Updated: Dec 6, 2021
Authenticity; in its simplest form it means original, real or genuine. In its more complex, existential form it means being true to yourself with your actions being in complete alignment with your beliefs, needs, wants and values irrespective of external pressures of societal conformity. I recently spoke about paradoxes and I believe that authenticity is in many respects also a paradox. Being authentic means knowing who you truly are and being consistent with your values and yet potentially also being prepared to be seen as being inconsistent at the same time. Being authentic means being able to be flexible and adaptable in different situations. Behaving differently in different scenarios is not the same as being inconsistent. Tact and social acceptance may often require you to hold back your truths and honest reflections. Therefore authenticity often requires a degree of inconsistency and incongruence. Therein lies the paradox. It doesn’t mean you are being any less authentic or inauthentic. In life and work you seek your authentic path and yet how do you know if it is your true path with so much external thinking, energy and influence surrounding you? In one of a series of lectures by Professor Mark Leary on Why You Are Who You Are, Leary focused on authenticity, cognitive consistency and cognitive dissonance theory. Leary shared that “authenticity is a difficult motive to study because it’s very hard to know what people are truly like, so it’s hard to know when they are being themselves.” “Be yourself, everyone else has already been taken.” Now you’ve heard this famous Oscar Wilde quote before, who coincidentally died 121 years ago on 30th November which is my birthday aged 46, but what does it mean? It’s about authenticity. It's about being true to yourself, about understanding your behaviour and what motivates you. To live that authentic version of you and to live it on your own terms not living someone else's life. Aristotle said that “we are what we repeatedly do” so living with authenticity really matters. Believing in what you do and why you do it matters. So what does an authentic life look like to you? Sometimes being authentic requires you to show your vulnerability and a sense of social courage. In being honest and authentic in the face of adversity, you risk social embarrassment, exclusion, rejection, or unpopularity yet as Aristotle said, “you will never do anything in this world without courage.” So whose life are you living? Stop for a moment or two and reflect on whether you are truly happy with your life and whether the path you are on is authentically yours and not one that others are pursuing or expecting you to pursue. Focus on your strengths, your values and your gifts. Follow what you truly love to do and what you are great at doing. These are your internal motivations to be authentic. Know that you are on your authentic path when you Focus on WHY.
ACTION POINT Stop, pause, reflect. Are you living a life of authenticity? Your authenticity?