Authenticity: the difficult conversations you need to have with yourself


Being authentic — what does it actually mean and how can we challenge ourselves to be more? It all starts with having some difficult conversations with yourself, says EQ expert Alina Addison.


What is authenticity?

Is authenticity about being genuine and real to oneself and others, being consistent, trustworthy or telling the truth all the time, even when it hurts?

In a network member poll 50% thought it was being true to oneself and others and telling the truth, 38% thought it was being genuine, 5% being reliable and 7% being trustworthy.

But being authentic is actually all of the above.

Authenticity requires self-awareness and courage, and to increase our own authenticity, we need to challenge ourselves to:


1. Embrace our vulnerability

In her TED talk The Power of Vulnerability, Brené Brown insists that vulnerability is a superpower — and defines it as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.

  • Pushing away feelings and protecting ourselves from being vulnerable or from being perceived as being emotional is not a strength.  Allowing yourself to be vulnerable is daring. It takes a lot of courage to feel a feeling, and express it out loud.
  • It's been shown that people who don't acknowledge and address their emotions will have a lower wellbeing and more physical symptoms of stress. 
  • To be authentic, you have to allow yourself to be vulnerable, because vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings.


2. Leave the comfort zone

Feelings can be uncomfortable, especially when they make us feel vulnerable.

  • Most of us stay in the comfort zone because it's comfortable, however we learn outside of comfort zone. 
  • As Brené Brown notes, ‘you can choose courage or you can choose comfort, you cannot have both’


3. Look at our intentions

According to Addison, we judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behaviour.

  • We hear what people say, but we read it through our own filters, whereas we judge ourselves by our intentions.
  • If you want to be more authentic in your life, expressing an intention makes it easier for the person in front of you to understand where you're coming from.


4. Consider your identities

The external identities we ‘put on’ in the world, at home, at work and with friends reflect how we perceive ourselves to be and the standards we hold ourselves accountable to. We need to constantly upgrade our identity; it is not a one-time thing.

  • If you're not getting the results you want in life look at the ‘identity’ that's getting in your way — things that you hold true, that may no longer be true. These are often just beliefs, and a belief is nothing but a story that we have told ourselves repeatedly with some certainty.
  • If you find yourself saying things like, ‘I could never do that’, ask yourself when you defined yourself and whether you know more now than you knew then? It is time to redefine yourself? 
  • We can all learn new things and experience life differently and authentically in alignment with the new things we have learned along the way.


5. Accept and give feedback

Withholding feedback is choosing comfort over growth. If you're worried about hurting someone's feelings, it is a sign that you’ve not earned that trust. In a healthy relationship, honesty is an expression of care.

  • Do you get triggered when someone gives you negative feedback, or do you ask yourself, ‘What do they see that I'm not seeing?’ Feedback is a gift and feelings are only data; they can guide you to make better decisions.
  • Are you ‘owning’ your feelings — don't say, ‘you make me feel like that’. You have to own that feeling of frustration or loneliness to grow.
  • Ask yourself what is the intention? What do you want to achieve through asking questions about what is someone else seeing; is it to learn and then to act?


6. Use the ‘Authenticity Formula’

When discussing issues with others it can help to remember the ‘authenticity formula’ to make sure you’re being true to yourself and honest with them.

  • Start with an objective statement and behaviour, e.g. ‘When you interrupt me during meetings...’
  • Describe the negative effect, e.g. ‘I don't get the chance to voice my opinion.’
  • Elevate that with a feeling statement, e.g. ‘I feel isolated.’ There are over 3,000 words for feelings in the English language — learn to express yourself more fully.
  • Follow it with the intention to meet your needs, in this case to contribute to the team.
  • Make an agreement versus an expectation — expectations are toxic; agreements are courageous.