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You are not an empty shell. This is the key idea that Marcus Buckingham makes in his book, “Love and Work”. He argues that you are a highly unique individual; a distinct pattern of “loves and loathes”. This pattern comes from your genetic makeup, which has been formed by a vast network of approximately one hundred billion neurons in your brain. Each of these neurons reaches out and makes connections with at least one thousand other neurons. To put this in context, your brain has more connections than five thousand Milky Way galaxies has stars. There is no one else in the world who will ever have the same pattern of connections that you have. It is these connections that make you, you. You are built to love and loathe very specific things. This is part of your distinct authenticity. Yet, it’s always been perplexing to me the large number of people who feel the need to conform within their career!
I believe a large percentage of people choose jobs based of their urgent lifestyle needs. As a result, these individuals give little thought as to whether their work is truly authentic to them. Many feel that they need to lose the authentic parts of themselves when choosing a career. You might be one of these people. However, there are countless examples of people achieving greatness in their careers, by leaning into their most authentic selves. For instance, many musical artists have accomplished this. There have been countless singers who have had their voices criticized. Among these singers who have been mocked are Shakira, Billie Eilish, Jennifer Lopez and Miley Cyrus. Even the “King of Rock and Roll”, Elvis Presley was once admonished by critics, saying that his voice was “lusty caterwauling”. As you know, many of these artists have gone on to sell records in the millions, along with receiving innumerable awards and recognition.
But what exactly do we mean by being “authentic”, as many people define the word differently? For this blog, I would like to use the humanistic psychological meaning of this word. Professionals in this field note that people who want to achieve greater authenticity share common characteristics. These characteristics allow a person to achieve greater personal growth and higher functioning. The very first characteristic is that they are accepting of themselves and of other people.
Accept Your True Nature
As mentioned, many top singing artists possess this key characteristic. To express who they truly are and develop their own authentic style, they must first have to accept their own natural voices. They must resist the urge to believe that their voice or singing style must be adapted or changed to fit audience expectations. Artists who want to triumph in their career must dismiss the opinions of critics around them, believing in their own unique singing voice, style and sound. This is a critical aspect to their success.
Express Your Own Thoughts, Emotions and Ideas Freely
The second characteristic is that people who are authentic are able to express their emotions and ideas freely and clearly. Expressing your authentic and unique personality, values, opinions and beliefs need to be communicated to others. Anyone who wants to grow into who they truly are needs the ability to express themselves with confidence and honesty. They do not give in to being swayed and influenced by others around them. A person who is authentic, will never leave anyone guessing about who they are, because they are transparent. One well-known leader who exemplified this was Steve Jobs. Jobs was well known for his passion to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products. He never shied away from telling his staff that their ideas were wrong and would refocus them on his vision for Apple. Jobs once stated “I don’t think I run roughshod over people, but if something sucks, I tell people to their face. It’s my job to be honest.” Although, it may be difficult to attain this level of honesty with people, it demonstrates a high level of authenticity. If you want to become more authentic to others, express what you truly believe, think and feel.
The third characteristic of authentic people is that they have a high level of self-knowledge. Being authentic means being true to unique aspects of yourself such as personality, strengths and values. There is an alignment between these key aspects and a person’s ideals and actions. However, for this alignment to happen you must understand your true traits, along with your motivations. It was Aristotle that once said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom”. It is very difficult to disagree with this statement , as the relationship with yourself is the most important. If you expect others to understand and know you, then you must know what makes you distinct and exceptional. More importantly, when you know who you are, you can fully trust in yourself and realize your highest potential. Instead of letting others dictate what they think is best for you, you can take full control over your life and decisions.
Stop Depending on Others for Approval
Finally, authentic people have a sense of independence from others. Overall, they do not seek the approval of others to feel valued. Highly authentic people can demonstrate caring, concern, compassion and understanding towards people, but they do not strive to achieve others’ unfair expectations or try to please them. They have the confidence to continually live in who they are and what they do. They do not try to conform themselves to fit in and be accepted. The bottom line is that they do not seek or need validation from other people to be who they are. At the same time, they avoid comparisons to other people when assessing their own progress and life achievements. They do their best to strive for their own unique life, dreams and aspirations. These individuals fully understand that other people will define success very differently than they do.
When people are deeply authentic, and living out their personal values, ideals, perspectives and self, it can give them a greater sense of well-being. Unfortunately, according to studies there are a large percentage of employees in North America that feel pressure to suppress their personal values, attempting to go along with organizational standards. You might be one these individuals, and it’s understandable. There may be many reasons to conform such as the need to get ahead, future job promotion, conflict avoidance or supervisor influence. However, there is a real cost to losing your authenticity. There has been research suggesting that people expressing less authenticity have higher levels of depression, experience less life satisfaction and increased career disengagement. Instead of attempting to conform, it is vital that you seek higher authenticity. By being in greater alignment with your most authentic self, you will remain true to your own unique feelings, beliefs, ideals, dreams and aspirations. So, the main question is, if you choose not to be authentic to who you really are, will you be prepared to sacrifice these important aspects of your life?