A Deloitte study shows that 61 percent of employees report they are “covering” on some personal dimension (appearance, affiliation, advocacy, association) to fit in at their organisation. That’s a LOT of people spending a LOT of time and energy trying to hide who they are.
Are you guilty of it?
Well I certainly have been. In the past I have spent time and energy ‘covering’ my working-class upbringing, my age (when I was a lot younger), and downplaying my race and gender, so as not to stand out in particular situations.
I don’t beat myself up about this because “Staying real” is one of the most courageous battles that we’ll ever fight, and I haven’t always had the courage.
It’s not just down to us. Authenticity requires an inclusive environment in which you can be yourself. As individuals, we should seek out those organisations that represent our personal values. When we do, we can be more of ourselves at work. Look also for organisations that are more open and accommodate a greater diversity of styles and values.
However, if the environment is right, authenticity is worth aiming for. I have written before on what it takes to be authentic, so this time I thought I’d share with you what could get in the way to achieving authenticity:
1. When you haven’t done the self-awareness work
The idea of being authentic is to be yourself. But which self? Like many people you probably have multiple identities, who I am when bingeing on my latest Netflix series, is not the same identity I have when I am stepping on stage to provide a keynote to a large audience. They are still me, but me in context.
You need to know yourself and who you are in multiple situations. This might require some unpacking, especially if you’ve spent a lot of your life pleasing others.
2. When you need approval from others
If you need to be accepted by the masses, then being authentic will be a challenge for you.
The road to authenticity means that you will lose some people, they might not like what you say or do, and you will have to accept that.
It also means that you will need ditch comparing yourself to others, the only person you should compare yourself to is you. Are you better than you were yesterday, last month, last year?
3. When you are not willing to accept feedback
Being authentic doesn’t mean that you are fixed in your mindset or behaviour. In fact you can still grow and develop to deliver a new authentic you.
Being closed to feedback doesn’t make you authentic and neither does it give you permission to be rude or hurtful to others.
‘I am just saying it like it is’ or ‘Don’t take offense but…’ are some of the phrases that come out of the mouths of people who use authenticity as an excuse to be cruel to others.
Have you experienced any of these pitfalls? How did you overcome them? What would you add?
BBC Podcast – Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss what being oneself has meant to philosophers from Aristotle to Sartre and since and how compatible authenticity is with morality [51 mins]
VIDEO: TEDX Talk Ditch the Mask & Don the Cape in true pursuit of you [21 mins]
VIDEO: Would you follow you?
WEBINARS: Replay of the Webinars
EVENT: Dare to Dream Retreat 8-9th Feb – a place to be your most authentic self.
PRESENTATION: Finding Your Own Leadership Story.
BLOG: Finding the leader within.
BOOK: If Women Rose Rooted : A Journey to Authenticity and Belonging – 3 Nov 2016 by Sharon Blackie