How the Quest for Authenticity Can Get in the Way
Authenticity is a conundrum. It’s a cool new fad, and yet something completely necessary to living a happy and fulfilled life. But it can backfire. I suppose anything not completely understood, when used in the wrong way can backfire on us eventually.
To best understand how it most commonly backfires, let me paint you a picture. Or rather, let’s repaint a picture you probably already have, as every single one of us has encountered this person at some point. You walk into the doctor’s office, or the coffee shop, or the dry cleaner, and the person there to greet you is cold, stiff, and seemingly rude or uncaring. They don’t smile at you, and barely acknowledge you enough to give you the service you need. And all of a sudden, if you’re the kind of person that needs connection, you no longer want to see the doctor, or drink that cup of coffee, or go back to that dry cleaner again. I’ve worked with many business owners who become frustrated by having an employee with this demeanor, but don’t know what to do as they fear asking the employee to become inauthentic by asking them to smile or connect with the customers.
But why isn’t asking someone to open up a little not the same thing as asking them to leave their authentic selves behind? Because the common misconception about authenticity is that it means grabbing hold of everything you know yourself to be, and expressing it at the mercy of others and their needs. Insert loud angry buzzing sound here, because that’s where people go wrong!
Authenticity does mean learning about yourself, your needs, your desires, and what fulfills you - but it also means opening your heart enough to be able to be that person while also meeting others where they’re at. To be truly successful at living an authentic life, we must become just as aware of others and their needs from us, as we are self-aware. The self-awareness is still of primary importance, the the awareness of others is like the glue that holds our authenticity together. Without it, it’s just a hollow, self-absorbed mess.
What does this look like in our example of the person greeting you at the front desk or the doctors office or coffee shop counter? It doesn’t look like turning the person into an overly joyful smiley-happy shining elf of joy. It simply looks like them deciding to open their heart just enough so that they can connect with others. It may not even involve smiling - just letting down their wall just enough so that they can still be true to themselves, while also providing their customers and community with the connection they crave.
So the next time you become aware of rubbing someone the wrong way, ask yourself where the line between your authenticity and their needs lies, and consider adding their needs into your authenticity when interacting with them. How cool would it be to live in a world where we get to be ourselves and make others happy no matter the relationship or scenario?
Jordanna Eyre is a Self-Love Coach and founder of www.YouAreWhole.com