By Christopher D Conners – Ladders
“To be authentic, we must cultivate the courage to be imperfect — and vulnerable. We have to believe that we are fundamentally worthy of love and acceptance, just as we are. I’ve learned that there is no better way to invite more grace, gratitude and joy into our lives than by mindfully practicing authenticity.”— Brené Brown
Authenticity is about presence, living in the moment with conviction and confidence and staying true to yourself. An authentic person puts the people around them at ease, like a comforting, old friend who welcomes us in and makes us feel at home.
There’s never any doubt or questioning the integrity of an authentic individual. Their behavior, in terms of ethics and morals, is as predictable as snow during wintertime in Minnesota. You know what you’re going to get.
Authenticity has faced something of a public relations crisis in recent times. It seems the word has lost meaning because it’s now ubiquitous in business, on personal blogs and even in style magazines. Everyone wants to be authentic. Though the people who preach its virtue often don’t understand exactly what the word means.
Authentic is defined as:
“not false or copied; genuine; real.” And, my favorite definition, “representing one’s true nature or beliefs; true to oneself or to the person identified.”
What many of us realize is, when we’re looking to build relationships in life, we want to grow and learn from people of values. This means we identify and desire to find people who are honest, trustworthy and kind. On this path, we find that we don’t have time for those who don’t deal in the truth. Phoniness is a human characteristic that can be sensed from miles away.
We want to avoid it at all costs!
To become more authentic and to seek this out in others, we first need to be open-minded. We attract the people and things we want in life when we’re open-minded and receptive. This often leads to opportunities and new ways of thinking that expand our minds and bring us ideas that add value to our lives.
I thought I’d apply my experience in the business world, from working with key decision-makers at Fortune 500 companies and top government organizations and blend my personal experience of building relationships in coaching, to help better explain the qualities that makeup authenticity.
We desire authenticity for ourselves and we want to know that people we invite into our lives hold this virtue in high regard, as well.
1. Be True to Yourself
“Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” — Oscar Wilde
The time-tested advice of “Be Yourself” stands for a reason. It’s probably the best advice you will ever receive. Simple, cliché. Maybe. But as true as ever. What I add to this valuable knowledge is this: Be true to yourself means that you are an honest, trustworthy person who lives by a code of morals and values. Be true to yourself is fundamental to living a life of integrity.
Think about it — if you sign up to help out at your local animal shelter, then make sure you’re there at precisely 9 am on Saturday morning! Don’t let those puppies down! Your duty to your obligations and your fulfillment of them becomes your character.
Authentic people are high-character individuals who don’t just “talk the talk,” they also “walk the walk.” Which means, they back up their positive, empowering words with actions that benefit themselves and others. Be true to yourself and do what you say you’re going to do.
2. Think Inward, Look Outward
“Authenticity is very important — be true to one’s self.” — Laila Ali
Authentic people are deep thinkers who generate thought power from within and transpose it outward to add value to the lives of others. My first boss in management consulting was a very kind, humble man who always put others first. The more I spoke to him, the more I realized how introspective he was. He was conscious of his thoughts and actions — how he treated his staff.
To act in an authentic manner, we must first give deep thought to what it is that we want to do. This requires keen emotional intelligence, which is partially comprised of the ever-powerful trait of self-awareness. Be mindful of your thoughts. Be careful of how your actions influence others. Act with good intentions and motives and you’ll be admired for your authenticity.
3. The Way You Treat People (Kindness and Respect)
“Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” — Henry James
How do you feel when someone treats you like garbage? Don’t worry, that question is rhetorical! We all feel terrible when we are disrespected and even violated. Hopefully, this emotion stirs up a desire within us to act with kindness and love and not reciprocate hurtful actions.
Be kind to those around you. Watch how radically your life begins to change. For one thing, the simple act of being kind does boost your happiness — even if slightly. But don’t take my word for it. Take the word of this University of Oxford scientist, Dr. Oliver Scott Curry:
“People do indeed derive satisfaction from helping others. This is probably because we genuinely care about others’ welfare, and because random acts of kindness are a good way of making new friends, and kick-starting supportive social relationships.”
4. Live in the Moment and Be a Great Listener
“What day is it?”
“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
“My favorite day,” said Pooh. — A.A. Milne
There’s nothing more real than a person who lives in the moment without worry or concern for needless matters. Who do you know that truly embraces the moment? Someone who doesn’t bother checking their smartphone every five seconds to worry about an email from Instagram or some trivial matter? A teacher who left a huge impression on you because of their devotion to their students?
Living in the moment means concentrating on exactly what is happening in your life at that precise time. It demands that we remove the baggage and clutter from our lives to live our best in the moment. Presence and concern for right now are achieved when we eliminate distractions. Like junk email!
Being a great listener is not just suited for conversations with our loved ones or business partners. It’s also about listening to the very important voice inside our heads. Listen to your intuition. Do what your heart is telling you to do. That’s what an authentic person does.
5. Open-Mindedness and Fairness to Opportunities and People
“Open your eyes to the beauty around you, open your mind to the wonders of life, open your heart to those who love you, and always be true to yourself.” — Donna Davis
Open-mindedness is built on trust, faith and an acceptance of a call to action in our lives. Open-mindedness is the antithesis of anxiety, stress, and intolerance. It means that we are fair-minded and willing to entertain new thoughts, ideas and people, and all they bring to the fore.
Every authentic person I’ve met is someone that is open to new ideas. They may live by a code of values and morals that remain constant, but when it comes to opinions, people and events, they’re always open to listening. Authenticity asks that we judge free of bias. That we’re honest brokers who are impartial in all affairs.
We may not think we care much about Roman history but a course on that subject may forever change our world view. It did mine.
Go forward and live an authentic life today. Watch as your thoughts, words and actions change and influence the world around you in a bolder, more positive way!