18 Psychology Books on Authenticity & Being Your True Self

Authenticity BooksAuthenticity is not about taking the soft option; it involves openness and honesty with ourselves and others.

And living authentically does not mean existing without pain or sadness; they are as much a part of life as joy and love (Joseph, 2019).

Being your true self promotes a life of purpose and meaning, even in the face of suffering, and provides the opportunity to live more fully.

The books selected below all offer insights into what an authentic life looks like and guidance on how we can learn to shift our priorities to what really matters.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Happiness & Subjective Wellbeing Exercises for free. These detailed, science-based exercises will help you or your clients identify sources of authentic happiness and strategies to boost wellbeing

5 Books to Understand Authenticity

Authenticity requires us to know our “true self and deep values, staying connected with them, and acting in accord with them” (Huta, 2015).

Authentic living means knowing ourselves, understanding what it means to be real, and finding new or shaping existing environments in which to flourish.

Living with authenticity is not about taking the easy path, picking up trinkets of happiness as we find them, but investing time and energy in balancing the person we are inside with how we act and appear to the outside world.

The following books all provide insights into the act of living each moment and the drive to understand our motivations and worth, while owning our actions and abilities.

1. Authentic: How to Be Yourself and Why It Matters – Stephen Joseph


Based on Stephen Joseph’s fascinating research, this book explores the psychology of authenticity. It encourages us to drop the defenses created during childhood and learn how to experience being valued, understood, and accepted.

Joseph explains how to change our approach to ourselves and our relationships and the difference it makes to our lives. He uses a series of practical exercises that help the reader feel more understood, accepted, and valued.

While such changes are not easily made, they can transform our moment-by-moment existence along with the goals we set out to achieve.

Find the book on Amazon.

2. Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment – Martin Seligman

Authentic Happiness

Martin Seligman is seen as one of the founding fathers of the positive psychology movement, and his research and writing have been enormously influential in its growth and continued development.

This book examines how authentic, long-lasting happiness is the product of knowing and using our personal strengths rather than focusing on our weaknesses.

He takes the reader on a journey using practical exercises, tests, and access to a supporting website to learn how to identify their virtues and use them to live in new and different ways.

Find the book on Amazon.

3. The Art of Authenticity: Tools to Become an Authentic Leader and Your Best Self – Karissa Thacker

Art of Authenticity

According to the author, Karissa Thacker, being a better leader requires improved self-knowledge. As a management psychologist, Thacker applies the latest research to real business situations and works with Fortune 500 companies to create authentic leadership.

The book contains practical tools to replace harmful reactions formed out of habit with more authentic ones, while promoting good behavior and effective decision making.

The best leaders benefit from authenticity and encourage sustainable success within business, writes Thacker.

Find the book on Amazon.

4. Live True: A Mindfulness Guide to Authenticity – Ora Nadrich

Live True

Ora Nadrich’s book confirms the importance of mindfulness, authenticity, and the connection between them, while offering the reader an insightful guide into identifying who they are and are not.

The meditations and practices within each of the 30 chapters encourage the development and maintenance of authenticity and recognition of our unique core values and qualities.

This thoughtful and practical book helps overcome our self-imposed obstacles to authenticity and offers a way to live more mindfully and truthfully.

Find the book on Amazon.

5. An Intentional Life: Five Foundations of Authenticity and Purpose – Lisa Kentgen

An Intentional Life

Positive changes can happen in response to our ongoing search for purpose. And yet, such a quest for meaning can be difficult in everyday life and within our modern culture’s constraints.

Lisa Kentgen provides the tools to uncover our most essential self and develop authenticity in our lives and relationships.

Well researched and expertly written, her groundbreaking methods can offer long-lasting and positive transformational changes in life.

Find the book on Amazon.

5 Books on Being Your Authentic Self

Our next section is dedicated to transformative reads.

1. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead – Brené Brown

Daring Greatly

Brené Brown is a New York Times bestseller, research professor, and hugely accomplished author of books based on her ongoing research into courage and leadership.

This book defines vulnerability and its core importance for living a more authentic and deeply happy life. It offers valuable insights, along with tools and guides for helping the reader practice a new vision for letting themselves be more visible.

Importantly, Brown explains how vulnerability, along with authenticity, opens us to experiences that bring meaning and purpose to our lives, including joy, creativity, love, and empathy.

Find the book on Amazon.

2. Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor E. Frankl

Man's search for meaning

Viktor Frankl’s epic work on meaning is a well-deserved classic in psychological texts.

Through personal observation, he became aware that those most likely to survive the horror of Second World War concentration camps had retained a sense of control in the most challenging circumstances.

Such individuals found meaning in what most of us would observe as senseless cruelty and identified a way to live authentically through the relationships they formed with people and their environment.

The book explores the transcendence of suffering, finding significance in the art of living, and the human capacity to both endure and flourish.

Find the book on Amazon.

3. The Gifts of Imperfection: 10th Anniversary Edition  – Brené Brown

Gifts of Imperfection

The 10th anniversary edition of another of Brené Brown’s classics (the original sold over two million copies) has new tools to help the reader engage more fully in authentic, wholehearted living.

The book is built upon 10 guideposts to cultivate authenticity, self-compassion, resilience, and gratitude, and offers ways to avoid sabotaging our own and others’ lives.

While promoting a revolution in thinking and living, Brown starts small, asking each of us to remember that our stories matter. Choosing and accepting authenticity and worthiness are crucial acts of defiance.

Find the book on Amazon.

4. The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma – Bessel van der Kolk

Body Keep Score

The Body Keeps the Score is an essential read for anyone fascinated by the effects of traumatic stress on our bodies and minds.

Bessel van der Kolk uses recent research, scientific theory, and real-life examples to describe trauma’s impact on people’s lives. He then offers valuable treatments, such as yoga, biofeedback, and meditation, that use the brain’s neuroplasticity to reshape and overcome hurt with healing.

Reclaiming what was lost and finding the path to recovery require self-knowledge, new growth, and authenticity.

Find the book on Amazon.

5. Flow: The Classic Work on How to Achieve Happiness – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi


Flow is undoubtedly a classic work in psychology. Csikszentmihalyi’s book on achieving the state of consciousness known as flow introduces the path to optimal experience.

This book explores what flow is and how to achieve it through purposeful action rather than leaving it to chance.

While exploring this happy and authentic state of mind, Csikszentmihalyi acts as a guide to improving our lives’ quality, unlocking our potential, and working toward a more profound, more engaged happiness.

Find the book on Amazon.

Download 3 Free Happiness Exercises (PDF)

These detailed, science-based exercises will equip you or your clients with tools to discover authentic happiness and cultivate subjective well-being.

Applying Authenticity in Leadership

Leadership is an excellent sphere for authenticity to be improved and applied. Pick any of the following books to improve your management style.

1. Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value – Bill George

Authentic Leadership

Bill George guides existing and potential leaders in how to step forward as models of “doing things right.” His book argues that the very best leaders can bring us out of the corporate crisis in which we find ourselves, but only through purposeful leadership based on the highest values and self-discipline.

Based on the answers to a series of questions he asks the reader, it is possible to develop character-based leadership and take an active part in our corporations’ success.

Find the book on Amazon.

2. Authentic Leadership (HBR Emotional Intelligence Series) – Harvard Business Review

Authentic Leaders

Haven’t we all found it difficult to be ourselves at work? A good leader has the additional challenge of balancing such authenticity and vulnerability with authority.

This book explores the need for emotional intelligence in leadership and the damage that conforming to ill-thought-out standards can have.

Part of the HBR Emotional Intelligence Series, this collection of positive and practical articles provides guidance for managing difficult situations and people while tending to our emotional wellbeing.

Find the book on Amazon.

3. The Discover Your True North Fieldbook: A Personal Guide to Finding Your Authentic Leadership – Nick Craig, Bill George, and Scott Snook

True North

As the title suggests, this management guidebook helps you identify your purpose as a leader.

Having worked with thousands of leaders, Nick Craig, Bill George, and Scott Snook provide instruction and guidance on finding direction, maintaining orientation, and identifying a clearer sense of who you are and what drives you to lead.

The series of reflections encourages authenticity and an intimate self-discovery process for you as a leader and how to uncover your unique leadership skills.

Find the book on Amazon.

4. Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow – Tom Rath and Barry Conchie

Strengths based leadership

Being authentic means knowing yourself, your strengths, and your values.

Using Gallup’s StrengthsFinder assessment, the authors introduce readers to the analysis of decades of data and insights into leaders and their followers’ strengths.

Tom Rath and Barry Conchie uncover the importance of knowing our strengths as a leader while meeting the needs of those that follow. Along with first-hand accounts, the pragmatic principles provide a road map for accomplished, authentic leadership.

Find the book on Amazon.

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4 Practical Approaches to Authenticity

Sometimes a more light-hearted read, with practical approaches, can benefit the average reader better in getting a clear understanding of authenticity, and its importance.

1. The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read: (and Your Children Will Be Glad That You Did) – Philippa Perry

Parent Read

To ensure our children’s happiness, we need to be authentic as parents. This engaging book makes clear what matters and what to avoid as we navigate the challenges of parenthood.

Without judgment, the reader is introduced to what makes for good parent–child relationships and helps us recognize the biases we bring from our own childhood.

Once we accept that we will inevitably make (and can learn from) mistakes, we are free to break negative cycles and behavioral patterns.

Find the book on Amazon.

2. Positive Psychology in Practice: Promoting Human Flourishing in Work, Health, Education, and Everyday Life – Stephen Joseph

PP in practice

The second edition of this comprehensive (and quite expensive) book provides new insights into the vast field of positive psychology. Experts in this exciting and relatively new focus for psychology discuss its theories, challenges, and practical applications.

With a focus on real-world settings, Joseph takes us through the latest research while exploring ideas for applying positive psychology in areas as diverse as self-help, social work, and life coaching.

The book is a valuable addition to anyone’s psychology collection and engages the reader with its pragmatic approach to this exciting field.

Find the book on Amazon.

3. The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want – Sonja Lyubomirsky

How of happiness

This book focuses on our search for happiness.

Finding ways to be authentic is a crucial component of feeling fulfilled and living without conflict between what is going on inside and outside our thoughts.

This valuable book on positive psychology provides an excellent balance between readability and providing the tools needed to make positive changes in your life.

Find the book on Amazon.

4. How to Be Yourself: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety – Ellen Hendriksen

Be Yourself

This is a valuable book on how to manage and ultimately conquer social anxiety. If you are shy and introverted and find it difficult to be yourself in social situations, Ellen Hendriksen provides tools to help you be more real and confront your fears.

Using research, theory, and real-life examples, we learn how to quiet our inner critic and feel more comfortable in difficult situations.

Find the book on Amazon.

PositivePsychology.com’s Helpful Resources

Cultivating authenticity requires both self-awareness and self-knowledge to develop your potential fully.

Use some of our tools to gain additional insights and clarity into what it means to be real and know your values, goals, and thoughts:

  • R Stands for Reality
    Goal setting is incredibly valuable for guiding us toward both short- and long-term objectives. These five questions help ensure that a goal is realistic.
  • Imago Workup
    Authenticity is crucial for relationships. This tool explores the most important qualities when considering romantic relationships.
  • Understanding Self-Confidence
    Being authentic takes confidence. Reflect on a confident moment and extract insights from it.
  • Who Am I?
    Journaling can be a valuable way to increase self-awareness and gain self-knowledge. Use expressive writing to gain quick insights.
  • Self-Awareness Worksheet For Adults
    This worksheet is a useful tool and metaphor for noticing strengths, skills, traits, talents, weaknesses, and more both within and outside ourselves.

If you’re looking for more science-based ways to help others develop strategies to boost their wellbeing, this collection contains 17 validated happiness and wellbeing exercises. Use them to help others pursue authentic happiness and work toward a  life filled with purpose and meaning.

17 Exercises To Increase Happiness and Wellbeing

Add these 17 Happiness & Subjective Well-Being Exercises [PDF] to your toolkit and help others experience greater purpose, meaning, and positive emotions.

Created by Experts. 100% Science-based.

A Take-Home Message

While authenticity is crucial to living a more fulfilled and complete life, it appears to be less about the destination and more about the process or journey. Making life authentic involves learning about ourselves and our environment, while focusing on our worth and value.

Indeed, true belonging can only be felt when we “present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world” and accept who we are (Brown, 2015).

Authenticity adds value to life not only through helping us to communicate effectively, but also in leadership and on the path to becoming a parent that encourages our children to be fulfilled and happy.

Yet reaching and maintaining authenticity may not be easy or straightforward. A life fulfilled and purposeful is not without pain and may even require consideration of existence’s finitude (Joseph, 2019).

Rather than waiting for an encounter with our own or someone else’s mortality to inspire us to live with increased awareness and more authenticity, a purposeful life journey can be created.

It is clear from the reading list that there is a wealth of research and theory linked to authenticity that can help us develop a more authentic life for ourselves and those we hold dear.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Happiness Exercises for free.


  • Brown, B. (2015). Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. Avery.
  • Brown, B. (2020). The gifts of imperfection (10th Anniversary ed.). Random House.
  • Craig, N., George, B., & Snook, S. (2015). The Discover Your True North fieldbook: A personal guide to finding your authentic leadership. Wiley.
  • Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2002). Flow: The classic work on how to achieve happiness. Ebury Press.
  • Frankl, V. (2014). Man’s search for meaning (Rev. ed.). Beacon Press.
  • George, B. (2004). Authentic leadership: Rediscovering the secrets to creating lasting value. Jossey-Bass.
  • Harvard Business Review. (2017). Authentic leadership (HBR emotional intelligence series). Harvard Business Review Press.
  • Hendriksen, E. (2018). How to be yourself: Quiet your inner critic and rise above social anxiety. St. Martin’s Press.
  • Huta, V. (2015). Eudaimonia and hedonia: Their complementary functions in life and how they can be pursued in practice. In S. Joseph (Ed.), Positive psychology in practice: Promoting human flourishing in work, health, education and everyday Life (2nd ed.). Wiley.
  • Joseph, S. (Ed.) (2015). Positive psychology in practice: Promoting human flourishing in work, health, education and everyday life (2nd ed.). Wiley.
  • Joseph, S. (2019). Authentic: How to be yourself and why it matters. Little, Brown Book Group.
  • Kentgen, L. (2018). An intentional life: Five foundations of authenticity and purpose. Stryder Press.
  • Lyubomirsky, S. (2008). The how of happiness: A new approach to getting the life you want. Penguin Books.
  • Nadrich, O. (2019). Live true: A mindfulness guide to authenticity. IFTT Press.
  • Perry, P. (2020). The book you wish your parents had read: (And your children will be glad that you did). Penguin Life.
  • Rath, T., & Conchie, B. (2008). Strengths based leadership: Great leaders, teams, and why people follow. Gallup Press.
  • Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Authentic happiness: Using the new positive psychology to realize your potential for lasting fulfillment. Atria Books.
  • Thacker, K. (2016). The art of authenticity: Tools to become an authentic leader and your best self. Wiley.
  • Van der Kolk, B. (2014). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. Viking.

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