When people start talking about being their “authentic self”, a portion of my brain glazes over. Try as I might, I don’t usually hear what people have to say after that. Why? Because ‘authenticity’ has become a buzzword; it is meant to have an impact on us but has become diluted with overuse. I have seen too many people in the natural health field use phrases like, “I just have to be my authentic self and speak my truth,” to justify saying things that are hurtful and rude, or to brag about themselves in an unbecoming way.
Being authentic in business simply means being exactly who you say you are. All the time. In every situation. This isn’t always easy to do. About seven years ago I went through a little crisis with this. I felt like I was cut into many different parts, so there was work me and home me, me-with-my-friends and me-with-my-family and me-with-my-church and me-when-no-one’s-looking and each of these different versions occupied their own little box and none of them touched.
So I tried to figure out who I am at my core, and then I let go of the people and places and situations that weren’t in line with that and found others that were. Now I feel like myself (for better or worse), no matter where I am or who I’m with. It’s less work and less trouble and I truly believe that people react to it better.
This question of authenticity comes up with subjects like advertising and social media. It is tempting to think that you can separate your online personas — that you can keep one profile that is just friends and family and another one that is for business, but the truth of the matter is that anything that has been published online is available for public consumption, so don’t publish anything you wouldn’t want your clients/coworkers/boss to see. In an ideal world, we would make this easier by always walking our talk, and by being our best self all the time. When that falls short however – you loose your temper, post something distasteful, drink too much while your friends have cameras out, whatever – you can do damage control by owning up to a mistake and moving on with grace. Trying to disassociate from it will just make people feel cheated.
Some of the richest and most influential people in the world have gotten that way by just being who they are, warts and all, admitting their shortcomings and flaws and compensating for them when they can. Think Oprah. When authenticity is expressed this way it is endearing and makes people feel closer to you. And that’s something that can only help you with your career.
We’re all in this together!