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The Goal is MORE Authenticity, not 100% Authenticity

Updated: Feb 22, 2023

Why living more authentically helps you live healthier, happier, and more peaceful lives

Authenticity: What if the goal was more authenticity, not 100% authenticity?


In my work as a life and leadership coach, I often get clients who wish to explore the topic of authenticity. Sometimes as a specific goal from the outset of the coaching or it surfaces later in the coaching as a topic to explore. In both cases, it’s usually as a result of clients becoming aware of the impact (usually negative) that authenticity (or lack of) is having on their life either professionally or personally.


Authenticity: what is it?


Put simply, it’s the quality of being genuine, legitimate, or real (I encourage people to use the term that feels most resonant for them) both with yourself AND with others.


It means living a life that is aligned with your values and beliefs (what’s most important to you) and acting in sync with your true(est) self, regardless of the pressure that you're under to act otherwise.


Authenticity is a quality that many of us value and admire in others. Why? Often because we admire the firmness and self-confidence it brings, as well as a sense of ease, comfort, and energy that those with genuine authenticity put out into the world. There’s no doubt, it can be a very attractive quality.



Here’s what some of the research on authenticity also tells us:

  • living more authentically leads to happier, healthier and more fulfilled lives

  • living more authentically leads to a greater sense of inner peace experienced from not having to pretend to be someone we are not

  • people who are more authentic are perceived to be more trustworthy – because they are truer to themselves.

So, if the above is true who wouldn’t want to live more authentically?


Why is it so difficult to live authentically?


Authenticity is difficult because in today’s world there are so many social and cultural pressures coming from many different directions telling us who we “should be”, what we “should be doing”, and how we “should be doing it!”


Authenticity is difficult because it can means being vulnerable! We’re sometimes afraid to show who we really are – for fear of being judged, criticised, perceived as weak or even rejected.


Authenticity is difficult because every day, we are growing into ourselves and learning about ourselves.


Authenticity is difficult because sometimes, we are not being honest with ourselves, therefore it’s hard to be honest with others.


Authenticity is difficult because the external pressures can smother or deafen the intuitive inner voice that is a key source of wisdom and intelligence.

Authenticity is difficult because it can mean standing up for your yourself, your values, your beliefs – when others feel differently.


Authenticity is difficult because it can mean rocking the boat and disturbing the status quo.


Authenticity is difficult because we are social beings and we want to fit in / belong.


Authenticity is difficult because we may have acquired, since early childhood, certain patterns of behaviour and thinking that have become protective or adaptive coping strategies. It can be challenging to change those old comforting patterns of behaviour even if those patterns no longer serve us and even if they are not aligned with who we truly are.


Here are some everyday examples that you may relate to:

  • If you’ve ever said “I’m fine” when you really are not!

  • If you've ever complimented the cook for a meal that was not very good

  • If you’ve ever interviewed for a job you hoped you wouldn't get

  • If you’ve said yes to a dinner invite when you really would rather not go

  • If you’ve agreed with your partner or a friend just to smooth things over

  • You decide not to go to the gym today, instead to catch up with friends for drinks justifying that you worked hard last time

It’s not to say the above examples are wrong (I can 99% guarantee that we’ve all done some or all of these things). It’s just to recognise and acknowledge how difficult it can be to live truly authentically.



What happens when we don’t live authentically


When we express a desire to live and lead more authentically, to a certain extent this indicates that something in our existing life or behaviour conflicts or contradicts with something that our inner-most self considers important.


Many of us experience inauthenticity as a vague dissatisfaction, a sense of emptiness, or the sting of self-betrayal. Sometimes it may be experienced as something feeling “off”, but you can’t quite put your finger on it.


More concerning still, you may have experienced some of the following.

  • The feeling of wearing a mask (you’re someone completely different inside or outside of the workplace).

  • You’re living a double-life: pretending to the outside world that you’ve got your life together, whilst on the inside you feel like a fire is being extinguished.

  • You wanted to speak out for yourself (or for others), but you don’t.

Here’s what can happen if we are not living authentically.

  1. Justification / rationalisation – we can find any justification / excuses for the choices that we are making (even when we know they are not the wisest for us).

  2. Complain, Blame & Shame – it can be far easier to point the finger at others than to take responsibility ourselves.

  3. Not Acknowledging negative emotions e.g., guilt, regret or anger. Our emotions are there for a reason and if we gloss over them, we are acting out of line with how we truly feel and who we are.

  4. Consistently putting yourself last – If this continues to happen and you prioritise other people, places and things above your needs, you neglect yourself. Self-care is a critical part of living authentically.

  5. Give your power away – whilst it can be helpful sometimes to seek validation and answers from others, especially when we are fearful, to do this consistently over time, you lose the ability to trust yourself. Whilst in the short term it may feel easier to not take ‘personal responsibility’, in the long term, this can be far more damaging to your self-esteem. You may also find that you are doubting and questioning your every decision.

  6. Procrastination – procrastination is avoidance. Avoidance is fueled by fear. When you put off important topics e.g., finances or relationships because it feels too hard and / or overwhelming, you’re not living authentically because you are avoiding yourself.

  7. Unhealthy patterns of behaviour – you may find yourself acting out or reaching for ways to numb how you feel so you don’t have to “be” yourself / be with yourself (e.g., drugs, alcohol, food, shopping, gambling or other potentially addictive / harmful behaviours).

And if any of the above sounds like you, know that you would absolutely not be alone!


I myself struggled, very unconsciously, with this for years. But the truth is, I didn’t even know that I wasn’t being true to myself, I wasn't living a life that was aligned with my values and that I was living inauthentically. The people-pleaser in me (yes, I’m a recovering people pleaser!), put other people before myself, made other people better than myself, sought approval from others first rather than trusting in my own judgement and feelings. My desire to fit in and belong was so strong that I lost a sense of who I was – and I did ALL of those things listed in points 1-7 (above). The impetus for change only came when I reached an emotional and physical rock-bottom. And, whilst extremely painful (mentally, physically and emotionally), this was also the beginning of my journey of self-discovery on the path to greater authenticity, courage, happiness, peace and fulfillment.


The truth is that many of us don’t even realise when we are living inauthentically because:

  1. We’ve lived this way for years

  2. We can rationalise how we live and justify our behaviour with the phrase “I’ve just always been that way”

  3. Denial is the easier route.

But my point is not to depress you in this blog as we realise that we’ve all been living inauthentically! There may also be very good and legitimate reasons where inauthenticity can help you (side reflection: consider when this may be helpful to you).


Because we are human, we are inherently fallible – and there’s nothing wrong with this. However, it does make the pursuit 100% authenticity pretty much impossible.


So, I’m suggesting that we strive towards greater authenticity (from our current stand-point) versus 100% authenticity and here’s why we should.



Here’s why authenticity is important


To live inauthentically is exhausting if you’re constantly trying to be someone that you’re not!


Life is too short to live any other way.


If you keep compromising yourself, it’s easy to lose your way forever


It’s how we grow into ourselves.


It’s how we teach children what authenticity is.


It’s the way to do good work.


It's creates intimacy and connection in our relationships


It’s liberating to be yourself.


You will experience a greater sense of inner-peace.


Whilst the road to authenticity is life long, don’t let that put you off. We are all works-in-progress. Living authentically requires emotional intelligence (self-awareness and social awareness) to understand and appreciate the context in which you are living and working and the environment you find yourself it.


Living authentically does not give you permission to be an a**hole, rude, or insulting.


Living authentically requires truth with yourself and truth with others whilst maintaining yours and the others persons dignity and respect.


Here are some tips to help you on your way


  1. Identify your values

  2. Identify who you want to be.

  3. Communicate honestly.

  4. Don't make assumptions.

  5. Know your strengths and your weaknesses / blind spots.

  6. Manage your emotions – name and know.

  7. Know your support system and ask for help.

  8. Develop the courage to face your fears.

  9. Notice the inner self-talk.

  10. Listen to what’s happening in your body – your body never lies.

BONUS TIP: Start Small! There are tiny incremental changes that we can all make in our daily decision making and choices that will over time move us towards a life of greater authenticity.


To summarise, authenticity is about living your life according to what’s important to you, what you care about, your own needs and values rather than those that society, friends, and family expect from you.


Let’s acknowledge, that whilst it’s not always easy, it offers multiple benefits including the ability to realise your true potential, a life of greater happiness, wellbeing, peace, and freedom.


If this is a topic that resonates for you (as an individual or for your organisation) please share it with others, or you’d like to explore more of, please get in touch. And if you have your own experiences on this topic, I'd love to hear what have been your discoveries, learnings or breakthroughs. Please share in the comments or email me directly.


Sources:

Joseph S, (2019) Authenticity: How to be yourself and why it matters)



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