts of ourselves, we can become disconnected from our true desires and motivations, which can lead to negative consequences.

Ultimately, Psyche is able to win back Cupid's love and acceptance by embracing her authentic self. She learns to trust her own instincts and to be true to who she is, rather than trying to conform to external expectations.

The myth of Cupid and Psyche is a powerful reminder of the importance of embracing one's authentic self. When we trust our own instincts and accept ourselves for who we are, we're better able to form meaningful connections with others, and to live a fulfilling and authentic life. By embracing our true selves, we can experience the kind of deep and lasting love that Cupid and Psyche ultimately find in each other.


If I have learned anything from the scientific community during the pandemic of 2020, it has been that science has answers. It may not give us the answers we expect, want, or need when we want them. But science has answers to problems. Sometimes those answers are not fully true, and other times they are. Science, in a nutshell, is a mentally challenging business of trial and error to discover truth. It is not that much different from being a detective or prosecutor solving a case.

The reason why I bring this up is because I believe in what Thomas Jefferson once said. Last year, I found myself standing at the Jefferson Memorial, looking up, and I read this quote from him that I think is also helpful:

"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed and enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as a civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors."

The balance of protecting individuality and self-expression while also adapting and/or changing to the social norms of the day is a constitutional ebb and flow that has been going on since the founding of the United States of America. Not much happening today is new or different from what has happened at some point in the past.

One problem with logic is that it is also illogical at times. Every parent with more than one child knows how each child is different from the other. Each child has their uniqueness that makes them an individual different from everyone else on earth, even though they were made the same way by the same people. The logic of parenting is probably illogical at times. For the record, I am not a parent, but I think there might be some truth in this.

Which brings me to a thought I had today when I began tackling this chapter. Everybody is made up of the same stuff but has different souls or selves. Everyone is different. We are all connected to each other as human beings on one planet, while at the same time, we are billions of individual animals hanging out on a planet spinning around, flying through the empty darkness of vast space.

In other words, science is both connection and disconnection. So, I asked the science bot ChatGPT for help explaining this because, let's be honest, it's smarter than I am. Here is what it came up with when I gave it a prompt to describe the connection and disconnection of the anatomical systems of the human body when we eat a salad. I figured the Greeks make a pretty good salad, and as Hippocrates once said, "We are what we eat," and he was Greek and probably ate a salad at some point.

Digestive System: When you eat a salad, the digestive system is activated. The mouth chews and breaks down the food, and the stomach and intestines break down the food further into smaller molecules that can be absorbed by the body. The nutrients and water from the salad are then absorbed into the bloodstream, which is part of the cardiovascular system.

Cardiovascular System: The cardiovascular system helps transport the nutrients and water from the salad throughout the body. The blood vessels help distribute the nutrients and water to the different parts of the body, such as the muscles and organs. The cardiovascular system also helps regulate body temperature by delivering blood to the skin, which cools the body.

Muscular System: The nutrients and water from the salad are used by the muscles to produce energy. The energy is then used by the muscles to move the body and maintain posture.

Skeletal System: The skeletal system supports the body and provides protection to the organs. The nutrients from the salad are used by the bones to maintain their strength and structure.

Nervous System: The nervous system helps coordinate the digestive system, muscular system, and cardiovascular system to efficiently process and distribute the nutrients from the salad. The brain receives signals from the digestive system and sends signals to the muscles and cardiovascular system to regulate their functions.

Respiratory System: The respiratory system provides oxygen to the body, which is required for the metabolism of the nutrients from the salad. The respiratory system also removes carbon dioxide from the body, which is a waste product of metabolism.

Urinary System: The urinary system removes excess water and waste products from the body, which are produced during the metabolism of the nutrients from the salad.

Endocrine System: The endocrine system releases hormones that regulate the metabolism of the nutrients from the salad. For example, insulin is released by the pancreas to regulate the level of glucose in the blood.

Reproductive System: The reproductive system is not directly involved in the digestion or metabolism of the nutrients from the salad, so it remains disconnected.

The exception to this situation is if a woman is or has been pregnant, in that case the nutrition from the salad is connected to the reproductive system via the umbilical cord and placenta. The main point I think Chat GPT is trying to make here is that the body that the systems of the body are all connected together somehow and function in tandem to keep us alive. If there is a system failure of just one of these systems the chances of the body remaining alive are dramatically reduced. However, the reproductive system remains different from all the other systems in the body, individual people can remain alive and healthy and be successful while also not become parents. The reproductive system is necessary for the continuation of the species but not every human being needs to pass on their genes to another generation to remain alive. Whereas if someone does not engage the digestive system with nutrition (like a salad) they can starve resulting in system failure and death.
Even on a cellular level there is an odd connection vs disconnection situation in anatomy. Most cells divide via mitosis, the organs in 7 of those 9 systems divide via mitosis. But the cells of the nervous system are different and the cells of the reproductive system divide via a different way called meiosis. In some ways those two systems are independent systems that are sometimes in sync with each other and sometimes not in sync with each other, but also disconnected from the rest of the functions of the body.

Cliche Ending

Most self help books are full of cliches, in fact I have yet to talk to a psychologist or friend who didn’t toss in a cliche about psychology every now and again. So here are some cliches on psychology that you can use during your next conversation or gossip time. I figured if I was going to write a self help book I want it to be as useful as possible, and psychological cliches can also be quite helpful if it sticks. Thanks to Chat GPT this is easy.

Personal Relationships Professional Time Psychology Personal Growth Emotions Mindfulness
Love is a two-way street Dress for success Time heals all wounds The power of positive thinking You are your own worst critic You can't control your emotions Live in the present moment
Opposites attract Work smarter, not harder Carpe diem Nature vs. Nurture Failure is the key to success Emotions are contagious Breathe deeply
Communication is key Fake it 'til you make it Live in the moment The mind-body connection It's never too late to start over Laughter is the best medicine Mind over matter
You can't change others Time is money Yesterday is history The power of suggestion Practice makes perfect You can't bottle up your feelings Let go of negative thoughts
You can't please everyone Customer is always right Tomorrow is a mystery The placebo effect A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step Happiness is a state of mind Find inner peace
Trust is earned Don't burn bridges Every second counts The fight or flight response The grass is always greener on the other side You can't please everyone Meditation is good for the soul
Actions speak louder than words The customer is king Time flies when you're having fun The five stages of grief You are stronger than you think Anger is a natural emotion Pay attention to your surroundings
Forgiveness is divine Follow your passion Time is of the essence Maslow's hierarchy of needs Success is the result of hard work Love is a powerful emotion Be kind to yourself
Never settle Dress for the job you want, not the job you have The early bird catches the worm Cognitive dissonance Change is inevitable Fear can be paralyzing Self-reflection is key
Honesty is the best policy Networking is key A watched pot never boils Confirmation bias A problem shared is a problem halved Sadness is a necessary emotion Focus on the positives
You get what you give Mind your manners All good things come to those who wait The bystander effect Time heals all wounds It's okay to cry Practice gratitude
Patience is a virtue Dress to impress Time and tide wait for no man The halo effect You can do anything you set your mind to Joy is contagious Practice self-care
Quality over quantity Learn from failure Time is a flat circle Stockholm Syndrome You can't please everyone Love yourself first Happiness is a choice
Absence makes the heart grow fonder You can't please everyone Time waits for no one The Pygmalion effect The only way out is through Don't let fear hold you back Be present, not perfect
All is fair in love and war It's not what you know, it's who you know Time is the great equalizer The self-fulfilling prophecy You're only as old as you feel There's no such thing as failure, only feedback Take time to recharge
You need to surround yourself with positive people Success is 10% talent and 90% hard work You can’t be happy all the time We all have a dark side Success is a journey, not a destination You are the master of your own fate Let go of what no longer serves you

And for good measure here is a list of about 80 more cliches on psychology that you can use. I am ashamed to say that I have used many of these in my 36 years. The umbrella cliche I have been heard and the one I enjoy the most is…. “THERE IS PSYCHOLOGY IN THIS” which is not a Chat GPT original.

"Time heals all wounds."

"You can't please everyone."

"People who are creative are more likely to be mentally ill."

"Perception is reality."

"You can't change the past, but you can learn from it."

"We are all wired differently."

"People who are afraid of spiders have deep-seated fears."

"Your body language speaks louder than words."

"People who are in love have chemicals in their brain."

"Your emotions can cloud your judgement."

"Practice makes perfect."

"People who have high self-esteem are more successful."

"Our beliefs shape our reality."

"You need to face your fears to overcome them."

"We are all capable of change."

"You can't run away from your problems."

"People who are optimistic are happier."

"There's no such thing as a stupid question."

"You need to have a growth mindset to succeed."

"People who are more attractive have an advantage in life."

"Happiness is a choice."

"We are all our own worst critics."

"People who are in pain often hide it well."

"You can't control other people's actions, only your own reactions."

"Our thoughts create our reality."

"People who are afraid of heights have a fear of losing control."

"Success is 10% talent and 90% hard work."

"Our experiences shape our perceptions."

"You need to love what you do to be successful."

"People who are confident have better social skills."

"Our personalities are determined by our genes."

"You need to learn to let go of things you can't control."

"People who are extroverted are more successful in business."

"We all have a dark side."

"You can't be happy all the time."

"People who are perfectionists have high standards for themselves."

"We are all searching for meaning in life."

"You need to take risks to achieve success."

"People who are anxious have a fear of the unknown."

"We all have an inner child."

"You need to surround yourself with positive people."

"People who are empathetic have better communication skills."

"We all have unconscious biases."

"You need to learn from your mistakes to grow."

"People who are addicted to something are trying to fill a void."

"We are all capable of resilience."

"You need to focus on the present moment to be happy."

"People who are introverted are more creative."

"We all have regrets."

"You need to take care of your mental health as well as your physical health."

"People who are more educated have better job opportunities."

"We all have cognitive biases."

"You need to have a purpose in life to be fulfilled."

"People who are empathetic are more compassionate."

"We all have unconscious desires."

"You need to be open-minded to new experiences."

"People who are more confident have better self-esteem."

"We all have a fear of the unknown."

"You need to learn to forgive to find inner peace."

"People who are more creative have better problem-solving skills."

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