Authenticity has become something of a buzzword recently, but the concept goes back a long way – it’s something Aristotle was wrestling with a couple of thousand years ago. It’s not a new idea.
In current usage, we associate it with people that are ‘being true to themselves’. But how far do we take that? If you get up in the morning and have a row with your partner, then get cut up on the drive to work, do you really want to take your upset, irritated, ‘authentic’ self into the office? Or flip it round: should the burden of a crappy day at work get carried home for the sake of ‘authenticity’?
Another often misunderstood aspect is pushing back against being told what to do – just because you’re taking orders from someone, that doesn’t mean you’re being inauthentic [although it might]. Authenticity doesn’t mean we get to do whatever we want, whenever we want – there are times when it makes sense to collaborate towards a greater good, even if our authentic self would rather be on the beach at that moment!
Denying the challenges that we face each day – continually ‘faking it’ – is a recipe for disaster, so there are definitely times when we should vent our frustrations. But we need to pick our moments to be authentic. It ultimately boils down to finding the balance between being true to ourselves, and effectively fulfilling our roles as a partner, parent, friend or colleague.
In order to do that, we need to be clear on our values – what are we being authentic to?
If we can’t answer that question, can we ever be truly authentic?