Authenticity is a term bandied about as though we all understand who we are and what our “authentic selves” stands for and believes in. When I began to explore what authenticity means, this definition by Mind Tools made sense to me: “authenticity means you’re true to your own personality, values, and spirit, regardless of the pressure that you’re under to act otherwise. You’re honest with yourself and with others, and you take responsibility for your mistakes. Your values, ideals, and actions align”.
This definition makes understanding what authenticity means simple but I recognise how difficult it is to truly understand and accept our authentic selves. I have spent more than 23 years intentionally getting to know who I am and yet I still have days where I am not sure if how I am behaving or if what I am doing is authentic or if I am trying to fit in and please those around me. I also have days where I truly dislike my “authentic” self. To be “real” sometimes means I am not all nice, shiny and sparkly. I am also direct, assertive, challenging and powerful.
The question I asked myself is, where does authenticity, with all its good and bad, fit into leadership?
After reflecting, I realise that the healthy struggle to be real is a critical part of growing and evolving into our potential. Authenticity is an ever-evolving concept. Life, with its challenges, bumps, and celebrations, is constantly pushing us to make small changes that shift our reality and make us a more healthy, productive and influential leader. Life directs us to recognise who our “real” self is.
Despite the evolution, at our core, there will always be our values, our personality (the foundation programming of who we are) and our energy. These will remain stable. How we express, embrace, and use our authenticity, are what changes.
In a world that is as busy as ours. Where delivery and deadlines are often all consuming, how do we find the time to prioritise truly understanding and acknowledging our values, personality and spirit?
Maybe the question is not, how can we find the time but, how can we NOT?
When we are not aligned with our authentic self, we feel exhausted. Everything is difficult. We suffer and we clash with those around us. Nothing we put effort into seems to give us results. We even notice how people reject us.
When we align with our authentic selves, we follow our values, align our actions with our personality to achieve optimal good. We do in a way that lifts our spirits and helps us to feel good about the work we do. We are on purpose.
I have noticed how much easier things flow when I am fully aligned. My ability to achieve results seems more achievable. As I operate from the strength of who I am, I am able to resolve challenges, remain positive and constructive, be clear about boundaries and shine as the best version of myself. Even my “not so nice” bits and pieces seem to find their right place. My aggression turns to passion, my tiredness helps the process to slow and be meticulous, my inflexibility creates structure.
When we are in our authenticity, we also attract the right people to support us. They realise they can operate from their authentic selves. Their strength will often be the healthy and natural balance to your weakness. As you are operating from the healthy side of your spirit, you work well with the difference and optimise the magic that comes from diversity in thinking and delivery. Each person operates from the healthiest part of their personal power. They are not threatened or defensive about suggestions but curious and courageous in exploring whether their way could be even better by embracing feedback.
When we operate from our authenticity, we are strong and courageous beyond measure.
Maybe, the answer lies in recognising the times when life flows, feels great and you are the best version of yourself.
As we reflect on these experiences, we recognise our authentic selves. By recognising ourselves, we build the ability to be our authentic selves. We become fit at recognising and rewarding ourselves for being authentic. We make the difference in the world that is our unique purpose.