We talk a lot about being authentic in our work, in our communication, our communities, and in our lives. People generally fall into one of two categories; Authentic, Not authentic. The non-authentic individuals are fairly easy to find as much of our world is run this way, currently. Truly authentic people can be harder to find, but if you know what you’re looking for you can spot them. And perhaps, you are authentic yourself? It took me years to realize why I wasn’t quite fitting in with the world, and it was because I didn’t realize I was naturally communicating authentically, and everyone around me wasn’t. I didn’t see it as a gift when I was younger, I saw it as a curse. I forced myself to be like ‘everyone else’ to fit in, until that started to tear me apart and I had to find my way back. This story is similar for many of us because children don’t know any other way of being, we all learn how to behave in order to survive.
As with most definitions, the word authentic can be perceived in many different ways depending on your understanding of what it is, what it means, and how it applies to you. We may THINK we are being authentic day-to-day, but when you start to look deeper into your daily behavior with a level of self-awareness you will start to see that a good portion of your behavior is unconscious and governed by some pretty deep, and some not so deep and easier to spot, beliefs.
As children, authenticity is just a way of being. We are born authentic and genuine and it is through our growing up and being assimilated into the society where we live that we start to lose that authenticity. We lose it because it gets dismantled by the adults in our life — most of them unknowing they are even doing so. Can you remember a time when something really excited you as a child and you were cut down by an adult and told to ‘settle down’ or ‘don’t be so dramatic’? — those statements start to teach you that your genuine expression is not acceptable. As children, our very lives depend on the adults around us, so we adapt and learn to squash down most of our natural impulses out of fear. It is also fear that generates and creates the ‘false facades’we may adapt to feel ‘safe’. Those facades never truly give us the safety we yearn for, but it’s all we know how to do.
How many people do you see day to day being fake? Especially in Social Media, at work, in public, at parties? Our fear of not being liked, being a part of the popular crowd, and fitting in, rules our behavior. Most of us can spot the fake well enough, but how well we understand our own levels of fake takes some pretty determined and courageous self-exploration.
So, congratulations! The fact you are searching this out and have landed here means that you are aware enough to want to learn how to assemble and bring back your own authenticity. And perhaps you’ve realized it’s actually harder than it may seem. I mean, how hard can it BE to just BE yourself? Well, it’s one of the hardest things we can relearn how to do as we need to address all of our insecurities and fears before we will feel SAFE expressing ourselves — and even then, our vulnerability will always be scary, but we learn to do it anyway because it feels better, more empowering and more peaceful to be in integrity with ourselves and the world around us.
What are some of the hallmarks of a genuine and authentic person?
WE REGULARLY CHECK-IN AND ASK OURSELVES WHAT OUR TRUE MOTIVATIONS ARE
If you find yourself constantly doing things for people, saying YES when you mean NO, and generally find yourself in situations that you’d really prefer not be in, then you are suffering from the ‘people pleaser’ mentality. Our ego is running the show here and is telling us that we MUST be liked, so we are to do ANYTHING to be liked, regardless if we want to or not. It’s also important to ask ourselves WHY before we do anything, to ensure that ego isn’t in the driver’s seat and fueled by our fears. It takes courage to look closely at our fears, but once we do, we understand them and ourselves that much more and we can double-check our motivations and be sure we are doing things because we WANT to and not for reasons that include being liked, being part of the ‘cool group’, being in a job that pays well, but that we can’t stand etc.
WE TRUST OUR INTUITION
Our intuition never goes away, it’s always there. The tricky part is in learning to listen to it again. One tip that helped me, was that the intuitive voice is much quieter than the ego voice. It has a different feel and flavor. It is never demanding, pushy or rude to me as my ego can be. It gently warns us, gives us signals, and lets us know when something just isn’t right, and when it IS right. Meditation, walking in nature, alone time and writing/journaling are all really good ways to tap back into that intuition and start listening to your innate inner wisdom.
WE HONOUR OUR TRUE FEELINGS
How many times have you been told in your life to ‘stop feeling that way’ or ‘don’t be ridiculous!’ Most of us have heard variations of those demands many, many times. We learn that our true feelings are just unacceptable. Well, I’ve got news for you — those feelings that we have tucked away deep and safe, need to be released. They are the most powerful connection we have to our authentic selves. How we feel is informed by many things, but learning to honour those feelings and then work through them as adults and assess our motivations by being self-aware, can be incredibly empowering. The thing with feelings is ‘what you resist, persists’ so no matter how dark, scary, mad, sad you feel — when you allow expression and safe space for those feelings, they move through you and allow you to see the situation more clearly. It is the hallmark of maturity when we learn how to honour our feelings and take the time to assess how we will react or respond, if at all.
WE TELL THE TRUTH AT ALL TIMES
Remember that line: ‘You can’t handle the truth!’ — well, this in itself, is the truth for most of us. The truth is scary, because again it can shine a light on places we’ve kept buried for years out of fear. Expressing our truth takes incredible courage because we must honor and respect ourselves first before anyone else. To the people pleaser, this is a nightmare. But, your truth is your power. Once you start to honor your feelings you start to know what is important to you — then it is time to speak that truth no matter how people respond. Authentic people know that their only responsibility is expressing their own truth. How people choose to respond is their responsibility. On this note, authentic people are never cruel or mean — because of course they have carefully checked their motivations first, honored their feelings and spoken the truth with respect and integrity to all.
WE HAVE COMPASSION FOR OURSELVES AND OTHERS
This goes without saying. To have compassion for others, we must start with ourselves. Once we learn how to honour our feelings, speak our truth, and check our motivations we will have some incredible insight into our own behavior and why we’ve done the things we’ve done in the past. This allows us to have a deeper understanding of others who may not have this self-awareness yet.
WE FOLLOW OUR PASSION
This is scary, but oh so empowering. We follow where the wind, our intuition, and our feelings take us. We trust in ourselves and the universe to always have our back no matter what we choose to do. This brings me to…
WE TRUST OURSELVES
Trust is something the ego does not deal in. Trust is the language of love, so it takes self-love, self-awareness and self-compassion to find trust in ourselves again. The authentic person trusts themselves and the world around them. They have a deep knowing and understanding that the universe is on their side and will provide for all of their needs.
WE RESPECT OURSELVES AND OTHERS
The authentic person may not agree with someone else, but they will never disrespect that person. Disrespect, rudeness, and cruel behaviour are actions of the ego. The authentic person realizes that we are all connected and that respecting others maintains their own integrity. Respect is a powerful connection tool. The authentic person always aims to understand others before judging.
WE HAVE HEALTHY BOUNDARIES
This falls under both respect and trust in ourselves, but is important enough to have its own ‘spot’ — authentic people realize that boundaries are necessary to show both themselves and others respect. They realize that personal awareness of what feels right or wrong is their responsibility, as are the boundaries that might need to be expressed to others. Authentic people do not find themselves in co-dependent relationships because they know who they are and where they end and others begin. We don’t apologize for doing what we need to do for ourselves, and we own our decisions and choices and our mistakes when we make them.
WE ARE NEVER A VICTIM
The victim mentality is a trick of the ego to keep us weak and powerless. The authentic person is aware of these ego tricks and will not allow themselves to be a victim of anything or anyone. They acknowledge their part in any dynamic and choose to learn from these experiences rather than indulge in the blame game, lying, manipulation, or other tactics. They are aware of their own power to change the ‘story’ and improve and get stronger rather than stay weak and powerless.
These are some of the top defining behaviors of authentic and genuine people. If you know some of these folks, learn from them. If you are one, good for you. If you are working to become one, congratulations — you are very brave.
The world needs authentic people to bring back our cultural hearts and soul. If you are in business, be an authentic person within your business and you will attract other authentic people to do business with. Building collaborations and a vibrant community around you is much more possible when you live your values and let your actions define you. You can be certain in your integrity and your behavior when you are genuine and authentic. You will be a powerful leader and trusted friend and colleague.