Authenticity, the Key to Successful Self-Management

Chaos rules our times. You are overwhelmed, under-focused, distracted, disillusioned and disappointed. At an attempt to increase our happiness, the world has been reduced down to snippets of information and experiences. You want to get off the train but don’t know how. The track doesn’t even take you to a destination, your train is on a loop.

As markets become more and more fragmented and chaotic, making the same mistakes is going to cost you more and more. When is breaking point? Will you jump ship first? Move on to the next firm and do the same again? Different company, same game, more money.

Imposter syndrome is a plague in leadership. Trapped in the loop of not knowing how to do things differently and not getting the results you want. Fake it ‘til you make it is a brilliant strategy until you realise you’re never actually making it because you don’t know what ‘it’ is.

When you try too hard to please others or to fit into a business culture, you are not being real. You assume you know what they want you to be, see, feel and do. The problem is you’re basing your judgement on assumptions rather than fact. You put unrealistic expectations on yourself, to be the super-version of yourself, a super-hero at work. When you can’t deliver, you end up feeling like a failure. Energetically depleted. The pattern is widespread with senior executives and leaders. It contributes to anxiety, undermines confidence, hinders performance and creates misery.

Enter Authenticity. Authenticity is being true to your values. You can scale it up to a brand and down to an individual. Authenticity is about genuine-ness, pure form and being real. It’s powerful because the strength comes from being unwavered by toxic influences and self-doubts.

When you’re authentic, you are being you and you know who you are. Your values are everything that mean something to you. Values are always positive, healthy and are about the things that are most important to you. When you understand your values, you understand the reasons you feel anger, hostility and resentment. When you are misaligned with those things that matter, the inner conflict that results creates fears, worries, hesitancy and a lack of self-trust that drives negative behaviour and reactivity. It feels bad.

Once you become authentic, you gain clarity on your behaviour and reactions. Because you understand your triggers, you can control your actions and emotions. Although it takes practice, aligning to your values means you are able to express yourself easier, clearer and with confidence. You can quickly identify those you fit in with and why. The strongest relationships are those with shared values. Apply that to a business culture and team and you have the backbone for success.

If already in a toxic business, staying authentic gives you the tools to remain unaffected by external influences. Imagine knowing you can trust being your true self in an interview. The recruitment process becomes an exercise in matching values. Authenticity helps you become transparent to others, about your intentions and actions and helps eliminate paranoia. As the saying goes, like attracts like, once you make authenticity the way you are, you’ll find your network starts to grow, organically with others that value you for being you.

Five steps to becoming more authentic

  1. Find your whip. Your whip is all the critical things you tell yourself when you’re trying (and failing) to motivate yourself. List them. Typical things on the whip are lazy, selfish, ugly etc.
  2. Identify your values. Think of five people you admire and look up to. For each person list at least five characteristics that you respect. You’ll notice some are repeated. Count them and list them in the order that they appear the most. These represent attributes that are important to you both in yourself and in others. Authenticity is acting in alignment to these.
  3. Discover your patterns. Over a week reflect on the circumstances where you used your whip and compare those situations to how aligned your behaviour was to your values.
  4. Reflect. Notice when you feel anger or resentment in a relationship with a colleague, friend or family member. Strong negative feelings indicate that someone has violated your values. It could be as simple as them not sharing it or they may be misaligned and unaware.
  5. Practice. Once you can see where you are acting inauthentically, you can practice being true to yourself. Overtime it will get a lot easier and you will clear out much of the mental clutter and negative self-talk.