What does it mean to be an authentic ‘you?’
Being authentic means being your true self. We’re not talking about your ego or self-image here; we’re referencing your true identity. The person you are without all the labels, roles, and expectations that you associate with yourself. In this context, authenticity is a process that involves stripping away the layers of fear-based thinking and social conditioning to reveal a more enlightened state of awareness.
This deeper level of awareness allows us to see beyond the exterior masks and persona that we use to hide our vulnerability to protect ourselves from others. It also protects us from pain, rejection, and judgment, so that we can live our lives in a way that is true to who we are at the core. Authentic people are genuine and honest in their personal and professional relationships.
When people live authentically, they can express themselves with ease in every situation, regardless of what else is going on around them or who else may be present at any given moment. The most successful people approach their work with this same sense of purpose and passion because it helps them feel more connected to their deepest beliefs about life. This naturally inspires feelings of satisfaction at work by allowing personal contentment in other areas of life as well.
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” —Oscar Wilde
Your work life should be a place where you feel comfortable to be you. However, sometimes we need to adjust ourselves according to the situation and people we meet in our professional life. The real question here is how much do you change yourself at your workplace? Are you just having fun being silly with your friends or are you committing the biggest professional sin of behaving like a clown at work? If you pretend to be someone else at work and not be true to who you really are, then ask yourself – What is my reason for doing this?
The problem with pretending that everything is OK when it’s not is that it creates a pattern of disconnection. This can start showing up in other areas of your life as well. Being authentic enables us to embrace all aspects of our personality in our personal and professional lives. It helps us create stronger bonds with others. It allows us to build trust by being honest about what we think and feel. We react more quickly and appropriately when things go wrong because we’re not wasting time trying to hide the truth or protect ourselves from negative judgments.
What happens when you feel like you are hiding your ‘real’ self?
How often you are inauthentic is up to you. Many people find they need to put on a facade at work or school, but when they’re home and with their families or friends, they can let down their walls and be themselves. You can also choose how many elements of your authentic self you want to reveal if you don’t feel comfortable sharing everything all at once.
If you choose to act inauthentically regularly, it can take a toll on your mental health. Instead of investing time into the relationships that matter most to you, you’ll spend energy trying to keep up appearances. This leads to emotional exhaustion and stress, leading to anxiety and feelings of isolation.
In addition to hurting your mental health, pretending not to be yourself can also affect your physical health. When you don’t feel confident being yourself around others, it’s only natural that this would cause feelings of mistrust when those same people try and give back or support you. Any effort toward self-improvement will be harder for them (and for you), because not everyone is on the same page about who you really are as a person.
Being inauthentic will also make it harder for other people (or even yourself) to see your true value as an employee—meaning that your workplace environment suffers, too! Hiding who we are can make us less productive and hurt our reputation as colleagues.
Speaking Up and Showing Up Authentically in DEI
If asked to describe Kimberley John-Morgan with one word, that is what it would be. Authentic. As soon as I met her, I knew we were destined to meet. Her approach to this work and her voice on social media were as if I was reading my thoughts. Her authenticity was a breath of fresh air, and her unapologetic “Allyship Theatre” made me shake my head and often laugh out loud. There’s no need for a facade!
In this episode, Kimberley discusses how authenticity is the cornerstone for sustainable DEI work as a professional communicator. In this conversation, we cover everything from limiting your exposure to ‘the foolishness’ to Performative Allyship Theater to the importance of self-care.
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