Psychologist gives lecture on how to live authentically

Photo by Pauline Park

Two time author, motivational speaker and licensed psychologist Dr. Maria Sirois delivered a lecture on Tuesday titled “Living an Authentic Life” as part of the Krame Center speaker series.

“We long for significance, to find a river of our living that nourishes us,” Sirois began her lecture.

She continued by explaining that her proposed path to authenticity begins with a reflection on the self.

According to Sirois, there are four aspects a person must deal with in this path toward authenticity. There is self-authorship, where people are aware of their needs and desires and sets out to, as Dr. Sirois puts it, “shape the day in a way that nourishes us.”

There is also the concept of congruence, where people’s actions are in alignment with their values. Sirois claims, however, that there is also a need to address incongruence, when actions are out of alignment with values.

To highlight this, she gave the example of Nobel Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai’s interview with Jon Stewart of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.” When asked by Stewart how she responded to death threats put out against her by the Taliban, she went on to describe what she would do if a Taliban assassin came to kill her.

Her first instinct was to “throw [her] shoe at him,” but later changed her approach to try to emphasize to the hypothetical killer the importance of peace, education and dialogue. Sirois gave this as a demonstration of how a person acknowledges a discrepancy between their actions and values, then going on to bring them back into alignment.

The last aspect Sirois discussed was the permission to be human, forgiving yourself for your imperfections and in doing so the ability to “allow yourself to become wiser about who you are.”

It is through this self reflection on these four aspects that Sirois hoped the audience could come to express their most authentic self, their ideal self. A self that puts aside unachievable or undesirable thoughts floating in their mind and through mindfulness and courage becomes “more of who you are and being more fully alive.”

At the end of her talk, the audience appeared very eager to ask questions, most of which came from Ramapo’s very own President Peter Mercer. He noted that the focus on the self made her approach an individualistic contextual tool, a tool that “could lead to antisocial behavior” in examples such as an artistic prodigy locking himself in his study to work on his craft, ignoring others around him.

To this observation, Sirois responded in noting the importance of thinking about how “to be helpful to both yourself and others,” while also stating the importance of not “just pleasing social norms, but keeping your own life force energized.”