No one used to talk about authenticity as a personal trait. It typically described items like art or collectibles.
Anything authentic held value. Forgeries and fakes lost value.
The word rose to trend levels when brands took to social media. Marketing gurus began to extoll the virtues of being authentic, their modern take on “don’t falsely advertise”.
Soon the word went from the digital space into our personal lives.
But being authentic isn’t a new struggle. Nor is assigning value to authenticity.
We all feel better when we’re being ourselves.
We also feel better in the company of people who “are who they are”. There’s no pretense. No need to read between the lines.
You be you. I be me. It’s the best way to a better life.
Yet we regularly compromise the value of our authenticity trying to attract the life others want versus the one that would make us happiest.
Children lie to be liked. High school kids grapple between picking like-minded friends versus those more popular.
Men and women deny their needs in favour of people pleasing. People go to job interviews and exaggerate their skills.
The struggle to be oneself is ages old and hits us at a number of points in our lives.
That the dialogue around it is finally on trend is encouraging to anyone in the field of self-development as I am.
The more true to ourselves we are, the happier we are. Better yet, the greater our unique contributions to others.
So how do you turn me time into a lifetime? Read on.
Feel free to be yourself in 7 steps
1. Identify your values
This is the third article I’ve written about being authentic. In each one I stress the importance of your core values.
Being authentic means being true to your self. But how do you know what your “self” is? By identifying your core values.
First you list the core values you hold in each main category of your life (family, friends, work, spiritual, community) and then you place them in order of priority.
Everyone’s core values are unique to them. They’re influenced by everything from nurture to nature. They also change over the course of your life.
I’ve written an article with all the steps you need to identify your core values. I encourage you to read it and follow the steps:
I did them years ago and it changed the course of my life in the best way. I genuinely want this for you too. Feel free to contact me for a PDF of the steps.
Share the article with anyone else that you think will benefit from it.
2. Find your life purpose
Purpose is the privilege of finding meaning in your life.
I spent my early years in top 40 Radio working as a Promotions Director and copywriter.
I went to concerts. I went to backstage parties. I met celebrities. I drank, danced and closed down the clubs.
I had an amazing time.
What I didn’t know was that I was missing purpose. It wasn’t that I didn’t contribute to others. I did a lot of volunteer work in my spare time.
Nevertheless, I didn’t have a driving sense of purpose. That is, until I spent several years looking after my ailing mom.
Suddenly my life had meaning, direction and depth.
I grasped the importance of my role and excelled in it. I honoured the trust she had in me. I took every moment seriously.
When she passed away, I was aimless. I not only lost her, but I lost my deep sense of purpose.
Reconnecting to coaching and going into it full-time brought meaning back to my life. I’m no longer aimless and I wake up everyday feeling that I have value.
Finding your purpose helps you move through life with conviction, clarity and self-worth.
3. Sell yourself to others by selling yourself on you
When competing for a date, a job or a position, it’s common to exaggerate, omit and mislead. But it backfires.
You’ll find yourself around people and in situations where you’re not entirely comfortable.
You might get the girl, the guy and the job, but thanks to that discomfort, you’ll also get a chronic case of underlying anxiety. It’s like putting a round object in a square box – it won’t stop rattling.
You’ll feel like an outsider, a fraud and like you don’t belong. It may not happen immediately, but it will happen cumulatively.
Worse still, not being yourself presumes that the person you are isn’t good enough.
If you don’t feel confident when faced with situations where you need to compete and promote yourself, then how do you remain authentic? Do you tell the truth about your failings?
Maybe you do. Sometimes that kind of honesty is so disarming people automatically like you and want your company, but make sure your strengths outweigh your weaknesses.
Also make sure that your revelations are appropriate to the environment. If you’re someone who’s never on time, don’t to go into an interview saying you’ll always be late.
Don’t go into an interview saying you’re always late. Say you’re punctual and, from that second on, be punctual.
Instead, say you’re punctual and from that second on – be punctual.
Being authentic means accepting that you’re not perfect, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t work on areas that need improvement.
Another strategy for remaining authentic in a competitive environment is simply to take stock in your self.
Don’t wait for online dating or a job interview to assess and appreciate your true value.
4. Take a good look at yourself
Put aside external factors like job, money, looks. Instead, identify qualities that come from your heart such as empathy, curiosity, strength and compassion, to name a few.
Write them all down and add examples of when they guided your behavior.
For instance, if you’re a generous person, write down anecdotes of when you demonstrated generosity to others. Provide rich context so that you remember fully.
Do the same exercise for all your positive traits.
Writing a personal inventory might seem like a Band-Aid approach.
Admittedly, it doesn’t replace coaching or counseling, but it can still help increase your sense of self-worth and, in doing so, give you the confidence to be true to yourself.
Here’s why it’s an important exercise:
- It ensures that you carve out time to reflect on your positive aspects, as well as on contributions you’ve made that go deeper than status or appearance.
- By giving time to the positives, you spend less time on less worthwhile aspects.
What’s more, you’ll find that once you begin the exercise, you’ll keep thinking of things over the course of days.
Include anecdotes of personal struggles that you’ve overcome too because it points to deeply human accomplishments.
Over time, my hope is that you begin to see your true worth, one based on your internal resources, and on a more meaningful measure that you’ve set for yourself.
5. If you must compare, be fair
Between Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Real Housewives and social media, it’s difficult not to compare.
But how many of us compare the traits we don’t love about ourselves to someone else’s best?
I had friend who was overweight. Her figure wasn’t her best trait. Yet she’d compare it to women whose figures were amazing.
She’d notice every tall, slim and petite woman who happened her way.
One day, I pointed out that she compensated for her weight by wearing the most amazing clothes. She knew the colors that suited her. She figured out the best designs. She had all the right fabrics.
This friend really knew how to dress. She had so much flair that people always complimented her on her looks – this despite the fact that she was overweight!
She had to get her head around this at first, but eventually she did. And, you know what? She began walking with more confidence and carried her style even better.
Are you making fair comparisons? You may not be a super model, but you might be wickedly funny. You might not be wickedly funny, but you might be really bright. You might not be a genius at math, but you might be brilliant on the guitar.
If you can’t avoid comparing yourself to others, then at least do it fairly.
6. Be different and you’ll fit in
It’s natural to find common ground with others. That’s one of the ways in which we bond. But it doesn’t have to be at the expense of your unique qualities and traits.
Everyone’s different. That’s the one thing we all have in common.
In fact, have you ever noticed how something so common as a fever presents itself differently depending on the person? Some people get chills. Others can’t stand blankets. Some can’t sleep. Still others can’t do anything but sleep.
Look how people react to the same dishes and spices. I knew someone who couldn’t stand the smell of oranges.
Meanwhile, I knew someone else who loved the smell so much, she used orange essential oils as aromatherapy.
Each one of us experiences things differently. We also have unique styles, tastes, tendencies and talents.
Different artists can go to the same location, pick up the same oil paints and brushes and paint entirely different scenes.
The destination might be the same, but their mix of oils, brushstrokes and perspective will be unique.
Our differences, andnot just our similarities, unite us.
As trite as it sounds, it’s a truth that deserves some reflection. We expend a lot of fruitless energy trying to fit in. Recognizing that we’re all unique and quirky is so much easier to accomplish.
7. Pick the right environment
One of the basic rules of marketing is to put your product or service in an appropriate environment.
For instance, you don’t advertise Big Macs in Vegetarian Times Magazine.
There’s nothing wrong with a Big Mac. For some, two beef patties sandwiched between a sesame seed bun is perfection. To others, it’s disgusting.
We’re constantly exposed to people and situations that challenge our courage to be ourselves. However, you can strengthen your resolve by surrounding yourself with people who share your values and support you.
Rather than conform to people and standards that aren’t a good fit, pick ones that are.
Surround yourself with people who welcome your differences.
This doesn’t mean that you have to find like-minded people. Differences enrich us. But, do balance your life in favor of people, activities and communities where you feel safe to be true to your nature.
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it”
Put yourself out there. Tell your anecdotes, order the food you like, dress as you wish, and decorate your home in the way you like.
Show your true self. Doing so will also make it safe for others to be themselves around you. The result? Relationships deepen, as do your sense of belonging and self-love.
When you compromise yourself to fit in, you end up feeling alone and isolated. You also put yourself at risk of anxiety and depression.
So make a commitment to spend time with these people and connect with them. Don’t be limited by locality. Use all the technology available to you to stay in touch.
If you don’t have a large enough circle, then work on it. Join communities and reach out.
If you always compromise your true nature, find a better match for it.
This is the third in a series of three articles on authenticity. It’s a subject that’s personal to me.
Like a lot of people, I had a challenging childhood that resulted in self-esteem issues.
I spent years feeling out of place in the world. I suffered from intense self-doubt and shyness. It was so bad that I barely spoke and, when I did, it wasn’t above a whisper.
It took years of therapy, coaching and a serious commitment to self-development to get where I am today.
Anyone who knows me now would laugh if I ever told them I used to be shy. I am sooooo not shy anymore.
I encourage you to read the other two articles:
If you’d like help to move forward without self-doubt or apology, be sure to contact me. Let’s work together.