Getting Nitty-Gritty With The Real YOU!

Oh boy, the ‘A’ word – yes folks – AUTHENTICITY! Today, I want to talk about authenticity and how to use creative journaling to get closer to it. Your true YOU is a flexible, growing and evolving concept, as you change, so does your authentic self. Most of all, it’s an exciting inner exploration of your wonderful soul!

Many years ago, I found the mere concept of thinking about my authenticity really daunting. Especially when I looked around me: stuck in a job I didn’t like, with people I didn’t care for (much), and a half-hearted, dissatisfying relationship going nowhere – well, so much for my authentic life. Where had I lost myself??? I was baffled, that my existence had come to this, and frankly … it scared me.

So, I sat down one day with my journal, and an intuition – call it a vision – let me outline my hand with a pen on the page. I stared at it for a long time, getting more and more restless – something wanted out. I then dug for some magazines and started to cut out words that resonated with who I truly was, then started sticking them in the outline of my hand, always focusing on my core self. Not too long, and I felt an answer or rather – a pattern – forming. It solidified in two major realizations:

  1. a) My fear of never fitting in, and feeling abandoned for being ‘different’, quirky, a bit eccentric – as I was told so often.
  2. b) Irrational panic of not feeling capable to survive existentially; never mind making a living with what I loved. (Even though, up to that memorable day, I have had a pretty successful, international career as a senior interim consultant, marketing strategist and business journalist.)

Lightbulb moment! I put my own hand over the outline and all those words I had glued into it, closed my eyes and breathed deeply. Not long and the tears came, but also a flame ignited deep inside of me anew – my own light – and with it, hope. A strong sense of hope to not give up on discovering the real me! My life has improved greatly since, and I have not given up, and never will.

The journey of authenticity has taught me so much and revealed tremendous health benefits too. It also touched many other people around me. It is like watching positivity in motion. I came to experience that by living my truth, was a powerful conduit for good. But you got to be courageous and really embrace it and – drop that ego.

For me, it was initially a process of UNLEARNING all the things that did no longer resonate with my soul, ethics, morals, etc. It was like peeling an onion: lots and lots of layers and many tears along the way – but cleansing ones. What I have learned on this very creative and quirky path, I love to share with others. Maybe, just maybe it will inspire and encourage you too.

A great start for any AUTHENTICITY journey is:

1) Look what’s in your head: what are you telling yourself on a daily basis and which words do you use.

2) Look at what comes out of your mouth. Mindfulness is your power tool on this journey. Ask as many questions as you dare. How do you verbalize your responses in any situation? How honest are you with yourself and others? How do you self-express? How much of it is ego? How much of it truly comes from your heart?

Authenticity is a matter of self-awareness and self-responsibility.” That’s where I had gone wrong for so many years. I had really abandoned my true self and also lost courage. I had not taken very good care of myself, no sir!

Later, still sitting over my hand-sketch, I started writing words around the outside of the outline. Words of ‘ideal-case’ scenarios: such as: ‘a wonderful, safe home’ – ‘lovely, trustworthy people’ – ‘fulfilling, creative work’ etc. and it spilled over onto more and more pages in my notepad. This soon became a massive journal in itself, and I titled it:

My life in balance!

I started by scribbling down the perfect, authentic living arrangement I envisioned, then expanded on this in detail, using new words and pictures I stuck on the pages. Then I moved on to job satisfaction, then the perfect relationship, etc. Close to midnight, I was so tired, yet psyched and put the journal under my pillow and slept on it – literally.

Looking at my inner vocabulary, I realized, just how much other people’s phrases and words I had been absorbing and mimicking – bit like a parrot really – as they were not my own true words it turned out. This pre-conditioned vocabulary had gotten into my head, creating a dictionary that was not really ‘me’, and a lot of that vocabulary was negative and self-deprecating.

When I re-read it the next day, I felt like someone had turned the lights on. Hello! I felt elated. Later that weekend, I went online to look at a thesaurus, made a list of my new favorite words and their relevant synonyms, such as: ‘abundance’ (affluence, ampleness, bounty, copiousness, fortune, myriad, opulence, plentitude, plethora, prosperity, riches, thriving). You get the idea! Just reading those words made me feel happier somehow. I had choices here, wow! Then I picked the one, and one only, that truly represented my vision for abundance. The one that most resonated and that word for me was: thriving! I had my new positive affirmations tool right there! Slowly this set a new tone of feelings in motion and my life changed for the better.

I also did the very same exercise with words that I did not like or felt threatened by; words that conjured up negative emotions. By looking at all their synonyms, I found that I could ‘dispel’ their hold over me and release the bad associations quite easy. After all, they are only words, and words can be replaced.

I can say that this hand-exercise and focusing on my *Authentic Self* became a lifestyle routine and got me to an understanding of myself and others, that I had not encountered before.

And now, after many years of fine-tuning myself, gaining much more insight and clarity into myself, I am a happy soul. Yet this incredibly enriching adventure continues.

It pays off to get nitty-gritty with the real you. I personally can now look at exactly what I penned down in my journals:
– a wonderful place to live, just right for me
– a career and lifestyle doing what I love
– amazing, inspiring people, I call friends and kindred spirits

But most of all: a happy, mindful and balanced self.

This process and transformation worked then, and still does now – and the journey is ongoing, as I am still evolving – that’s the beauty of it. It has led me to a new way of working, bringing my authenticity also into businesses and throwing in a good bit of Emotional Intelligence on top – this created a positive ripple effect.

I also started to try out this creative journaling exercise with friends, who felt a bit stuck or unhappy – with a tremendously positive impact.

So for you – dear readers – I have this very first exercise, the hand-outline and word association, ready. Many people have found it truly helpful for whatever obstacles they faced It also encouraged many to go and embark on this search of their true-self.

The journey of ones’ authenticity is the most profound you will ever embark on, and a creative journal can be a most profound tool to help you step by step, get more in sync with the core of your heart and soul – of what really defines YOU!

Embrace your inner truth!

From England with love,

Iris B.


Iris B. Willinger
Iris B. Willinger
Iris B. Willinger - originally from Vienna, Austria - started out in journalism and had a very nomadic life early on. After semi-retiring from her corporate career a few years ago, she became an accredited counsellor, and MindShift coach and now specialises in Men's Mental Health. She is also a published, bi-lingual author, and writes across a vast set of genres: from self-development books to non-fiction, from historic thrillers to poetry, as well as children's literature, which she also illustrates. Iris also holds a degree in Fine Arts & Design. Her writing career included ghost-writing and working as a developmental editor, coaching the writer's program at the renowned Ardington Academy near Oxford, and working as a script consultant in the film industry for many years. To date, she has authored and co-written 12 books. Her own healing journey, overcoming childhood & accident traumas, has made her deeply knowledgeable on how to overcome such h challenges - and she now helps others to tackle the parts that need healing and balancing. She is also the founder of the #she4him initiative and the Indigo Warrior Soul​ project; both men's mental health initiatives. Iris is a great believer in self-healing and self-empowerment and also studied neuroscience, and has been a mentor to leadership for 20+ years globally.  Her humanitarian work and creative career allow her a perfect life-work balance, and for the past 20 years she has made the UK her home, after many years spent travelling the globe 'off the beaten paths'.

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  1. Wonderful article Iris and exercise. I would love to try it, … but the only magazine I have at the moment is an IKEA catalogue…. I guess I could cut out the words: sturdy, modern, sensible!
    We do get phrases or words stuck in our head about ourselves. The worst ones would be those that come from negative people or bad experiences.
    Looking forward to reading more of your articles.