Being authentic isn’t everything – or is it?

Being authentic isn’t everything – or is it?

I read a great blog recently by business marketer Megan Barrow which caused me to think about authenticity and the benefits (or not) about being authentic in what we do and how we present ourselves. I had never thought that being authentic could ever be considered anything but positive, as authenticity is aligned with sincerity, consistency, reliability, being true to yourself, your values and beliefs. This would seem to be all good, but as Megan states: ‘being authentic doesn’t lend itself to being a good person or being good at business,’ as a person can be authentically opposed or disinclined to developing good business or other skills. The eye-opener for me is that being authentic is no guarantee for a positive person or a positive outcome.

What also comes to mind is that being authentic may not always be in your best interests or in the best interests of others. Take for example a man who is very poor at selling cars and who detests sales work: there is a strong chance that he is not going to last very long as a car sales person if he is acting according to his authentic self and displaying an obvious dislike of the job. Whilst he may be expressing his true self, and in that regard being authentic, he may also be out of a job and unable to pay the rent! In the same way, people who are unmotivated to make improvements in their lives because of certain circumstances or certain beliefs they hold, may be acting in an authentic manner, but they remain in the same old rut.genuine

It’s probably the case that most of us (myself included) like to think that we are authentic in what we do and in how we conduct ourselves and our business. However, I think it is also the case that we can be drawn into areas of life that are not the usual ‘good fit’ for us and do not sit comfortably with us. Does this mean that we dig our heels in and say that we will not participate in this area of life because “it doesn’t fit with my authentic self and it doesn’t match my beliefs?” What about the challenging or confronting people that come into our lives? What about when our beliefs are somewhat shaken and uncertain (and after all, beliefs are only a bunch of words that can be changed any time we like)? What exactly is my authentic self in these situations? Should I always walk away when I find myself in a situation that doesn’t resonate with my authentic self? Should I always be authentic and consistent in my behaviour regardless of the people and the situation?

On one hand, being authentic and consistent rings true as being a positive attribute of a person. On the other hand, different circumstances and different people require different responses, some which may not sit comfortably with me, or which call for a different aspect of ‘me’ to the one that I would regard as my normal authentic self. Meeting people where they are at rather than where I am at means that I often need to adjust the way I conduct myself. My authentic self then may be questionable.

Megan has wisely questioned the authentic “buzzword” in her blog which you can read at Australian Businesswomen’s Network which has raised further interesting perspectives on how we view ourselves and how we present ourselves. Certainly food for thought. I’d be happy to hear your views!

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  1. Hi Margaret,
    Love this post. You raise some excellent points about being authentic. I think it’s important to strike a balance because if we are too afraid to embrace our authentic self we may never be able to meet another person “where they are”. I must first be true to myself before I can whole-heartedly accept others without feeling threatened, offended, disconnected (insert label here). Perhaps the middle ground is boundaries that respect the needs and position of both parties?

    • Margaret Lambert says

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment Leanne. I think you have a point with boundaries being the middle ground – they can certainly help to keep us in our authentic zone. And I also believe it is important to embrace our selves first. I think we can be more authentic when we embrace our selves more, owning the not-so-good side along with our better side.

  2. This would have to be one of your most insightful and challenging blogs I’ve read so far Marg! For me, being authentic is about trusting myself and my intuitive intelligence enough to ‘know when to hold em and know when to fold em’ as Kenny Rogers so beautifully puts it. Staying true to myself and my cleaned out core beliefs is what matters most to me now. Having spent most of my life thinking, doing and saying what I thought was expected of me and living a very unauthentic life, I love the way you poked us in the eye with a sharp stick and sent us lovingly on our way questioning “Being authentic isn’t everything – or is it?”. Based on my core beliefs and values, it is! Love the sheer brilliance of this blog!

    • Margaret Lambert says

      Thanks a lot for your great feedback Bron. I think many of us can relate to your experience, which you so openly have shared, of trying to live up to the expectation of others, and we lose ourselves in the process. It can be difficult then to really know ourselves, to be authentic.

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