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  • Writer's pictureDr. Lisabeth Medlock

What Does it Take to be Authentic?

#Authenticity is not about #popularity, #likability, #passion or #empathy. It is the ability to know #yourself and #speak and #act your #truth.

I hear the word authenticity used all the time, but in different contexts in myriad ways. So I want to talk more about what this word, this construct of personal authenticity, means in practical application. And also mention what it is not.

Authenticity has been defined in multiple ways. Here are a few definitions. “Not false or copied; genuine; real.” “Representing one's true nature or beliefs; true to oneself or to the person identified.” Psychologists Brian Goldman and Michael Kernis define authenticity as “the unimpeded operation of one's true or core self in one's daily enterprise.” What is clear is that authenticity means being one’s true self. And that means to be authentic you have to really know yourself and have a core set of values and beliefs. Knowing yourself is sometimes a lifelong journey.

According to Alex Wood and his colleagues, authenticity has three components. The first component is whether you feel like you know and understand yourself. The second component is feeling like your behaviors reflect your true feelings. The third component is being able to be non-normative or non-conforming, which involves standing your ground instead of changing attitudes or behaviors to fit in or acting in a way that others think you should.

Authenticity is not about being caring or popular. To be authentic, you can’t worry about being liked or holding a popular opinion. Authenticity requires that you are consist in word and action, and are not easily influenced. It is nice to have some regard or empathy for others’ opinions, but authenticity does not require it. Authenticity does not equate with being a nice person, or even a caring person. It is about speaking your truth, no matter what that truth may be.

Authenticity does not equate with being passionate about a cause. People can be committed to and passionate about lots of things, but this by itself is not enough to be authentic. An inauthentic person is equally able to support a cause that may not completely be in alignment with their true selves or core values. They may do it in support of a friend, or because it is a popular or needed cause.

If authenticity cannot be judged by passion for an issue, likability, empathy or whether a person shares your views, then how do we determine if someone is authentic? Maybe with authenticity the more important question is to look at the character of the person. What’s behind what they say? Do they have a sense of what is best, what is right, and what is true?

Or maybe the focus should be on how you can be authentic. Being authentic takes the courage to do what you know is right, when it seems like humanity is turned against you. It takes self-confidence to strike out on your own. It takes the ability to know yourself and trust your intuition. Pay attention to when you feel out of sync or things just don’t feel right. These nudges, insights and whispers are from the wisdom of your being and what allows you to be an authentic individual. When you are on track and authentic, you’ll feel it, and when you are not, you will know that too. In the end authenticity is on your own terms, based on your own realizations on what is right . . . what is good . . . and what is true for you.

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