Q&A with Heather Hennenburg of Authentic Life Counselling & Life Coaching
This month we chatted to Heather Hennenburg of Authentic Life Counselling & Life Coaching to find out what it means to live an authentic life and why it's important that we try and do so too.
First off, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do?
My work is inspired by my own life-long journey toward authenticity. Coming from a background of many challenges and limitations of my own, I really had to fight through some barriers, both internal and external, to live authentically. With the help of music and journaling, travel, nature and some key people in my life, I was able to grow from both pain and joy. I learned to see and respect who I was as I was, and I learned to trust my own inner guidance. As I grew in my commitment to live authentically, I began to see the benefit to all when we can cut away our conditioning and expectations and live from our authentic nature. I felt driven to craft an approach to counselling and coaching that was creative, spontaneous and a true collaboration with clients who want to free themselves to fulfill their potential and create lives that have meaning for them.
What does it mean to live authentically?
To me, it means being true to who you are inside, and I believe that who you are is defined by love. What do you love? How do you love? Who do you love? Be true to that. That is the only thing that truly matters in life. That alone will bring you fulfillment.
What are the tell-tale signs of someone who isn’t living the truest version of themselves?
The more readily identifiable signs that I see are: fear in various forms, frequently comparing oneself to others, feeling something is missing or that one is capable of more, feeling that one is not good enough and failing to follow through on ideas and desires. People who are experiencing these things also often express a real exhaustion of spirit. The signs are not always obvious and they are different from person to person. I think the most important thing is to check in with your gut and then trust what it tells you – or at least practice being curious about what it tells you.
What advice would you give others who feel out-of-sync and out-of-sorts, even if things on the surface appear to be normal?
I would say feeling this way is normal. Try to exercise some compassion for yourself. If you feel out-of-sync, there’s a reason, even if you can’t see what it is right now. I would also say, if feeling out-of-sync and out-of-sorts is what’s true for you in the present moment, then allow those feelings to be there. This is part of living authentically. Be present with your experience, and remind yourself that these are just feelings. They are not who you are, and they do not have to determine your choices. Only by being present with what is can you truly influence what will be.
Why is it important for people to live authentically?
On an individual level, it is important because the only thing you cannot lose is the core of who you are. We can lose our homes, our jobs, our freedom, our health, our loved ones - everything. In trying circumstances, honouring the truth of one’s being can be the only refuge we have, and it’s a powerful one. Your authentic being is your true freedom, your joy and your ultimate resource. On a collective level, living authentically is important because the world needs you. When you are contributing what is most truly you, then you are making your most powerful contribution to the world. From people’s authenticity springs inspiration, ingenuity, creativity, more conscious human interactions, more love. It can bring about the solutions to many of life’s challenges. At its core, I think living authentically is a matter of basic human dignity. We should respect that in ourselves and in each other.
What are the steps people can take to try and live more authentically?
Above all, learn to live in the present moment. Start paying more attention to your senses and your environment than to your thoughts and inner dialogue. Just observe life and events without interpreting or evaluating. Deal with what is rather than reacting to stories you tell yourself that may or may not be true. Another practice that is effective for living with more authenticity as well as joy and confidence is conscious, daily gratitude. Try even 5 minutes a day upon waking or before going to sleep, and see what happens over time. Meditation is another wonderful support to awakening your sense of your authentic self and presenting it to the world. Finally, practicing self-compassion is of critical importance to allowing yourself to just be you.
How has living authentically impacted your life?
When I live authentically, I like and respect myself, and I know that I am enough exactly as I am. Embracing my truth has led me into work and relationships that are immensely rewarding. It has taken me on adventures that opened my mind and heart and nurtured a deeper connection with life and the energy that connects us all. It has also driven me to let go of relationships and circumstances that were harmful or limiting. From living authentically, I have learned increasing compassion and have developed an openness to the uncertainties of life. In authenticity I have been able to tap into a kind of joy that is not dependent on circumstances or events. Often I have the opportunity to share in this with others, even the tiniest moments, and that is thrilling!
What sort of benefits come with living an authentic life, in your opinion?
I think the greatest benefit is that you know who you are, and you know what really matters. Any number of things can flow from this. You have the capacity for relationships that are accepting, mutually supportive and respectful. You can identify and create a work life that is stimulating and meaningful. You can grow in directions you might never have discovered or taken seriously otherwise. You can allow what is and know that you can deal with whatever comes. You can show up in good times and in hard times in a way that is enriching and that honours yourself and those around you. Generally, your capacity for love and experience of all kinds expands exponentially when you are being authentic in life.
I don’t know any other road to real fulfillment.