There is tremendous value in being your authentic self. This is an important message that needs to be re-iterated to every person, every day. Or so it seems to me as I work with people in the intimate context of a coaching relationship.
I am astonished often by even the most confident and successful people who suffer anxiety as to the value that their authentic selves can bring to their life and work. So much of our education and the requirements of our 21st century work culture enforces the idea that an act and role suitable and appropriate to what others need of you is more important.
In most cases, these pressures lead to people cutting themselves off from their authentic self and the internal resources of energy, motivation and joy. Yes, I did say joy! Not a word that is often used in the context of work – but certainly a quality that is present when people are being their most natural and doing work that they love.
So, how do you connect to your best and most authentic self? Here are three key ways to get to it:
- Take time every day for you – to do nothing in.
Stop the buzz of getting things done, answering emails, making phone calls, crossing off items on your to-do list (these are all requirements of others and acts an external pressure upon our mind and emotions). And sit quietly with eyes shut, not reading, listening to music or otherwise thinking to problem-solve an issue (for at least 10 to 15 minutes). Each person’s authentic self can be readily accessed in quietness and stillness. Given this right environment, it will make itself felt, with intelligence and awareness, as a pervasive presence of authenticity; influencing your mindset and behaviours in ways that are most natural.
In order to be authentic, you need to be able to feel and connect with who you are at deeper levels than normal, and when you do, the richness of what becomes available is extremely powerful. It is from such depths that greater energies and motivational resources come.
- Speak your truth.
If you differ from someone else’s view when in dialogue or you have a perspective that is not being represented in a group context, it is important to stand up and say what you truly believe. It doesn’t need to be said with hostility or judgement of what others are saying, but it does need to represent you. We are here after all to give expression to the uniqueness of who we are and by abstaining you are denying others of your contribution.
Humanistic psychologists say that by definition, authentic people possess a number of common characteristics that show they are psychologically mature and fully functioning as human beings. They have realistic perceptions of reality, are accepting of themselves and of other people and are able to express their emotions freely and clearly.
Conversely, they say inauthentic people…
- Are self-deceptive and unrealistic in their perceptions of reality.
- Look to others for approval and to feel valued.
- Are judgemental of other people.
- Do not think things through clearly.
- Have a hostile sense of humour.
- Are unable to express their emotions freely and clearly.
- Are not open to learning from their mistakes.
- Do not understand their motivations.
If behind what a person says and does is a defensive and self-deceptive approach to life, then no matter how passionate and committed they are, ultimately they are lying to themselves and others.
Authenticity is about expressing your truth, with healthy non-defensive functioning and psychological maturity.
- Have integrity in word and deed
Authenticity in all contexts of life means being consistent in word and deed. Saying what you will do and doing it! At base level it is being reliable and delivering on the agreements you make, whether it’s turning up on time or doing a piece of work, or communicating something to someone. It is making sure that you don’t advertise yourself as one thing and then behave in ways that contradict the advertised claim.
Also, authenticity means having an integrity with your past, so even though you may change over time, the same fundamental character of person should appear in different roles. No one likes a person who after promotion won’t have lunch with those they used to work with beforehand. Understanding what shaped you and being comfortable with your past, can help you interact with other people without the barriers that lead to disengagement.
This doesn’t mean we can’t change – learning new ways and styles is all part of growing and developing into a bigger person – by stretching the limits of who we are. But we can we adopt a playful attitude, to be more open to possibilities and experiment to figure out what’s right for the new challenges and circumstances we face.
Authenticity is also inherently a developmental process, as each one of us joins all life in its growth journey. It’s about becoming the person you are created to be.
9th January 2018