Often times authentic people have a gravitational pull to them. But being authentic isn’t that easy. Or is it? Let’s have a look at the chances, opportunities, risks and side effects.
What does it mean to be authentic?
Authenticity means something like realness. Not in an objective sense but subjectively. What I stand for is my personal subjective perspective. It is not objectively true for everybody. This needs to be understood. Now authenticity means to communicate and embody our subjective perspective to the best of our abilities.
Authenticity polarizes. The reason for that is simple: Authentic people convey their own convictions and therefore become more tangible as persons. It is easier to identify with them and to project onto their canvas. This positive side of the coin applies when their views are compatible with ours. If that’s not the case we potentially feel offended. Both happens quicker with authentic people hence the element of polarization.
By the way, being authentic has little to do with how friendly or nice a person is. Difficult people can be authentic, too.
The central topic in episode 16 of our Podcast was authenticity. In this compact 15-minute episode called »Show up and own it« Alma and I discuss a remarkable discovery: Showing up the way you truly are is the easier way after all.
Hypocrisy. Pretense. Fakeness.
Maybe you know someone who tries to make it right for about everyone they meet. According to the situation they are in they would adapt. People like this are more difficult to grasp. It’s harder to be in conflict with them but most likely they won’t experience great depths of connection with others either.
This behavior is easily judged as fakeness. However, I’m convinced that we all do what we do (negative actions included) for good reasons. What could be the good reasons to distort oneself?
Some of the most common ones might be:
• Fear of rejection/confrontation
• Longing for affirmation/acknowledgement
• Fear of being in touch with oneself
We distort ourselves in order to protect ourselves. Often times this happens unconsciously. The truth is that in large parts of society it is presented to us as normal. We are taught to do so.
Early on we learn what we can and cannot do or say. In early childhood for example we learn which role needs to be played to get attention and love from daddy or mommy. We learn to wear masks and distort ourselves more and more in order to survive and thrive. At least that’s what we think.
The sham only works for a short period of time and there are heavy side effects. Let’s take a closer look at them:
The side effects of NOT living authentically
It’s a lot easier to point out problems with others so let’s start right there. Imagine you (ME) are talking to two of your friends. The blue arrows symbolize your perspective on the respective person. Right there the problem shows! Which person? We cannot see anyone. We only see the mask/role that is presented to us. The illustration shows masks/roles as little dark lines.
The next illustration shows how JIM ans JOE both see us. They don’t see us the way we are either. They see the mask/role as well. Each of them a different one. That’s not a rare case! Just image you’d invite your family, your colleagues and your yoga-class to a party. Now your mum is talking about you with your boss and your yoga-teacher. That can quickly turn out being awkward, right? Simply because they all might know a different version of you and these versions don’t necessarily align.
If we combine both illustrations we either get a world without true connection – a world where nobody knows anybody. Or we get a world full of connection where everybody knows each other truly.
Side effects of living an inauthentic life can be:
• Burnout (it is very draining to upkeep roles/masks)
• Lack of connection to oneself (lack of drive)
• Lack of connection to others (loneliness)
• A life that doesn’t feel like your own
• Lack of inspiration (apathy)
Becoming authentic, being authentic and living authentic are all risky but there are no real alternatives. What do I mean by that? Well, inauthenticity soon becomes very boring on a personal level and very difficult on a societal level. Every single one of us is an invaluable node in a super-connected network. If we are not being ourselves another node will take control over us. Is that what we want?
Dr. Jordan Peterson words it like that: It is not safe to speak and it never will be. But you have to keep in mind that it’s even less safe NOT to speak.
An invitation to being authentic
If you have no clue at all what your own perspective is it’s time to reconnect with your intuition. most likely your attention is tilted a little too much to the outside – to others. Take it back and focus on your inner space. Meditation or keeping a diary might be a good place to start. Ask yourself: What do I truly need? what do I actually feel? What do I really want?
If you are inauthentic and want to change that start with small steps in your own pace. Show yourself and your standpoint to a trustworthy friend or partner. Ask for compassion and grace. Create a space that’s supportive for your growth. Try out radical honesty or circling for example.
If your are authentic reach out for those who are not as courageous. Listen to them deeply and without judgement. You can be a true gift to them by simply listening and not judging what they have to say. That instills confidence and fosters authenticity. By the way no one is ever done. Fine-tuning our inner alignment is an ongoing process.
At the end of the day a living authenticity leads to connectedness, exchange, growth and love. Small children show us how it’s done as they haven’t learned yet how to distort themselves.
All that is simple but not easy.
But it’s worth it.
Test your authenticity
Together with my former coach-trainees Alma and Emanuel we offer a format in which you can put your own authenticity to the test. Weekly, online and under the beautiful name of Tuesday is Truthday. We are looking forward to having you in one of our drop-in sessions! Learn more on www.truthday.ch.
*Title Image by Sharon McCutcheon via unsplash.com