“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 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 now with conviction and confidence, staying true to yourself. It is about knowing yourself and daring to live in your true power, with honesty and respect, no matter what. An authentic person puts the people around them at ease, like an old friend who welcomes us in and makes us feel at home. We never doubt or question the integrity of a person we consider ‘authentic’.
Their behaviour, in terms of moral and ethics, is predictable as snow during wintertime in the Alps.
Why would I pay so much attention to the exact meaning of authenticity, you may ask?
Well, in my opinion, the word has become an empty shell, being overused in business, magazines, on Instagram and Facebook, whether appropriate or not. Everybody wants to be authentic, many claim to be authentic, yet most of the people preaching its virtue often do not even understand its exact meaning. And while they are frantically trying, they do the exact opposite and run further and further away from themselves. In an attempt to return to the essence and true value of authenticity, to raise consciousness and answer questions I put down 10 core qualities of an authentic person:
Authenticity cannot be reached if you are only looking outside of yourself. We have to realize that we are all unique, individual human beings and that true authenticity comes through honest self-reflection. How can you know who you are if you are following everyone else? Invest time looking at yourself and try to understand who and what you are, what you want out of life and what kind of person you want to be along the journey. You can do this by studying your mistakes without obsessing over them and by trying to use those experiences as a springboard to become a better person.
Self-reflection puts you in a state of personal harmony, causing you to experience less anxiety. When you are confident enough to focus on yourself, you will not be worried about another person’s position. You have nothing to hide which allows you a freedom to be yourself, something followers do not experience.
Because you look at yourself, your feelings AND your mistakes on a regular basis, you do not judge others for their mistakes. You understand that mistakes are to be learned from and are an extremely valuable tool for growth and change. Also, when you know who you are you do not hold judgmental attitudes towards others and take others as they are, regardless of colour, orientation, national origin, religion or anything else. As you evaluate the thoughts and opinions others hold, even those you do not agree with, you still place them under an umbrella of respect. You do not live striving to push others below you.
You are consistent in who you are, and have no need to satisfy someone else’s criteria to feel good about yourself. Since you spend time reflecting on your own actions and hold yourself accountable for your actions, you are much more emotionally consistent. You know what you want already. You know who and what you are. You are on the path you have set for yourself and so do not chase ephemeral things like wealth or status. You are grounded in the here and now while you make your way into the future you have planned for yourself. This solid foundation is what makes you consistent, and it is also what makes you so generous in your assessment of the worth of others. You aren’t fickle (flipflopping around, unless it is on the beach ;-) ). You stick to your principles and you aren’t easily swayed by superficialities.
Healthy Ego & Courage
Authentic people have the courage to be themselves and to stay true to their ideals even when they aren’t popular. They have the strength to stick to their guns even when the whole world is trying to shut them down and bend them to their will. They do not succumb to societal pressure and instead march to their own drumbeat. Because they are honest with themselves and spend time in self-reflection, they respect themselves and hold themselves accountable for their actions which gives them integrity and strength of character. There is nothing deep about being superficially better than others or having more success or money because all of that “status” is temporary and subjective.
Authentic people have a healthy ego which is fundamental for great (self-)leadership. To be the great leader of anyone or anything, starting with yourself & your own life, you have to have the courage to dig deep, lead with that courage and practice empathy.
Focused on possibilities
When someone is only ego-based or disingenuous, they are always focused on themselves, the short-term, what they want, and how they can manipulate to get what they want ASAP. They tend to be reactive and are agenda-oriented. Who lives authentically has no time to waste energy on temporary and sometimes necessary setbacks. They know this happens for a reason. They have a plan for the future and their focus is always long-term and on what possibilities patience and hard work will bring when they continue pressing forward, step-by-step. The authentic leader knows certain battles must be lost to win the war.
You have a strong sense of character and will do what you said you will do when you said you will do it. You will not say things you do not mean, will not make promises you cannot keep and will stay in a place of integrity whether in or outside work dealings. You are trustworthy, dependable and honest. When you are authentic you have a good sense of self-realization, do not take yourself too seriously and are able to laugh at yourself. Lightheartedness is indicative for your state of inner wholeness.
Knowing who and what you are naturally makes you a visionary. Since you are deeply connected to yourself, you are open and more innovative. You think with vision, which always adds value to the people you interact with. You are able to help others realize their higher (professional) goals and push yourself and those around you to consistently raise the bar for excellence, with room for mistakes, compassion and self-care. Self-development is very important to you and you urge others to delve into themselves in the same way in order to rise above the pack.
Authentic people experience fewer emotional threats to their ego which makes them good listeners, even when somebody else contradicts their views. They are more than willing to consider contradictory ideas with an open mind and change their opinion, if the argument makes sense of course! If they are talking with you, it is because they want to hear what you have to say. Otherwise, they would not waste their time. They are not just waiting to reply with their own thoughts or opinions but are actually trying to digest wat you are telling them. When you are a listener, you are a learner. As a genuine person you look for the truth and when you are dedicated to the truth in any given moment, you live life in touch with your deepest and most profound inner parts; allowing you to be the full expression of who you are.
When you are truly self-confident you exude a sense of inner worth, assurance and composure.
You are unashamed of your mistakes and don’t hide your weakness. You have the courage to be
who you really are. Open communication is woven into the fabric of your authenticity. You are
secure in who you are and combine honesty with empathy. You would never give advice that you
would not follow yourself. You never leave anyone guessing or hurting because you are
transparent. You are able to appreciate yourself, flaws and all and do take good care of yourself
both physically and emotionally; making you self-confident and secure; not cocky and vain.
Live in the present
You do not dwell on your past, your regrets or mistakes. Yet, you do not spend all day fantasizing about the future either. As you strive to live from a genuine place you increase the likelihood of being able to live in the present and take day by day. You have learned to live in more thorough and thoughtful ways. Someone who is authentic understands that everyone changes and that life is a day by day struggle to make the most of our short lives on earth. There is no better teacher than life and the leadership skills you possess have slowly evolved from real-world experiences and life stories, making you more confident that you will be able to work wisely through each new challenge on your road.