A look at why we should aim to be our authentic selves

The idea of authenticity is not new; Shakespeare wrote, in Hamlet – back in the early 1600s – “to thine own self be true” and much more recently, it’s become a buzzword in the personal development space before taking root in our work lives and leadership culture. A simple Google search shows how prolific the idea has become. We’re seeing it in social entrepreneurship and more and more start ups that have, at their heart, the desire to ‘do good’. It’s a thrust towards authenticity, and living in line with our values, that is largely driving this, so it’s certainly not a bad thing.

However, it’s not always a simple thing to achieve either, and there’s been much discussion about the varying levels of comfort we all experience in being true to ourselves and expressing our thoughts in the workplace. In late July, a fabulous organisation – Professionelle – that my friend Marisa Fong chairs, bought a room full of intelligent women together to further this discussion at their ‘Being Your Authentic Self’ event.

While the discussion was driven by the personal experiences shared by the diverse panel, there were several key lessons that we can all apply to our quest for authenticity in the workplace, and in our lives in general, including the following…

It’s all about values

While authenticity was the key theme, the word ‘values’ kept coming up and it’s easy to see why… Whether or not you can list the things you value right now, you likely instinctively know what you agree and disagree with if you think about it. When we feel uncomfortable about something, or it just doesn’t sit quite right with us, this points to the fact that whatever is happening is not aligned with our values; it’s a clue that we’re not being authentic.

Becoming (and being) authentic can be a process

Something echoed by all the speakers on the panel was the idea that authenticity is a process. Far from being something that just magically clicks or arrives one day, authenticity can involve the hard work of figuring out what you’re really about and making changes that reflect that. In some cases, there’s a lot of conditioning, or pressure to fit in, that we have to unwind in order to really get to know who we are, and arrive at a place where we can accept that.

Authenticity breeds success

If it’s such hard work, should we bother? The simple answer is yes! Not only was it agreed that being authentic is undoubtedly more fun, it also can be the key to success. Social media has bought authenticity more to the fore as we have the expectation that brands share more of their ‘voice’ online. As consumers we’re looking for greater transparency, and brands are increasingly realising that they need to achieve values alignment to retain talent and build a loyal tribe. We only have to look at the recent success of social enterprises to see how being authentic and genuine, which comes from finding a true values fit, can work in a businesses’ favour.

So, be kind to yourself and back yourself. Surround yourself with the people that give you energy. Care less what people think and enjoy the peace (and success) that comes from being authentic.

And, to find out more about Professionelle, visit www.professionelle.org.nz