Finding Your Authentic Self
Authenticity is highly valued in both our personal and professional lives, but knowing how to be authentic isn't always easy when we conform to expectations of the workplace and beyond. So how do we find our authentic selves, even when our surroundings demand otherwise?
Being truly authentic might not seem like a straightforward ask, but at the very heart of it it's simply being honest about who you are and what you want. The passions, likes, dislikes that make up every fibre of your being, what makes you tick, and what doesn't, and most importantly - embracing this aspect of who you are, whether or not others feel the same.
The Need To Please
The very first step towards authenticity is letting go of the need to please. We all do it in some shape or form, whether it's an inability to say no, conforming to ideas you don't agree with, or altering your speech and style to fit in. You can't be expected to create your best work when you don't feel like yourself, so next time you find yourself agreeing to something you don't want to do, speaking in a way that you wouldn't have otherwise, or acting out a behaviour that doesn't suit who you are, take a pause and go in the direction that feels right.
A little known fact that stepping into our comfort zone of who we really are often means stepping outside of our comfort zone for a hot sec. We're so often behaving in ways that match our surroundings, whether it's at work or in social situations, that behaving how we really want to can feel quite uncomfortable. Take small steps by challenging yourself to be uncomfortable at least once or twice a day - whether it's your physical style, or a 'you' joke - until eventually you realise that being you has no bad consequences.
Know Your Voice
Being authentic isn't just about giving out an opinion willy-nilly without worrying about the consequences - you can be tactful and yourself at the same time. The more important aspect of giving opinions, voicing thoughts, and sharing with others is that the feelings behind what you say are true to what you believe, not just a regurgitation of something you think others will be impressed with, or want to hear. Next time you find yourself agreeing with something just to fit in, take a moment to think about what you really want to say - and how to say it constructively.
The masters of authenticity are children, who often follow what they want to do on a whim with a disregard for others' thoughts on whether or not something is fashionable, appropriate, or cool. Reconnect with your own inner child by asking them 'what is my passion?'; it's about making choices that bring you joy - the yellow car instead of the grey, even if you're worried your friends will laugh, going to dance classes even if a colleague prefers the gym, choosing to stay in with a book when a group of others have gone to the pub, or saying no to the third bottomless brunch this month because you'd rather hang out with your pets.
Who you are is always changing, so take time to reflect with moments of stillness, whatever that looks like for you - it could be a meditation or a walk in the park, but making sure to hear your own voice amongst all the other 'invented selves' we put on show for others to see can help bridge the gap between who we really are, and who we want others to see.
If you think of your colleagues, family, and friends, it's the people we love most who tend to be the most authentic - even our favourite celebrities tend to show a flawed, human side which makes them far more likeable. Cut yourself some slack, and allow yourself to show vulnerability, share highs and lows, and stay true to your passions. What you put out is what you invite in, and the more comfortable you feel being yourself, the more comforting your corner of the world will become.