The Myth Of Authenticity

communication emotional intelligence Jun 21, 2023
What does it mean to be authentic?

Authenticity is a word that gets thrown around a lot, particularly in the world of personal development. But what does it actually mean? And how can we ensure that we’re using it in the right way?

[If you prefer the podcast version of this, listen to it here: The Myth Of Authenticity]

For some people, authenticity means being vulnerable and honest. Others use the word as a way to describe someone of moral character or superiority. And then there are those who use it as an excuse for their bad behaviour – “I can’t help it, I’m just being authentic!”

So, which one is correct? The truth is, none of these definitions are valid. They all miss the mark. Authenticity isn’t about being vulnerable or honest, and it certainly isn’t an excuse for bad behaviour. And while being true to yourself is important, it doesn’t necessarily make you a good person.

Let’s be clear on what the true definition of authenticity is. According to the Oxford Dictionary, authentic is defined as something that is real, true, or genuine. That seems pretty straightforward, right? But the problem is that the word has taken on a lot of different connotations over the years.

In fact, the word “authenticity” has become a bit of a buzzword in certain circles – particularly in corporate culture, personal development and in the world of marketing. It’s seen as this magical quality that sets people and products apart from the rest. But in reality, authenticity is just one piece of a much larger puzzle.

So, what does it mean to be truly authentic?

In our speaker training program, Fearless Speaking, we often hear speakers justify their bad speaking habits by saying “I want to be authentic and that’s just me being authentic”. So they use authenticity as an excuse for being a poor communicator. Yes, you want to be yourself on stage, but you want to be the best version of yourself.

In other words, authenticity shouldn’t be the goal. The goal should be to continually strive to become the best version of yourself— someone with integrity, trust, honesty, kindness, compassion, empathy, and loyalty. These are the qualities that we should all be striving for, regardless of whether or not we consider ourselves “authentic.”

The myth of authenticity can sometimes hinder personal growth. People get so caught up in being “real” that they forget to focus on becoming their best selves. This is particularly true when it comes to relationships. Some people use the idea of being authentic as an excuse to avoid facing their negative traits and bad habits. They expect their partners or friends to accept them as they are, flaws and all. But that’s not always fair or healthy.

In fact, being authentic doesn’t mean that you can behave in a negative and hurtful way and expect others to accept it. This is particularly true when it comes to abusive behaviour in relationships. All too often, abusers will use the idea of authenticity to justify their mistreatment of their partners. They say things like, “This is just who I am, you should accept me for who I am.” That’s just an excuse to avoid taking responsibility for their actions.

So, what can we do to ensure that we’re using the concept of authenticity in the right way? Firstly, we need to recognize that everyone will be themselves based on their own set of values. We all have different values because values are formed by life experience. Another person's values can be dramatically different from your own. [For more on values, read this blog] What matters is that you’re striving to be the best version of yourself.

Secondly, we need to be careful not to use authenticity as a weapon against others. Words can lose their meaning over time, and “authenticity” has become a catch-all term for a lot of different things. By using it in the wrong way, we risk causing harm to those around us.

Finally, I want to leave you with the idea that authenticity isn’t the be-all and end-all of personal growth. It’s important, yes – but it’s just one piece of the puzzle. Instead of obsessing over whether or not you’re being “real” enough, focus on becoming the best version of yourself – with all the integrity, kindness, and compassion that entails.







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