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Being our true selves is our most natural state of being. And studies have shown that it’s our healthiest approach to life. Just like fruit, veggies, and exercise can enhance our life experience and make us more immune to illness, so authenticity can greatly improve our overall health and levels of resilience when we practice it with consistency.

Henna Inam author of Wired for Authenticity points out that we can demonstrate with a polygraph or lie detector test that telling a lie creates stress in our bodies. “When a person is lying, the detector shows a significant change in physiological responses by sensing a faster heart rate, higher blood pressure, and increased perspiration.”

Further, according to Inam, scientists have discovered that the vagus nerve that runs from the stem of the brain to the stomach, digestive tract, and the heart runs to its optimal capacity when we make authentic choices instead of self-destructive ones and have authentic connections with others

In everyday life—which somehow stretches into years and even decades—pretending we’re OK when we’re unhappy may contribute to chronic health problems. It’s likely to be less stressful to be authentic than to perpetuate an untruth. In recent years, for example, women have been shown to have a greater rate of heart attacks, which can be related to stress. Stress has also been connected to depression and obesity.

Often we hide our feelings of anger, sadness, shame, or inadequacy for reasons we think are necessary to our survival. Perhaps we endure our boss’s harassment to keep the jobs we need to feed our families. Or, presumably to protect our children from the pain of our separation, we remain with a mate who neglects us. While there may be some validity and unselfishness to our reasoning, our silent suffering is self-destructive behavior that can adversely affect our health over time.

On the other hand, when we pay attention to our authentic selves and treat ourselves with love and respect, we become more proactive in seeing that our essential needs are met. Besides, our good physical health and a positive state of mind are crucial before we can serve others.

Many women desperately need more emotional support, financial opportunities, and possibilities for advancement. But before we can acquire them we need to empower ourselves. This begins when we learn to value our honesty and unique contribution to the world. Today, the situation is far from hopeless. New initiatives are devoting amazing efforts to women’s health and wellbeing through education and proper medical care. It’s an exciting time for all of us to be part of this humanitarian movement toward women’s long overdue advancement. If you haven’t already joined in the global alliance to empower women, creating a more just and caring world, I believe you’ll find engagement with other like-minded women as well as men nothing less than thrilling.

You can start by taking better care of yourself today, in small ways at first. Your positive steps toward better health—both mental and physical—will soon become habits that you will assimilate into your authentic approach to life.

Mary Kathryn “M.K.” Jones