A few weeks ago I did a talk at a Grade 10 enrichment week on developing one’s Authentic Self. While I was preparing for it, I discovered just how simple it is to fall into the trap of being inauthentic. A teacher called me at the office explaining that he needed to fax some documents to Lead 4 Life urgently.
“Could I have your fax number please,’ he asked.
“Sure!” I responded confidently then I immediately thought to myself, ‘I have no idea what the fax number is, why would I say yes?!’ I scrambled around the office frantically seeking this fax number; as luck would have it, I was the only one in the office at that moment.
Fortunately I remembered we are living in the 21st century and strongly advised our client that scanning the document to email would be much better than a fax. As soon as we were done I hung up and took a deep sigh of relief.
I still don’t know the office fax number, but that’s not the point. The point is, now I have learned that it’s okay not to know and it’s even more okay to say ‘I don’t know.’ Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating being ignorant or careless but rather, I’m encouraging authenticity.
While putting my talk together, I came across many definitions for Authentic but the one that stuck with me was from Google Dictionary:
“Of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine”
According to the Emotional Competency website, your “Authentic Self is the true you; [with an] aligned and congruent self-image, stature, values, beliefs, goals, behaviour, word, and public image”.
Authenticity, like many other things in life, is a journey rather than a destination. To become authentic, we need to begin by knowing self, understanding human nature and the nature of life, knowing our personality traits, learned behaviours, values, beliefs, needs, goals, and motives. Once we understand these things, we can evaluate how congruent our perceived self is with our current self. This exercise will then allow us to work towards purposefully becoming our ideal self or, as Brian Tracy puts it, our self-ideal. Tracy argues that, ‘your self-ideal is a description of the person you would very much like to be if you could embody the qualities that you most aspire to’. Becoming an authentic person is about doing rather than being; we grow into authenticity when the path we choose through life is congruent with who we are.
Although my little anecdote is a fairly basic example, it is a great example of how who we are inside can differ with who we are outside and cause a great deal of stress and uncertainty. According to Psychologist Margarita Tartakovsky, ‘being congruent is far from easy. It means not caring what others think about you. If you’re a chronic people-pleaser, this might as well be like walking a tightrope’. Congruence happens when who you are is in line with what you do and this in turn earns us the trust of others. As the old adage goes: ‘don’t say one thing and do another’.
The Four Agreements
Something that has definitely been helping me through my path of authenticity is the concept of The Four Agreements outlined by Don Miguel Ruiz. The more I apply and integrate the agreements in my life, the more naturally authenticity comes to me.
- Be impeccable with your word. In a nutshell, say only what you mean. Going back to my experience, though simple, don’t claim to know things you don’t. Use your words consistently and express yourself genuinely.
- Don’t take anything personally. Understand that what others do is in line with their own reality and not yours. Have a solid self-concept and use it as a benchmark to evaluate your worth.
- Don’t make assumptions. I have found that with technology, it is much easier to become cynical about anything and everything. Not making assumptions means asking as many questions as possible so that we don’t land up jumping to dangerous conclusions; we don’t know everything.
- Always do your best. While it’s impossible to do everything, there is nothing more fulfilling than knowing that you put your all into something—no matter what the result. When we do our best, there is no room for self-judgement, shame, or regret.
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” ~ George Bernard Shaw