To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary defines authentic as “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.” In 2006, psychologists Brian Goldman and Michael Kernis defined “authenticity” as “the unimpeded operation of one’s true or core self in one’s daily enterprise”. In fact, Goldman and Kernis identified four components of authenticity:
- Self-awareness: Knowledge and trust in your own motives, emotions, traits, strengths, weaknesses, desires, etc.
- Unbiased processing: Objectively evaluating any self-relevant information (such as your strengths and weakness) regardless of the source (internal or external).
- Behavior: Acting in a way congruent with your own values and needs regardless of the circumstances and not as a consequence of external goals.
- Revealing one’s self in close relationships: Being open and actively disclosing both the good and bad parts of one’s self to close others.
Individuals with a sense of authenticity have been found to:
- Cope better with difficulties and exhibit fewer self-destructive habits (such as drinking, using drugs, etc.);
- Possess a strong sense of self-worth and purpose;
- Exhibit confidence in mastering challenges;
- Involve themselves in more satisfying relationships; and
- Follow through on pursuing goals.
Authenticity requires self-knowledge and self-awareness. Women who are truly authentic accept their strengths and weaknesses and are accountable for their actions. These women are connected with their values and act in a way that is deliberately consistent with them. In addition, these women are open and honest in their personal relationships.
What does it mean to live “authentically” or to “be authentic?” I recently attended a women’s leadership conference where “being authentic” was cited as one of the five most important keys to giving a successful elevator speech. During this discussion, I wondered, “How do you know if you are really being authentic or how does one become more authentic?”
One step in becoming more authentic is understanding exactly what it is that you value. It is difficult to be authentic if you are unclear or not sure of what you value and desire. The values you grew up with, or even the values you had ten or maybe even five years ago, may not be what feels right to you now. Take the time (and effort) to figure out what it is you care about and once you do, you will become more authentic as you will have a more clear message to deliver.
Next, have an open mind. Rigid thinking, good and bad, causes us to shut down our vulnerable, authentic self. Force yourself to keep an open mind and a willingness to continually learn and grow, and allow yourself the opportunity to experience the world from many different viewpoints. The more open-minded you are, the more authentic you will become.
While it is important to work on becoming more authentic, it is also important to recognize those situations when you are being inauthentic. Recognize those situations when you are insincere in your speech or acting in a way that does not align with your values. Stop yourself, take a step back and correct your behavior.
Moreover, trust your instincts. Many times, when we are not acting authentically, we feel out of sorts, not quite right, even out of sync. Trust what your instincts are telling you – you being inauthentic – and take the necessary steps to course correct.
As women, we owe it to ourselves to act as authentic as possible. We deserve to reap the benefits that having a sense of authenticity bears: (a) being better able to cope with difficulties; (b) having a strong sense of self-worth and purpose; (c) exhibiting confidence while mastering challenges; (d) having more satisfying relationships; and (e) being better able to follow through on pursuing goals.
Let today be the day you work on becoming more authentic as you endeavor to be the best that you can be.
This post was written by Lisa Mueller.