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Case Study: How Authenticity Can Change Your Life

Case Study: How Authenticity Can Change Your Life

The Case for Authenticity

We can be ourselves or not, as we please. We are at liberty to be real, or to be unreal. We may be true or false, the choice is ours. We may wear now one mask and now another, and never, if we so desire, appear with our own true face. But we cannot make these choices with impunity.

– Thomas Merton, abridged and adapted from New Seeds of Contemplation

I want to tell you a story about a life coaching client I worked with named Sara. 

Just like you, Sara struggled with the tension between her true self and her false self. She’d always been the good girl, the rule follower, the one who never asked questions or went against the flow. 

After graduating from college, she started to have lots of questions about life, relationships, and (most important) her faith. She couldn’t figure out how to make any progress and they felt really STUCK. 

When I first met Sara, she was discouraged, frustrated, and just plain depressed. She’d been told what to think about everything from marriage to mental health to every tiny detail of her faith. Now that she was adjusting to living back home, navigating the real world, and falling in love with a new fella, she was feeling lots of internal turmoil - but wasn’t even sure what questions to ask. 

The first thing I did was get Sara to take a deep breath as I let her in on a great big secret: you are not alone. We started reframing her understanding of God by looking at what she did NOT believe about God. Starting from this reference point, we could then begin to focus on what’s left. 
Case Study: How Authenticity Can Change Your Life

The joys of deconstruction. 

Brennan Manning said, “Real freedom is freedom from the opinions of others. Above all, freedom from your opinions about yourself.” That being said, I introduced Sara to the empowering idea that she gets to create the life she wants. 

When I say things like, “Thoughts become things,” and “Words become worlds,” it’s true. What you think about yourself is absolutely true (at least for the moment). 

As Sara began to deconstruct the lies she’d believed about herself (and God), she slowly began to filter through the pain, social constructs, and fear-based religion which was holding her captive.


Getting clear on who you are and what you believe about yourself and that which we call “God” involves lots of interpersonal dialogue, allowing you to finally embrace your true self for the very first time.

Hello, authenticity!


It’s one of the simplest, most POWERFUL ways to make progress in the areas of self-awareness and personal development.


When Sara put this to work, here’s what began to change:


  • She stopped being so afraid to think for herself.
  • She began to care less about the opinions of others.
  • She started to like herself, rather than just tolerate her existence.
  • Rather than feeling like “life is meaningless,” she began to find meaning in everyday life.


Suddenly, Sara was making real PROGRESS!


I want to encourage you to try this in your life as well. This may not change things overnight, but it will lead to MOVEMENT, and that’s what matters.


If you feel like you could use a little boost in this area...I’d LOVE to help. I’d love to see you make the kind of progress that Sara made in this area. So what do you say?

Let’s get you started on the journey to authenticity.

Click here to get more details on my brand-new course:

How to Be Your True Self in a World of Fakers.

Discover new joys as you let go of living the way others think you should & start living your life as the real YOU.

Learning to live your life authentically is a process. This course and coaching program takes you through that process on an introspective journey that will result in newfound self-awareness, self-confidence, and the courage to create a life that truly makes you happy.

You’ll find tools, techniques, and strategies throughout to make your journey a success. The course includes 49 lessons with a variety of reflections, exercises, and even a field trip to guide you through this exciting journey to authenticity.


Your journey starts with getting to know who you really are. Clarify your beliefs and values. Discover your true passions. Develop a healthy self-concept. The path continues with proven techniques that will help you accept and love the person you find inside.

Put your new self-knowledge to work in the next part of your journey as you discover your life purpose and determine your priorities in life – what’s most important to you!

The last few stops on your journey help you to develop the courage to show the world who you really are. Set yourself free from the expectations of others. Create a compelling future that excites you as you end this journey of discovery and start a new one as the real, authentic you!

Get the details and sign up by clicking right here.

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How to Embrace Your True Self in a World of Fakers

How to Embrace Your True Self in a World of Fakers

Please call me by my true names,

so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,

so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

-Thich Nhat Hanh

Do you have a nickname? Even if no one has used it in years, did you have a pet name of some kind when you were a child?

My grandfather called me “Stevie” until the day he died. (He’s the only one who could get away with it.) I was “Ralph” to my Aunt Missy, and “Butt-Butt” to my Uncle Tiger (his real name is David). “Stinky” is what my wife calls me most often. Those nicknames are a glimpse into the loving relationships I have with those closest to me: the names my inner circle use(d) to remind me they’re quite fond of me.

While I love nicknames, there are other names I’ve been called through the years that haven’t felt so good. I’ve been called, “sissy” and “fag,” “sinner” and “broken.” But those aren’t nearly as painful as the names I’ve called myself; things like “crazy” and “weak” and many that are much, much worse.

Embracing Your True Self

What about you? Have people labeled you and boxed you in, when all you’ve ever wanted to do is be free? What would it feel like to live the life you choose, rather than the life others think you should live? How long have you been performing for the approval of others? What would it feel like to take off the mask and stop pretending?

There are all sorts of labels people try to slap on us, and boxes we put ourselves in. But it’s who we are beneath the noise, chatter, and unrealistic expectations of other people that really counts.

Consider this wisdom from Thomas Merton:

Every one of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self.This is the person that I want myself to be but who cannot exist, because God—because Truth, Light—knows nothing about him. And to be unknown to God is altogether too much privacy.My false and private self is the one who wants to exist outside the reach of God’s will and God’s love— outside of reality and outside of life. And such a self cannot help but be an illusion.

Merton goes on to say...

We can be ourselves or not, as we please. We are at liberty to be real, or to be unreal. We may be true or false, the choice is ours. We may wear now one mask and now another, and never, if we so desire, appear with our own true face.But we cannot make these choices with impunity.Causes have effects, and if we lie to ourselves and to others, then we cannot expect to find truth and reality whenever we happen to want them.If we have chosen the way of falsity we must not be surprised that truth eludes us when we finally come to need it and that confusion reigns.
– abridged and adapted from New Seeds of Contemplation
How to Embrace Your True Self in a World of Fakers

The journey toward authenticity (or the “true self”) begins with self-awareness.

What is self-awareness? The dictionary defines self-awareness as “knowledge and awareness of your own personality or character.” When you’re self-aware, you have an accurate and clear understanding of your personality, strengths, weaknesses, and beliefs. You know what makes you tick. Self-awareness also includes an understanding of how others perceive you. Lacking self-awareness can lead to a very confusing and frustrating life!

Embracing self-awareness can empower you to be your true self.

Your level of self-awareness can influence your relationships, career, and happiness:

  • Self-awareness is necessary for taking control of your life. The direction of your life is determined by your thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and reactions. Self-awareness is the principle way of understanding and influencing these things.
    • Self-awareness highlights faulty beliefs and emotional reactions that stand in your way and gives you the power to make adjustments.
  • Self-awareness illuminates the real reasons for past failures and challenges. We often dismiss our failures as bad luck or a lack of proper timing. But it’s also possible that we failed to perceive the situation, others, or ourselves accurately. It’s much easier to see the reason behind relationship, work, and other struggles when we can look at ourselves clearly.
    • Do you consistently struggle at work or in your relationships? What can you do better?
    • Those who lack self-awareness are puzzled by their negative outcomes or blame others exclusively.
  • Self-awareness is a critical quality for leaders. One study concluded that a high degree of self-awareness was the best predictor of success for executives.
    • Executives that have an understanding of their weaknesses are able to build a team composed of members that fill those weaknesses.
    • A lack of self-awareness puts a limit on your leadership abilities.
  • Self-awareness is the foundation for personal progress. Without it, any personal development efforts will be severely hampered.
    • Self-awareness is the cornerstone of success and self-improvement. Without self-awareness, the knowledge you possess can’t be applied effectively. It’s necessary to understand your beliefs, habits, strengths, and weaknesses to make a personal change. Avoid assuming that you’re self-aware. Give it some time and thought.

Building greater self-awareness won’t happen overnight, but it can be developed. You can start building your self-awareness, and reaping the benefits, starting today!

Download my Daily Authenticity Checklist:

Use these questions daily to ensure you are living an authentic life. Think of them as diagnostic questions to ensure you are embracing your true self every single day.

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4 Elements of Emotional Wisdom

Is It Okay to be Really Sad? 4 Elements of Emotional Wisdom

It's Okay to be Really Sad

Around the same time my Grandfather died last year, my son’s best friend moved away. I told Ben, "It's okay to be sad." The kid’s parents bought a beautiful new home across town, so my son has lost his favorite friend, the kid who sat next to him every day at lunch. To my little boy, it seems unfair. And although losing a friend he had only known six months pales in comparison to losing the patriarch of our family, the same truth applies to both: it's okay to be really sad.

When we prevent ourselves from experiencing the full spectrum of human emotion, it's like we're sawing off an arm or leg with a dull butter knife. It's hard, painful, and unnecessary work. In denying ourselves the right to feel angry, sad, or disappointed - anything but joyful - we're amputating pieces of our souls. This just causes more trauma that will eventually, stubbornly, rise to the surface.

We treat much of our trauma and pain the same way sickness is treated in the Western world. Too often, we treat the obvious symptoms while ignoring the root cause. Over-the-counter cold medicines are designed to treat the effects of the illness: a runny nose, itchy and watery eyes, and congestion. They make us feel better because we can’t see the symptoms anymore, but the virus is still wreaking havoc on our systems.

It’s the same when we feel overwhelmed. We might use words like anxiety, stress, despair, worn out, exhausted, or just plain done. If we aren’t dealing with a genuine psychiatric diagnosis, we’re describing intense emotions that we are used to stuffing down or covering up. But what would happen if we stopped trying to squelch or rush through it? What if we asked our emotions what they’re trying to communicate to us? Isn’t listening to our inner voice a great mark of wisdom?

It's okay to be really sad: the truth about emotional wisdom. via @iamsteveaustin #emotionalintelligence #catchingyourbreath

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4 Elements of Emotional Wisdom

What is emotional wisdom? 

Emotional wisdom is the collective knowledge and experience that result from having lived a life of emotional diversity. You obtain emotional wisdom by learning from past mistakes and taking that which you’ve learned into the future with you. It is give-and-take: you receive the experiences and decide what serves you the best to remember and use in the future.

Our emotions are continually giving us messages about what feels good and what doesn’t, what feels right and what feels wrong, what is acceptable and what isn’t, and the ultimate direction we should be going. Our emotions tell us when things are great, or when they need to be improved.

In denying ourselves the right to feel angry, sad, or disappointed - anything but joyful - we're amputating pieces of our souls. via @iamsteveaustin #catchingyourbreath #emotionalintelligence

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In this article, we’ll examine 4 steps to help you achieve greater emotional wisdom.

  1. Listen: A huge part of developing emotional wisdom is in learning how to listen to and interpret the experiences we have. By listening to your emotions, you can gain a broad understanding of what’s going on inside you. What’s going on inside you can affect your physical health and mental well-being, so it pays to listen carefully. Doing so will help you manage stress, which can manifest itself in many negative emotions.

  2. Trust: Trust in your ability to feel and be felt, and interpret your feelings accurately. Trust that you can handle whatever emotions come your way - after all, you’re still here, aren’t you? We are all much more capable than we tend to give ourselves credit for, so while you’re listening to your emotions, trust that what you’re hearing is the truth. Never second guess yourself when it comes to feeling. Whatever it is you are feeling is valid and worthy.

  3. Reflect: Your ability to look at your emotions realistically concerning the situations with which they arise is essential in developing your emotional wisdom. Notice we said reflect - not react. As you are listening to your emotions, logically examine whether your emotion matches the situation that it came from. Often, we are used to telling ourselves stories regarding our feelings that simply aren’t true - they are just habits. Therefore, honest reflection is a valuable skill to possess.

  4. Adjust: The ability to adjust your emotion to your present situation is a sign of true emotional wisdom. Like anything, this takes practice, but when you learn to interpret the messages your emotions send you accurately, you can adjust as you feel necessary.

True emotional wisdom comes from looking within and listening carefully to what we feel to give us clues that help us live healthier, happier, more productive lives.



Watch this transformational webinar by author, life coach, and suicide survivor, Steve Austin. 

Do you control your emotions or do they control you? Read this. via @iamsteveaustin #catchingyourbreath #emotionalintelligence

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VIDEO: Why It’s Time to Let Go of Past Pain & Move Forward

Why It's Time to Let Go of Past Pain & Move Forward

Have you ever been hurt so badly that you thought you’d never get out of that pain and move to the other side? You deserve to let it go and learn how to move forward with your life. Here’s why.

Are you ready to let go of past pain and move forward with your life? Watch this. via @iamsteveaustin #catchingyourbreath #coachinglife

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My Little Boy Taught Me How to Love My Neighbor

My Little Boy Taught Me How to Love My Neighbor

"Maybe all men got one big soul ever'body's a part of."

- Jim Casy, The Grapes of Wrath

My son loves LEGOs. He’s been building things as long as either of us can remember. At least once a month, his grandma takes him to the LEGO store at the mall downtown, and he gets to build with other LEGO fanatics, just like him.

So you’ll understand why I was a bit concerned when he came home yesterday and didn’t want to go to LEGO night. Ben never turns down a chance to build with the little plastic blocks, I mean ever. I started to question Ben when my wife looked up from texting and gave me “the look.” Any man who has been married very long knows “the look.” You don’t question the look, you just know to shut up, and do it now.

I wrinkled my eyebrows a bit, and then I shut up. Apparently, Lindsey knew something I didn’t know...

What my Little Boy Taught Me about Loving My Neighbor

I'm excited to share my second guest post over at - click here to read the rest of this story.

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6 Tips for Practicing More Empathy and Compassion

6 Ways to Be More Understanding and Empathetic

Teach Yourself to be More Understanding and Empathetic

What is empathy?

Empathy is the concern for the welfare of others. It’s the ability to detect or predict the emotions and thoughts of others. It’s easy to see why this would be a handy skill to master.

Empathy has an impact on your relationships. This is true for both your personal and professional relationships. Empathy can make your life easier and more fulfilling at home and at work!

6 Ways to Be More Understanding and Empathetic via @iamsteveaustin #powerof1 #lovewins #catchingyourbreath

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Try these tips to increase your empathy for those around you:

  1. Avoid making assumptions. Your view of the world is limited. Your experiences are just your own. Others have lived a different reality. If you’re from a well-off and intact family from the United States, you don’t really have a clue what it’s like to deal with the weight of growing up in an orphanage in Ukraine. If you’ve never lost a job, avoid assuming that you know exactly what that experience feels like. Making assumptions only gets in the way of developing empathy. When you catch yourself making assumptions, question them. Prove your assumptions to be true or false before making any decisions.
  2. Ask questions. One way to understand others is to ask questions. Develop a genuine interest in them. Enhancing your communication skills assists your ability to connect with, and to understand, other people. Ask open ended questions.
  3. Listen. Listening intently is related to asking questions and avoiding assumptions. Seek to understand the emotions that the other person is feeling. Asking questions and then listening to the answers is a pivotal part of creating empathy within yourself.
  4. Try to understand a group of people outside of your experience. Suppose you’re a young, Christian, African-American male. You might decide to learn about Hasidic Jews. Or if you’ve never been poor, you might learn about the homeless. Read books and talk to people. Strive to understand what it would be like to be born a part of a particular group.
  5. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. One way to relate better to others is to imagine yourself in the same situation. This can be painful. It’s not enjoyable to imagine that your spouse has died or that you’re completely out of money. Ask yourself, “What would I be thinking and feeling if I were in this situation?” Just asking yourself this question is the biggest step you can take toward being empathetic.
  6. Be present. Give your undivided attention to others. You can’t be empathetic if you’re thinking about something else while someone is speaking to you. You’re not as good at hiding your disinterest as you think! You miss most of the information, verbal and non-verbal, communicated to you if you’re not paying attention.
  7. Empathy is an important skill. It can greatly increase your ability to communicate and connect with others. Being able to understand their feelings and thoughts will boost your rapport with them. Enhance your personal and work relationships with empathy and you’ll benefit in many ways.

Join the Challenge

30 Days of Empathy and Compassion begins February 4th

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In a World Full of Fear, We Desperately Need Compassion

How to Change Your World with Empathy and Compassion

Grace Can Be Heard in Any Language

I finished teaching my weekly sign language class and felt my nerves subside. I’d been sick over this class, in particular, all day. Those who know me personally would find that odd, considering I’m a very outgoing person, entirely comfortable in front of a crowd, and I’ve taught classes and workshops all over the Southeast for several years.

But I had been physically sick over this class all day long.


Because some old friends of mine would be my special guests for the evening. These weren’t just any old friends. These were two of my very closest friends. Deaf mentors of mine for fifteen years and friends for more than twenty. I have called them my “second parents” for as long as I can remember.

So why the anxiety?

I hadn’t seen them in nearly five years. I had never even introduced them to my son (who was four at the time). These people who had me at their house countless times. Who invited me to join them for day trips and taught me sign language from the time I was twelve years old. He would drop everything to help me if I ever needed it, and she would drive half an hour every week to come to eat lunch with me at the middle school so I could practice sign language.

These folks had freely given me their time and their language. I have been professional sign language interpreter for the past ten years because this couple was so generous to me. I owe them a high debt of gratitude for the way they shaped my life.

But I had been sick to my stomach for hours over the thought of having to face them.

Sounds ridiculous, right?

That’s what fear does. Fear turns our stomachs inside out as it buries us under a truckload of irrational thoughts and behavior. Fear weighed on me like an overcoat in the summer I couldn’t seem to take off.


Because I hadn’t seen this couple since my suicide attempt. I hadn’t faced them since I lost my job. He didn’t even know. I was so scared of their disappointment. I feared they would no longer approve of me, just like so many others who didn’t know the full story.

I swallowed my fear for the duration of the class and picked up a mask I hadn’t worn in several years. I know how to perform. I am a master at “fake it til you make it,” and I used that old skill set last night. The class went as planned, and my students had a wonderful time. I was satisfied and ready to go home.

After the crowd left, the three of us walked to the parking lot together. My old friend, my mentor, this man who had been a father figure to me for so many years, dropped his countenance. His face was calm, and his eyes were gracious. I had seen this look many times before. He began to move his hands in a way that told me I was loved.

His fingers silently wove a tapestry of grace in the cool night air as he told me that he had heard the rumors, but those words meant nothing to him. “Because I know you. I know Steve,” he said to me. I thought the old man might cry as he let me know how glad he was that I made it through the suicide attempt. He asked me to no longer put him and his wife in the same boat as the others who had turned their backs or given up on me. He told me that he wasn’t interested in the gossip.

What he was saying is that I mattered. He did not believe the words of those who would spread judgment. He believed in me.

Do any of us really make a difference anymore? Find out here. via @iamsteveaustin #empathy #compassion #catchingyourbreath

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What about you? 

Has fear tried to separate you from those you love? Maybe not a person–perhaps a dream or gift you’ve run from. Like me, have you found your self-worth wrapped up in fear? If your self-worth has been torn down, empathy and compassion promise to build back up.

Perfect love continues to cast out fear as it shatters judgment.

Everyone makes an impact - whether they are acting intentionally or not. Everyone is always making an impact on one another. Your actions, my actions, and the actions of others are influencing the world. What you do matters in more ways than you may realize, and your efforts may create chaos or lead to grand achievements. The key is being intentional with your actions.

There is a principle of chaos theory called the Butterfly Effect. It states that a tiny initial action can cause a reaction of epic proportions. The metaphorical example is that the simple movement of a butterfly’s wings over time can create a wave that results in a hurricane.

This is an illustration of how important even the smallest of actions are in the grand scheme of the world. As someone living on this planet, you too have an effect everywhere you go. What you do and how you do it matters. You matter. You are as vital to the success of the human race as the most powerful influencer you can imagine. Have you ever considered this?

The set of people and places where you make the most impact is called your sphere of influence. This is the where your presence is felt the most. Your sphere likely includes your family, work, and the local community.

What you do matters. Here's why. via @iamsteveaustin #catchingyourbreath #empathy #compassion

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How are you making that impact? Consider this:

  • How you parent your children makes an impact.
  • How you manage your marriage makes an impact.
  • How you engage as a son, daughter, sister, or brother makes an impact.
  • What you contribute to your workforce makes an impact.
  • What you create makes an impact.
  • Your wisdom makes an impact.
  • How you vote makes an impact.
  • How you spend your time and money makes an impact.
  • How you pour yourself into others makes an impact.

I could go on and on, but you’re starting to see my point. In all that you do, you matter. How you do things matters. It is all tied together. This may seem like a big responsibility - and it is - but it isn’t too big when you break it down into manageable bits and pieces, in all the different areas of your life.

The most important thing to realize is that you have influence and impact wherever you go, and by being intentional, you can leave your mark on the world in a favorable and meaningful way.

Grace shows up in unlikely places if we keep our hearts and minds open. What fear buries, empathy resurrects. Fear pushed me to withdraw from precious friends for years, but compassion promises to redeem the lost time. Fear convinced me to lump these friends with everyone else who had hurt me, but grace is a reconciler.

I wish the whole world could be deafened to the noise of condemnation the way I was that night. Grace can be heard in any language.

What fear buries, empathy resurrects. via @iamsteveaustin #compassion #catchingyourbreath

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The Transformative Power of Empathy and Compassion

Join the Catching Your Breath Academy to Learn the Transformative Power of Empathy & Compassion
Class begins February 4th.


Respect & Admiration

I didn’t know what to expect when I started this group. What I found at the end however was a group of people whom I greatly respect and deeply admire.

Jason F. Online student

Worth every penny.

I have greatly enjoyed my discussions with Steve and am grateful for his strength, positivity, and encouragement. While he always comes with a plan for our sessions, I appreciate his ability to adjust to the needs of the client and ask the sort of questions that enable thought and growth. Every penny and hour was worth it—I cannot recommend Steve’s work highly enough...

Josh C. Coaching client

Fantastic life coach!

Steve Austin is a fantastic life coach! He's really helped me focus and get clear about what I want, and helped me make a manageable plan. If you need help reaching your goals and creating peace and space in your life, he’s your guy.

Stephanie Long Coaching client

One of the best investments we've ever made.

Life coaching is one the best investments we have made for our family. Steve has the ability to help you draw up plans that fit the design for your family. and where you are in your journey. While you may come into life coaching seeking answers and advice, what you will find is that Steve has the ability to help you see that you hold most of the answers already. You just need a gentle (or sometimes straight forward) push in the right direction. Steve is that guiding force and knows what he is doing.

Christy P. Coaching client

Necessary for greater awareness.

Steve’s workshop is necessary for those who want awareness of the pain that surrounds them, hidden in suffering human hearts.

Matt Suicide prevention workshop participant

Steve will guide you to the best version of you.

Before I contacted Steve for help I felt frustrated and blocked. After working with him I knew how to conquer my fears. Steve is a warm and caring person who will guide you to the best version of you.

Sarah F. Coaching client