I read all of the time that people need to be authentic; they need to be who they “really are.” In thinking about these principals, what does it really mean to be authentic? I mean how can you be someone other than you “really are”? I think in the bigger landscape, being authentic means telling people how you really feel, don’t sugarcoat what is going on inside your head. Being authentic also has to do with having integrity, say what you mean and mean what you say.
Here are some suggestions on how to be more authentic.
1. What everyone else thinks about you is none of your business. We quickly lose ourselves in the trap of being someone we think will be popular with everyone else. It is a never-ending cycle, trying to figure out who you have to be to please others, and then abandoning yourself to be that illusion. It never works. We only make ourselves miserable trying to be someone we are not. Be the best person you can be, that is the only person you can be.
2. Don’t hold grudges. When we resent something, we let that tape play over and over in our minds and instead of focusing on being the best person we can be, and being authentic, we are always suffering because we can’t figure out how to change the past. If something doesn’t work out, either the time wasn’t right or the desire you were grasping for wasn’t in your highest and best good. Let (inhale) it go (exhale). When we keep trying to relive the past, we are doomed to keep repeating the behavior that caused it. Change the behavior to change your results.
3. Think for yourself. Peer pressure will always rob you of your integrity and authenticity. If it doesn’t feel right for you, go in a different direction. You may look back and find everyone following you. Many times we sacrifice ourselves to avoid conflict. Never, ever give up on yourself. It is through our struggles to be our self that we discover who we truly are.
4. Let your yes, mean yes. Sometimes things don’t work out, but never say yes without a commitment to follow through. The foundation of integrity is to be dependable and never say you will do something that you don’t want to do or don’t know if you can do it. You can say, I will do my best, or say “I don’t know”. People who are not dependable are untrustworthy and untrustworthy people are not authentic. So if you mean “yes”, say it. Everything else is “no”. If you make an agreement, make a note of it. It is no excuse to forget. Forgetting to do something that you said you would do is out of integrity. Make sure that you allow enough time to accomplish what you agreed to do. Finally, if you discover you can’t deliver, let the others know immediately so they can make adjustments. If you are inconsistent, undependable, frequently late or change your mind repeatedly, you will lose whatever credibility you may have and people will start avoiding you like the plague.
5. Kindly adjust. A popular saying in India when circumstances change is “kindly adjust”. It is similar to “go with the flow”. The point is that authentic people are not stupidly inflexible; they know life happens and can change plans when necessary. They are not afraid to ask for flexibility, nor are they afraid to change their plans when necessary.
6. Put yourself first. Authentic people have to put their health and well-being first. Without health and well-being, you can’t help others. Your well-being is the platform from which you serve others. Your personal health is your greatest possession; the most significant foundation of any future you will have. Make your body your prized possession above all physical things. Spare no expense, re-prioritize and invest in your health. Your health is a long-range investment that will pay-off when you need it most.
7. “No”. Everyone has the right to say “no” if “yes” is inappropriate. Say “yes” to ideas and processes that are in your best interest. Say “no” to those things that are not in your best interest. So what if you lose a relationship or job. There is nothing more valuable than your integrity. Selling out your principles to keep a friend or job is disempowering yourself and will only cause problems in the long run.
To be authentic means to follow your own drummer, and to think for yourself. Do not be part of the crowd or go against your instincts and principles to influence or manipulate people. It may have some short-term advantage, but eventually people will discover you have no principles or integrity. Then you will be lost. Head up, keep walking and breathing, and do what you know is right. You are braver than you know and stronger than you think.