7 Steps Toward Authenticity
(Warning: This post is approximately 350 words!)
“Do you think we have to fight to be our true selves?” The question came from a busy leader with global impact.
I replied, “The fight for our authentic self is seen in toddlers and teenagers. But, I wonder if fight is the best word?”
I wish I’d said more.
The journey of life is learning to define yourself by who you are, not who others expect you to be. It includes fighting against, fighting for, and letting go. The need to fight to be our true selves is both symptom and expression of the struggle.
When you live authentically you don’t need to fight to be authentic.
Parents, teachers, and authority figures pressure you to conform. In the process you may lose yourself.
My friend asked, “Do you think it’s easy for us to lose ourselves?”
It’s easy to lose yourself when organizational roles define and control you. The higher the role the greater the pressure.
Pressure from others isn’t the problem.
Others have the right to expect things from you. You accepted roles, responsibilities, and commitments.
7 steps toward authenticity:
- Acknowledge and embrace the journey.
- Tell someone you trust about the fight to find your authentic self.
- Don’t beat yourself up. It’s a journey.
- Monitor frustrations, fears, and aspirations. What do they say about who you are.
- Don’t blame others for expecting things from you. The journey is about you, not them.
- Take time to reflect.
- Chart the highlights and lowlights of your life. How have they formed you?
- Unplug and disconnect.
- Find someone to listen and reflect your words back. You learn when you hear yourself in another voice.
- Release your aspirational-self. Aspiration is helpful in most areas, but it’s an obstacle on the journey toward authenticity.
- Explore the fear of disappointing others and yourself. Fear is pressure from internal and external expectation. I’m not suggesting you reject roles and responsibilities, but imagine who you are without them.
- Don’t be rash. Think things over.
Talk things over with someone who doesn’t have a dog in the fight.
What does the journey toward authenticity look like to you?
Thank you so much for your wise words today. It was a true blessing that I needed right at the right time.
nice topic. I really like your point 5 – I spent a lot of time wondering whether I was too aspirational or not aspirational enough. I think i’m both, but in being authentic it doesn’t matter. i also wonder if being an authentic leader and an aspirational professional are compatible – I think they can be, as they deal with different things.
As an add to your list:
8: You are not alone. Not that it matters if you are being authentic, but understanding that you are not the only one putting your authentic self froward is important in achieving authenticity. without this awareness it can be a scary ‘aspiration’/ ideal and compromise becomes too tempting. when we realize our ‘not normal’ is normal, though for a different group, then release, reflection, response and ‘rejoicing’ all follow.
I enjoyed your post you are succinct in writing –a compliment! I thought of quote in late 1980s Leadership article on stress in ministry: “You cannot survive long in pastoral ministry without the courage to disappoint people.” Keep serving strong. Terry Powell http://www.terrydpowell.com or @terrydpowell
This reminded me of the story I tell about the phrase Its only Business, not Personal.
I was going through a difficult financial reorganization and working with a number of New York City bankers and lawyers. On a regular basis the other side would distort the truth or misuse confidential information. When we got mad, someone would say It’s only Business! I concluded that some people were able to deal and act one way in business and not think it affected their personal image or values.
My Italian mother taught me that how I acted at school, in sports or in life reflected on how I was raised. So that is what I always tried to do. Some work friends have even commented how unusual it was that I seemed the same in my business and personal dealings. I always thought it was easier to have one code of conduct!
Brad James http://www.bradszootales.com
It takes courage to step out in faith towards your true purpose and passions. Best to you and your new journey.
I also have a new blog full of inspiration and authenticity; check it out!
Simple. To the point. Thank you!
I am in the throes of finding my truest form of self. I recently quit my software engineering job to pursue my passions, travel and writing. I still often times feel — even with a daily dose of passionate experience, we as humans, will always have a gaping naïveté towards what it means to be truly authentic.
If anyone is interested, please check out my first attempt at writing in my NEW BLOG:
Thank you, Dan!
Really enjoyed the post Dan. This is one of the most reflective posts of I have seen from you. I will have to spend some time with this one to really consider all the points.
Thank you again, Dan! Fight against, fight for, and let go. And when you occupy your own authentic space, there is no fight, you just *are*. When we enter this state, decisions and actions come easily and we embody integrity. Like Brad above, I believe more and more that we have one best way of being in every aspect of life–our authentic, ‘central’ self.
That journey to me means well to be honest , in my opinion I would say ,” Smelling nice,looking nice ,feeling nice and a life of contentment and peace of mind”. Be true most of all to oneself. Be proud of who you are and be thankful that your parents allow you to hold on to enjoy your authenicity self although it’s a tough journey. I have honestly found it a hard and difficult journey but one thing I know is this. I won’t change it for the world cause it is what and who I am. Happy journey to all who chose that authentic self. Its worth tons of self esteem and worth every ounce of pain. That journey makes one a better person! Never forget your responsibilities as a human being. Be respectful. Stand tall!
Words of wisdom. Our greatest enemy is ourselves for allowing others to define us. I rings true. I joined a unionized government position and employers and co-workers constantly place me as such. I refuse to be assimilated. I bring my faith to work. It’s Him and only Him can guide me.
Dan, it is important to give thanks to your reader who submitted this profound question. It speaks well of her or him, and to the respect of Leadership Freak.
I agree this question can be about authenticity. To go to an extreme, is it possible this is about humans’ “be-ing” and perhaps how a staff can take a leader to the edge of one’s humanity?
For example, is it more natural for humans to act selfishly than to be aware and fight each day to be unselfish? And how about this comment by Socrates when describing man’s tendency toward survival: “Let’s revert back and be more beastful and less violent.”
My point is I believe we have an authentic self and a “natural” self. Because the former has authenticity and author as the same root, to be authentic is to be the author of our own lives. One’s authenticity connotes honesty and integrity via our ideals, convictions, standards, beliefs—and behavior. With practice and experience, we condition ourselves to ward off staff and organizational pressure and expectations.
Our “natural” self also requires practice and conditioning. Prayer.
Killer Dan!! Depending on the situation the terminology differs. There are times that “fight” may very well be the correct word needed to describe the action required to survive a given environment. Other times, the situation may require the use of words like “struggle” or “contend”. The question posed would really require the extent or degree of threat posed at any given time.
There are instances where the amount of threat are low and a simple shake of the head is all that is needed to brush-off the opposing forces. Other times, it may be an all-out brawl just to keep your sanity. I would contend that we should always be our true selves no matter the cost. The battle with others is much easier than the one that you will have to endure within for surrendering who you are.
You hit the nail on the head Dan. Authenticity to me is be yourself and try not putting up something which does not come naturally to you. Be true to yourself before you expect others to be true to you.
Thanks for the post. I truly believe that authentic leadership is needed in a world where people are searching for REAL. Leaders are attractive when they have courage to be vulnerable, transparent, broken, and humble. It’s a beautiful paradox to be completely aware of your flaws but still bold in vision and mission. Let’s continue on our journey towards being more authentic.
My new blog is an open invitation towards authentic leadership and personal devotion. Sometimes we don’t realize who we are as champions until we have struggled with our weaknesses. Check it out: