After immersing myself in the work of Brené Brown for the last 4 years and becoming a Certified Daring Way Facilitator, I have come to realise that authenticity is one of the most important qualities I look for in another and also in myself. The more aware I become of this quality the more I see the lack of it in everyday situations. People saying ‘yes’ when they want to say ‘no’, trying to be someone they are not to impress others or simply not speaking up on things that matter to them. Let’s face it – we have all done some or all of these things (daily in my case!).
As covered in my last post, Dr. Brown’s work is based on years of research and the interviewing of those individuals who already operate in a ‘wholehearted’ way. In addition to her book “The Gifts of Imperfection”, Dr. Brown has recorded an audio of a two day training she conducted on the guideposts available for download or purchase on CD format. In her audio “The Power of Vulnerability”, Dr. Brown is entertaining and pointed in her description of these guideposts, all the while providing meaningful and at times, quite personal examples of her own struggle to embrace wholehearted practices – a true reflection of today’s post and the first guidepost: Cultivating Authenticity – letting go of what other people think.
Dr. Brown defines Authenticity as “the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we actually are.” She says that in choosing authenticity we must understand that we need to cultivate the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries and allow ourselves to be vulnerable.
Dr. Brown shares a number of her own mantras for these guideposts and the one she draws on to support her being her authentic self is “don’t Puff up, don’t shrink, just stand in your sacred ground”. By this she means to remind herself that at times she wants to become bigger than she is (puff up and fight) and at other times she wants to become smaller (by not speaking her mind or backing away from who she is) but in all situations she needs to simply be who she is, speak her mind and be comfortable with the outcome. She reminds us that being liked for who we are is what matters and if we are not liked for who we are then it is better than not being liked for who we are pretending to be. Bringing our authentic selves to our daily lives and business is better for our sense of selves and sense of worthiness in the short and long term.
Another side issue of being authentic relates to boundaries. Often we find ourselves moving our boundaries to please others or not having any boundaries at all. Personal boundaries are critical in any relationships we have including the one we have with ourselves. Many of us find ourselves saying ‘yes’ when we really want to say ‘no’ and then are full of resentment afterwards. This mode of operating is usually to avoid disappointing others, or to create a false impression of ourselves or simply because we don’t know our own limits. Setting boundaries is critical to establish self-worth and to remain in authentic practice. To support her boundary setting Dr Brown recites the mantra “Choose discomfort over resentment” to remind herself that saying ‘no’ now will help her not feel the resentment later.
As I have mentioned a few times in this post, authenticity is a practice reflected in all that we do and say. Our business lives can reflect this too and people will want to work with us because of this quality. Many of the business clients I work with have built their reputation and grown their businesses by being who they are. Their customers connect with them, their purpose, their values, their way of operating and customer loyalty is built on this.
We have all experienced people who seem ‘fake’ or are putting on a façade – we can see straight through it normally so it makes sense that if we do the same, others will see through us too. People will love us for who we are not, as well as who we are. Others will also dislike us for the same reasons. We can’t control the perceptions either group of people, nor should we spend our energy trying.
Being authentic is about being true to ourselves and recognising quickly when we are moving away from our ‘real’ selves and correcting this. It is about falling over and making mistakes and being completely imperfect… Being as open about our flaws as our strengths.
As Dr. Brown says in her second book The Gifts of Imperfection, “I try to make authenticity my number one goal when I go into a situation where I’m feeling vulnerable. If authenticity is my goal and I keep it real, I never regret it. I might get my feelings hurt, but I rarely feel shame. When acceptance or approval becomes my goal, and it doesn’t work out, that can trigger shame for me: “I’m not good enough.” If the goal is authenticity and they don’t like me, I’m okay. If the goal is being liked and they don’t like me, I’m in trouble. I get going by making authenticity the priority.”
Take some time out to consider:
In what areas of your life can you become more authentic?
Are you worried about what people think and if so, what are you most scared of?
What (or who) do you feel you may lose if you let go of this?
What situations create the need for you to be inauthentic?
Do you have clear boundaries in personal and business relationships?
What can you do differently to clarify these?
Do you speak up about your position or your needs?
Take the opportunity this month to focus on being more authentic. Observe your patterns and behaviours and make a commitment to being more authentic and ‘show yourself’ in areas of your life where you may be too concerned about what people think. Set boundaries based on who you are and what you are OK with, not what you think others want you to do.
I will leave you with this beautiful excerpt from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams as referenced in Dr. Browns work.
Get real | Be Real | Stay real!
Until next month!