Authenticity is a topic that seems to be trending in business as well as in sports, social media, politics and other areas. People want truth and transparency from their friends, coworkers and public figures. Individuals should be proud to reveal their true selves to every one they come in contact with. At first glance it seems like a really good idea and a proactive way of getting others to be the best version of themselves. One could ask is that really the case? Are we ready and willing for “EVERYONE” to be their true authentic selves? Do we have and use the capacity to embrace others for being who they are, without judgment? Or is there an assumption that their authentic ways will mimic ours and be acceptable by personal and socially set parameters?
What really constitutes authenticity? Is it being 100% who you are all of the time, regardless of environment. Is it being who you are at your core or just enough to not get fired? Does your Ethnicity in social settings such as the workplace or educational classes, impact whether or not you can be your true self? Are you being one way at work only to change into a completely different person at home? Some of you may say well you do what you have to fit in the work place and culture which is understood, survival is a critical element but the question remains are you being authentic? How many of us have always been authentic in romantic relationships? Haven’t we experienced one where the person gave us the best version of themselves only in fear that we would not love their true authentic selves? How much tension in relationships has that revelation caused? Are we wearing a mask to public approval and acceptance?
One thing we can all agree on is that regardless if you are pro or against Donald Trump he is as authentic as they come. He is unapologetically himself and believes in his words and actions wholeheartedly. That is one individual that is not worried about any possible fall out or repercussions. Would that be the definition of authenticity; bold, brash, unapologetic? Or is finance and power the deciding factor of who gets to be authentic?
Authenticity may be driven by the culture of an organization. Some may tolerate a wider range of authenticity from their employees. A month ago I was discussing a perceived Race issue at work, as the discussion went on I paused because something struck me. I stopped and asked “Why are we whispering?” Even though we were discussing the truth of our authentic experience we still let fear drive our conversation to a less than normal volume as opposed to our louder counterparts. Do we feel that retribution would be the outcome once our authentic selves are on display, that we shouldn’t act or talk a certain way? We have Freedom of Speech but did we feel we were truly free to be heard?
Does your boss embrace some employees for being extroverts and admonishing the introverted ones? Are we asking for everyone to be themselves only to turn around and judge them when we don’t agree? Yes, I agree that being authentic is a great idea but we live in a very judgmental and hyper-critical society. We still hold those that are closer to our beliefs and Faiths much closer than those that do not. How can we ask for something we are not ready to receive with criticism or something we have not created an opportunity for? Yes, it is known there are business deals to be on the golf course but what if I do not like golf? Am I free to say so for fear of losing a major client?
One factor that may lead to authenticity is the freedom of the outside. The freedom of outside voices that say to be and do otherwise. The need of not only awareness of possible applause, criticism, backlash or support but a very high emotional intelligence to deal with them all. Money, political influence and maybe even Survival should not decide how authentic you are, you should. The truth is your authentic ways may offend those around you, it should not dissuade you. If we are to use words such as diversity one would pray we could be appreciative of the differences that situations brings us. Too much of alike minds makes for a dull conversation. An issue of being authentic is that it can arouse the prejudice of others. All conflict is not negative and are starting points to get to know each other better for understanding. Being authentic has nothing to do with acceptance from others it has everything to do with an inner peace and intention of expressing yourself. Every action has a cost, be prepared to pay accordingly, authentic or not!
Here is my transparency as I try to answer some of the questions above. I am a product of a “Double-Consciousness” as said by WEB DuBois. I am constantly self-assessing and adapting to my environment. As much as I would love to be carefree I am cautious. I am authentic in some situations and others I assimilate. I am a product of my own mental conditioning and my own mental slavery of pleasing others. I do know that there are dangers out there especially when someone else is writing the check that pays my bills. I whisper while discussing Racial issues at my organization because there is something in my mind that does not want me to rock the boat. I hear one side of the room calling for authenticity and the other side waiting to criticize and judge.
On second thought, I have the power of choice. I get to choose who gets to see the beauty of my authentic quirky self. Those individuals at my organization or community groups that I am apart of might not deserve that. I am an employee to justify means to an end. You may not understand me and that is fine by me.