What makes you unique and why is authenticity becoming so important?
"Be yourself, everyone else is taken"
- Oscar Wilde
Very few of us consider ourselves remarkable and therefore we tend to overlook what makes us unique. Being authentic is daring to be your genuine self irrespective of what people think, but do you truly know who you are and what it is that makes you unique?
The increasingly complex markets and uncertain socioeconomic climate, now exacerbated by the pandemic, are all factors that are changing the world of work and how we live our lives in many ways. The uncertainty can be unsettling and difficult to navigate. Part of being authentic is to understand your own uniqueness, so that you can regain an internal locus of control amidst the ‘chaos’ and ultimately build a belief that you can influence and impact the future rather than just being swept along by it.
What makes me unique?
Have you ever asked yourself the question ‘what makes me unique?’ We often identify ourselves with the skills, competencies and experiences we have acquired, but forget that our personality is what really differentiates us from each other. This is shaped by our values and beliefs acquired over a lifetime giving us our very own finger print or cognitive thinking model, which determines how we see, behave and react to the world outside.
It is only when you have enough self awareness and understanding of who your true self really is that you can start living authentically.
What does it mean to be authentic?
It seems the word authenticity has lost its meaning because it’s now used ubiquitously in business, on social media and even in politics. Everyone wants to be authentic and many preach its virtue without understanding the real meaning of the word.
Being authentic means that you act in ways that shows your true whole self without trying to please others. It is where your own thinking, feeling, acting and communicating are congruent with no mixed signals. This demands a high level of self awareness, where authenticity is a choice you have and it takes bravery and courage to live by.
Who you are results from your beliefs, thoughts and ideas of the world. Unless you challenge popular opinion, you will be pulled by the masses. We all have an inner longing for social acceptance and a deep seated human need to be part of a tribe. We fear showing our insecurities and being judged by others. It is when you let go of the false beliefs that you are inadequate and understand and accept all aspects of yourself that you can start living your true authentic self.
The famous philosopher Rousseau believed that we are at our most authentic when in touch with our passionate self, and Nietzsche, when we allow passion to blossom and then create a formal structure around it. It is true that personal fulfilment is what makes us feel at our most authentic. Which makes understanding and connecting with your own purpose fundamental to living authentically - they go hand in hand.
What are the benefits of being authentic?
Authenticity inspires loyalty and engagement where integrity, ethics and morals are not questioned. We tend to be drawn to authentic people because they exude trustworthiness and confidence. When you're being your whole true self, you inspire others to feel safe to share more of themselves. You build deeper and more meaningful connections in a trusting environment and people are happy to collaborate, engage and connect you with opportunities. This is also when ‘synchronicities’ start happening.
Ultimately, being authentic makes you proactive rather than reactive. It improves confidence, resilience, clarity, impact and mental health to name just a few benefits.
What are the characteristics and how can I nurture my own authenticity?
According to the French philosopher Sartre humans first come into existence and then continually define themselves, so to be fully authentic requires that you take full responsibility for your behaviour - your life choices, actions and outcomes. The Swiss psychiatrist, CG Jung, believed that most of our behaviour originates from the unconscious mind. It is encapsulated well in his famous quote "Until we wake up to our total self and make the unconscious conscious it will direct our lives and we will call it fate".
An authentic person is self aware and has an open mind, shows vulnerability, is brave and takes risks, has high integrity and is trustworthy. But most of all, authentic people define themselves by who they ARE rather than what they DO, they profoundly understand their purpose by congruently living, eating and breathing it.
We are all talented in our own way, but need to find what that is. Being good at something does not necessarily need to be what you love doing. Finding the intersect of aptitude and passion is when you are most fulfilled, which is also where you feel most authentic.
Below are some thoughts on how you can begin to nurture and practice your own authenticity
Self Awareness - Get into the habit of reflecting; on events, meetings, when you read or watch things etc. What is your perceived image of yourself your views? Accept and acknowledge your imperfections, foibles and insecurities. Understand what your cognitive thinking model looks like, your values and beliefs, and then challenge your confirmation bias? Keep your mind in discovery mode - expand the ‘fishbowl’ and observe non judgementally what is outside. Be mindful of your thoughts and listen to your intuition, do what your heart is telling you to do rather than your mind.
Open Mindedness - Although as an authentic person, you live by a code of values and morals, listen to other’s opinions in a curious and non-judgemental way. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and be inquisitive about alternative views without feeling threatened.
Avoid Conformity - Our tendency to conform is subconscious and stems from our need to fit in with others to avoid criticism and rejection. Feel comfortable with forming your own opinions and opposing views to others and embrace it, there are many ‘truths’.
Stop Seeking Validation - Let go of the need to prove yourself to others, true validation comes from the core of your being.
Reflective Time - We easily get stuck in ‘left brain’ logic since we are taught to reason the world through logic alone. Find time for silence and allow yourself to reconnect with nature. Being outdoors harmonises mind and body and energises the soul. It helps you to connect with your creativity, emotions and feelings which are also part of who you are.
Connect with Purpose - Your purpose is your life’s calling and is not something that can be found off the shelf or a problem to be solved in a day, but rather a learning and development process that evolves over time. You first need to ‘unlearn’ that the mission is not to keep busy doing things but instead to BE something. The challenge is to be patient, inquisitive, fearless and open. Focus on what you care about rather than what you’re passionate about, that often wanes over time. The clue is often found in areas that make you upset. What have you come into this world to do? What is your legacy going to be?
We are living in an increasingly complex world with a constant demand for our attention, feeding us information that plays on our emotions wanting us to react. By understanding yourself and what makes you unique, you begin to trust your inner core so that you can rely on your own wisdom rather than blindly follow others' thoughts and beliefs. By living authentically you regain control and become proactive rather than reactive. It is at this point you start being able to influence and impact your future rather than just being swept along by it.
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