Ever wonder why self-help gurus tell you to ‘be authentic’? Being authentic, we’re told, is the key to unravelling our true talents, enabling the world to appreciate us for who we really are. Sounds pretty good to me. At least in theory, it does. But what if being yourself – your true self – yields anything but an appealing and popular outcome?
If your unassuming, let the chips fall where they may kind of existence seems to only draw the attention of your dog at best, it could be a pretty good indication that your authenticity may need a little reinvention. Or could it?
This raises a broader question about what makes you authentic and is authenticity in itself really the answer when it comes to showing the world that you can add value? I don’t know if anyone can really answer this question with any certainty, but what I do know is that the wants and needs of society – particularly in the digital age – are driving individuals to identify talents they may not have otherwise considered, but which promise to launch lucrative careers.
Don’t these strategic interests interfere with authenticity? A client recently told me, “I have no problem being authentic. I just want to know at what point I need to infuse reality right alongside my authenticity.” Point well taken.
In recent times, we’ve witnessed a growing number of young adults who have been bullied and teased to the point of suicide, simply because they chose to be authentic. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Apple’s late Founder Steve Jobs were anything but popular in the earlier part of their careers when they were authentically socially awkward nerds with interesting ideas.
However, the tides quickly turned when these brilliant innovators created technologically advanced products that changed the way we think and live today. Now, people credit their once unpopular authenticity for their massive success.
Fear is a manifestation of that which we do not understand. But at what point does fear turn into hostility toward the unfamiliar? For us to become proponents of the ‘be authentic’ movement, we should also be willing to be accepting, be understanding and be willing to question our perception that our own authenticity represents the gold standard.