The Myth of Authenticity
[00:00:00] What does it mean to be authentic? What does the word authentic even mean? What does authenticity mean? Authentic has become such a buzzword among corporate culture, in marketing, in personal development spaces that it has lost its true meaning. And I would take a guess that if you were to ask a hundred people what does authentic mean, you would get very different answers depending on the person.
Not only that, but often today, when it's used, it's used in a way that means something that it doesn't actually mean. Which is kind of ironic given the true nature of the word authentic. You are listening to success in Mind with Teri Holland, the show for high performing entrepreneurs, leaders, and change makers ready to take your life and your business to the next level.
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First of all, let's define [00:01:00] what authentic means. This is from the Oxford Dictionary. If something is authentic, it is real, true or what people say it is as an adjective. It's being what it is claimed to be genuine, used as a noun to be authentic. It is the quality of being real.
Now, nowhere in those definitions did we hear words like honesty, vulnerability, moral superiority of virtue. Because that's not what authentic means. It just means that it is what it is, that something is authentic when it is being what it is claiming to be. Or a person is authentic when they are being who they are claiming to be or what they're claiming to be.
But that's not how people use it today, and this is where I ran into such an issue with this word and why I don't like it. You won't see me using it in [00:02:00] marketing or. When I'm talking about my own values, because authenticity to me has lost its meaning. And when a word loses its meaning, it's often used to describe the opposite of what it is.
So often when people talk about being authentic, what they really mean is that they're being vulnerable. Well, vulnerable has a different meaning or they mean it. To describe being honest. Well, honesty has a different meaning. I think about it this way. Someone who is an asshole, a true asshole. Could they be an authentic asshole?
I mean, really ask yourself that question. Could someone be an authentic asshole? Because people use the word authentic to describe something or describe a person of moral character or moral superiority. But every person has their own morals. Their unconscious mind has accepted a moral code based on. [00:03:00] How they grew up, whether they accepted the morals of their family and what was instilled in them, or they might have rejected them and, and therefore gone the opposite direction of their family's morals.
You've probably heard the saying before that there is honor among thieves. Well, could a thief be authentic? Absolutely. They're just being who they are. A person could be an authentic asshole, but often. People use the word authenticity or they hide their own bad behavior behind the word authentic, and they'll say, well, I was just being authentic.
Well, being authentic doesn't give you permission to be cruel to others, to be mean-spirited, to put others down, or to just be an asshole. I met a guy many, many years ago who hid behind the word authentic. He would be an absolute jerk to people, and I mean [00:04:00] rude, like really rude to people offensive. And then he would say, well, I'm just being authentic.
Well, that does not give you the right to be that way. But that also tells us that being authentic doesn't mean you're a good person, that you're honest. It means that you are behaving according to your own values, and everyone has different values. We discussed that a couple episodes go. Everyone's values system is different.
We all have different values, and our values come from. Where you grew up, the environment you grew up in, the time you grew up, what your family was like, if you were raised within a certain religious upbringing, or if you weren't raised in any religious upbringing, where you went to school, what your teachers were like, what your childhood friends were like.
Your values come from your jobs that you've had. What was your first job like? What is your current job like your values? Are always evolving and they're based on [00:05:00] the entire embodiment of your life's experience. Everything you have experienced in life, the good and the bad of it all contributes to your values.
And to go even further, let's say that you have a sibling that you were raised with. You had the same experiences, the same parents. Maybe you went to the same church or the same temple, um, maybe you went to the same school, maybe you had the exact same teachers for every grade. Maybe you hung out with the same friends.
You could still have different values because you could have interpreted those experiences differently and taken different values from them. And all being authentic really means is that you are behaving according to your own values and beliefs. That's it. It does not mean you're a good person. It doesn't mean that you are superior in any way.
It doesn't mean that you are upholding some kind of moral standard [00:06:00] that's agreed upon. It doesn't even mean you're kind. Or nice or honest or any of those things. All it means that you are behaving according to your values, but yet the word is used in a way that implies some kind of superiority and people will say, Ooh, I'm so authentic.
I'm being an authentic person. I'm an authentic communicator. It doesn't mean that you're a good communicator. That doesn't even mean that you're an effective communicator. It just means that you're communicating based on your own values. And what I'm seeing a lot of is people using the word authenticity or to be authentic now as a weapon against other people.
And they'll say, well, I was just being authentic. And that puts the onus on you that you now have to be okay with their behavior because they were being authentic. I recently had this conversation with another coach who works mostly with couples, [00:07:00] and what this friend was saying was that they often hear the abuser in a relationship talking about being authentic, so they'll use being authentic to justify their abusive behavior or their abusive communication.
And they'll say, well, I was just being authentic and now it's putting the onus on. The person who's being abused in the relationship to now accept that behavior. That's a very toxic dynamic because now it's like saying, well, I'm just being myself and if you love me, if you accept me for who I am, then you must also accept.
These traits of mine, which are not healthy, which are quite toxic, which are abusive traits, but you must now accept it because I'm being who I am. And if you love me, you must accept me as who I am. Being authentic does not give you permission to be the worst version of yourself. And we talk about this in our speaker training program.
In fearless [00:08:00] speaking, often speakers will say this. They'll say, well, I use a lot of filler words when I'm speaking ums and ahs. Or, you know, I pace a lot on stage, or I stand in a way that doesn't convey confidence on stage. But I do that because that's authentic to me, and I wanna be an authentic speaker.
Well being authentic doesn't mean to not be your best self or to put your best self forward. People use authenticity as permission to. Not have to do any personal work or to deal with their bad habits or their negative traits. All of us can be better than who we are. All of us should be striving to be a better version of ourselves to show up as the best possible version of ourselves.
But if we give into this myth of authenticity, well then what does that mean? Does that mean that. We can go around saying hurtful things to other people, and they just have to accept it because I'm being authentic. Does it mean that you can betray [00:09:00] people, that you can break trust with people because you're just being authentic.
You're just being authentically you. What does it actually mean? It doesn't mean that you get to just say what you want to people, and they should accept it because, oh, I'm just being authentic in my communication. This is who I am. Well, I'm sorry, but if that is who you are, then I don't want anything to do with that person.
And neither should you. I think better qualities that we should be looking for and identifying with and striving to embody are things like integrity, trust, honesty, kindness, compassion, empathy. I could go on and on. Loyalty. But authenticity just means that you're being who you are according to your values.
And if we continue to put being authentic up on this pedestal, believing it to be morally superior, then we're not striving to be [00:10:00] any better than what we are. Because why would you strive to be better if you're already being authentic? You could be the crappiest version of yourself and call yourself authentic.
And I've never, I, you know, I've yet to meet a person who wears the authenticity badge, who talks about being authentic, who is genuinely a kind person, because when I hear it, it's become a red flag to me, to be quite honest. When I hear someone talking about, oh, I'm authentic, I'm authentic, I'm like, Hmm.
You're probably using that to cover up and to justify your poor behavior. Your poor communication skills, and so to me, it no longer has the meaning of being genuine and true to self. It just means I'm probably gonna treat you like crap, and I am not gonna take any responsibility for my behavior because I'm being authentic.
I think what we should be striving for is to become the highest, [00:11:00] best versions of ourselves, but as long as you are hiding behind being authentic and justifying your behavior, then where is the effort to improve, to be better, to become a better communicator, to become a better human being? Because you can always just say, well, I'm just being authentic, and that is the myth of authenticity.
So thank you for hanging out with me today. I hope you liked this episode. If you have any thoughts on it, please feel free to share it with me. The easiest way to connect is on my Instagram account at the Teri Holland. Hope you're having a fantastic day, and as always, if you enjoyed this episode, share it with a friend and leave your five star review.
Thanks so much. Have a great week.