Are you in the midst of an “authentic becoming”? It is a phrase that I hear people use more and more often as they learn about the science of positive psychology. It was originally coined by two psychologists Tim Kasser and Ken Sheldon to describe a process, by which people pursue their true selves and become the person they were perhaps meant to become. As odd as it sounds, it is something that many of us experience. Let me give you an example.
A good friend of mine has always been what other people wanted her to be. She is a good daughter who sometimes bites her lip when her mum gives out to her about something she has done. She is a great wife, who keeps the peace in the house by attending to other’s needs rather than her own. She is also a good employee who does her work, even though she is not very interested in it. She is very easy going, thus great to be friends with. She never causes as fuss and tends to go with the flow, even though sometimes it is not good for her. Whilst it helps her avoid arguments with people, it is also detrimental to her health.
One day, when the kids grew up enough to do their own thing, she decided to take charge of her life. She went to see a life coach who helped her figure out who she really was, what she really wanted to do, and encouraged her to take the first steps to become the authentic self.
Initially, it was a scary journey that frightened her every step of the way. She went back to college to retrain. She had essays to write, projects to do, books to read and lots of new friendships to nurture. All this took her away from her kids, her husband, the rest of her family and her old friends, who soon began to complain about the changes she imposed upon them. As hard as it was for her to listen to them, she stuck with it.
After her graduation, she began to teach what she learnt and through that she met a business owner who offered her a senior position in her organisation. It is now three years later and she is finally in a job she loves and doing the things she has always wanted to do. Her “authentic becoming” was not an easy process, but it led her to a life she always wanted to have.
Whilst my friend’s story suggests that “authentic becoming” helps us get a perfect job in life, we don’t have adequate scientific evidence to link these two concepts together. This is why, one of my students, Lisa Avery, who is currently studying for Masters in Applied Positive Psychology, has taken this as her research topic this year. Lisa is interviewing people who found a calling in life and tries to identify the process through which finding a calling occurs. Her research will be available to read in just a few months. In the meantime, however, I hope that each day, everyone of us can do at least one small thing that will help us move a step closer to becoming the authentic selves in the future.
Kasser, T., & Sheldon, K. M. (2004). Nonbecoming, alienated becoming, and authentic becoming: A goal based approach. In J. Greenberg, S. L. Koole, & T. Pyszczynski (Eds.), Handbook of experimental existential psychology (pp. 486-499). New York: Guilford Press.