I think people misunderstand “authenticity”. There seems to be an attitude embedded in the concept that sounds like, “This is me, and accept me for what I am. I am going to live my life on my terms! You don’t like it, too bad!” This kind of blunt “honesty” is actually an affront, more bravado than real. I don’t think that is what authentic means, and when I encounter it (it happens a lot in my line of work), I can only wonder what has happened to damage the person copping such an attitude.
In reality, the word authentic is much richer in meaning. It is related to the words “author” and authority, coming from the Greek, Latin and French. When you are authentic, you are presenting yourself from your own authority…it means being genuinely “you”! It is not an attitude, but rather a state of being.
• An authentic person presents themselves honestly, the good, the bad and the ugly – no spin.
• An authentic person is willing to be influenced, and will make the final decision about that.
• An authentic person is open to the ideas of others, and willing to incorporate those ideas into his/her own view of the world.
• An authentic person can disagree, without judging the person with whom they disagree.
• An authentic person understands that life is rational, emotional and spiritual, all wrapped into one self, and all of it is to be respected.
• The authentic person knows that some will judge them as weak or naive. There is both courage and humility in all of that. Being authentic is not for the faint of heart!
Actually, courage and confidence are in alignment with true humility and vulnerability. They are not opposites. It takes courage and confidence to humbly speak the truth, make tough decisions and get things done. I think a lot of people misunderstand humility as self-effacement. It is not. It is being honest about yourself on all counts, strengths, weaknesses, abilities and flaws. What is most important in leaders is the firm intention of making things happen that make a better world.
To me, authenticity and courage are twin siblings. It means being who you are with kindness, honesty and openness, regardless the circumstances. My mantra, pirated from Wayne Dyer: What others think of me is none of my business.
Unfortunately, authenticity often comes with undesirable consequences…much of today’s society encourages the creation and wearing of masks to hide or “spin” who we really are. Ultimately, the only “brand” that matters in the long haul is your authentic self…everything else is a mask, designed to hide some perceived “flaw”. Eventually, most will see the mask, and wonder what is underneath.