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Living Authentically - Embrace Your Inner Truth

Authenticity is essential to how I live, both in and out of work. It is an interesting word that can be interpreted in different ways. For some, it is being who they are, but others may see this as "being difficult " or not joining in with the fun.


The dictionary definition is “ the quality of being real or true,” which seems to be how we should all live, but I do feel it is not as easy as it first appears.



When we are hiding part of ourselves or not being authentic, it can feel exhausting and have an impact on our mental health. Can you remember a time when you went along with the group dynamics to fit in, even though you knew deep down that wasn’t who you were? I certainly can, both at work and socially, when I tried to go with the group even though it didn’t “feel like me”. Even worse was when I went against my core values; these were the points in my life that led to anxiety and depression.


It was my wake-up call to reconnect with my true self. If I do not hold onto the core of who I am and my values, the ground beneath can become shaky. People who suppress who they genuinely are can feel disconnected, lonely, or even worthless.


This doesn’t mean we can’t compromise, do things for others, and look at the greater picture, but it does mean we need to know ourselves well enough to decide when it is appropriate to do that and when it is appropriate for us to have a firmer boundary or make a stand.


Am I being authentic?


We can get stuck in a way of behaving, trying to fit in with those around us, maybe family, friends, or what we see on social media, and lose who we are. This is modelled in us as children, from parents, teachers, and society; we learn to behave in a certain way to fit in, called our adaptive self. Moving from our adaptive to our authentic selves takes awareness and action.


You might be unsure if you are being your authentic self or a version of yourself. But your body knows it will try to tell you, but are you listening?


We may have headaches, experience digestive issues, or feel anxious when meeting a particular group of friends or participating in certain activities.


If you take time to stop, tap into your breathing, put your hand on your chest, and be still, breathe down into your feet into the ground, and listen. Does this friendship align with who you are? Does the role you do at work sit with your values? Notice what you feel as you ask these questions. Within you are the answers.


Just because you begin to see where you are not being authentic doesn’t mean it can be easy to change, but noticing is always the first step. Once you notice, you can decide where to focus on making some changes and where, for now, you will continue as you are. We cannot do everything at once.


Top tips to be more authentic


  • Identify your core values and beliefs and commit to making your decisions in accordance with them. You can explore your values with these exercises or by using this list. 

  • Is there a gap between who you are now and who you want to be? Think of the core words that describe the person you could be. How can you implement these in the area you chose to focus on first?

  • Communicate honestly. Speak your truth, but respect others' opinions. Be open, and do not play games or ignore that small inner voice that knows you are not being true to yourself.

  • Build self-confidence to allow yourself to make these changes and, at times, stand against the crowd. Focus on self-care, what you need, and self-compassion. Changes take time; that is okay. Sometimes, you may take a step back; that is okay, too; praise yourself for any small change.

 

How can you be more authentic at work?


At work, we can sometimes put the “face on” and become a different version of ourselves. Maybe we feel we need to be more professional at work, behave within certain norms or fit within the culture. All of these are understandable and okay, but only if they do not impact our wellbeing by losing too much of our identity and behaving outside of our values.


Being authentic at work, whatever your role, means taking risks and being vulnerable, but also respecting others and their opinions, even if they do not align with yours. It increases trust, respect and improves confidence, as we behave from a solid base rather than being blown by the wind of others’ opinions.


We have all worked with people who say one thing and behave in another way that is not authentic, and we lose respect for them. In other situations, we may not agree with someone, but we respect their point of view and trust they will do what they say. This is authenticity.


If you feel unable to be authentic in your workplace and feel this is impacting you, maybe it is time to focus on how you can align your career with your authentic self. Are you in the right role? Where would you like to be in the future?

 

How workplaces can help


Workplaces that recognise the importance of authenticity support employee development, wellbeing and performance. Engaged employees who work aligned to their beliefs add value, create opportunities, drive productivity and lower staff turnover.


Leaders can encourage authenticity by being role models themselves. To learn more about developing authentic leadership, check out my Compassionate Leadership training.


The MHFA Whole Self Campaign combines diversity and inclusion with health and wellbeing to drive positive culture change in the workplace. It is an opportunity to share who we are in all our facets and includes free resources to utilise in your workplace.     

 

 Finally


Authenticity is getting to know the core of who we are; I always find it interesting how little time we spend on who we are, what we feel and why we behave in certain ways. Doing this enables us to grow and thrive rather than be stuck in repetitive patterns that do not serve us.


As I become older, I feel more in touch with my authentic self; life is more fulfilling, exhilarating, and less of a fight. For me, that is the greatest gift authenticity can bring.


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