Authenticity is a beautiful word for a tough subject. The word is defined as being genuine and real, which sounds lovely on paper. However, being genuine and real in person may look a little less lovely in real life, because authenticity comes with an underbelly.
I’ve been listening to a lot of business podcasts lately and recently heard a quote from Grant Cardone stating, “Everyone wants to be the boss until it is time to write the check.” That’s how I feel about authenticity. We want the benefits of authenticity (confidence and self-acceptance) without writing the check (addressing our guilt and shame). We are able to remain authentic until we find ourselves in situations or circumstances where we feel inadequate or insecure. Then we start explaining ourselves, changing, apologizing, hiding or going silent. The front goes up.
And rightfully so. Our inadequacies are where our shame, guilt and fears reside. I know I don’t have to convince you that these are very painful emotions. We have all had our fair share of lapses in judgement or shortcomings that we’d rather no one find out about. These are not our proudest moments. We would only disclose these vulnerable parts of ourselves with people in whom we trust (if at all) in hope that their opinion of us will go unchanged. That we will be accepted, still.
Authenticity isn’t about screaming the darkest, most intimate details of our lives from the rooftop or posting about them on social media. That’s not what I’m saying. Part of authenticity is about letting your guard down with trusted support, this is one of many reasons people seek out therapy. Authenticity involves befriending those unkempt parts of our past, of our souls, and allowing them to be part of who we are — not all of who we are. We can take up space with our strengths and our challenges. This allows us to continue putting one foot in front of the other. We can continue to make strides toward the life we desire in light of past mistakes or errors without dismissing who we may have hurt along the way. Authenticity knows that more mistakes and unforeseen circumstances are to come but that you have what it takes to face them.
Ultimately, moving toward the parts of us that are most painful, becoming vulnerable about them, can reduce that pain and bring relief. Freeing us up to drop the front altogether because it is no longer necessary. We don’t have to try to be acceptable anymore. We already know that we are. Once you’ve made peace with your shame and fear, the need to convince anyone of how great you are is unnecessary. You’re free to be who you are, as is.
Think about someone whom you would consider to be authentic. How do you feel when you’re around them? How do you feel when they laugh at themselves or bring up how they may have come up short in an area of their life? You likely feel at ease. Comfortable to be yourself. This is the greatest gift of authenticity. The return on investment, if you will. Your authenticity encourages others to do the same. It’s contagious.
What does it mean for you to be authentic?
Ashlee Secord is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and owner of Thrive Therapy located in Burnsville, MN. She is passionate about working with driven men and women who struggle with their self-confidence and worth. Therapy creates an opportunity to explore your thoughts and feelings about yourself and become curious about they may be impacting your work, relationships and life as a whole.