Have you ever met someone who becomes a totally different person depending on his or her surroundings? Perhaps they become condescending in a conference room, sarcastic and judgmental with one group of friends, and insecure and approval seeking with their significant other. You’ll be having a normal conversation with them, and then they suddenly shift their body posture, tone of voice, and vocabulary the moment someone else enters the conversation. Now be honest…Have you ever been this person?
The truth is that we have all had moments of inauthenticity. It can be difficult to maintain authenticity in uncomfortable or unfamiliar situations. You may worry that your “real” self isn’t good enough or appropriate for the situation at hand, and you fear rejection. So instead of showing up as yourself, you show up as the person you think everyone else will like.
While adapting to your environment is certainly beneficial in some situations, shifting your personality completely is problematic. Simply put, people can tell if you aren’t being authentic, and that’s a turn-off. Cheesy, phony, fake, insincere, pretentious, disingenuous are just a few words we use to describe inauthentic people. Notice that none of them are a compliment!
Ultimately, people are attracted to authenticity. It makes us feel comfortable, safe, and respected. We want to be around and associated with authentic people. Here are four techniques that help you be your most authentic self, even in uncomfortable situations.
Be Keenly Self-Aware: As with many paths to self-improvement, you must start with observing yourself. As you meet new people, engage in work meetings, and spend time with different social groups, try to observe how you feel in each situation. When do you feel most comfortable? When do you feel like you are squirming in someone else’s skin? Leaning to be more observant and self-aware will allow you to recognize when you are feeling uncomfortable, understand why you are feeling uncomfortable, and signal to yourself to intentionally draw upon your authentic self.
Find Genuine Connections: Because we are all humans, we all have something in common. Seek to truly understand the people you around you. Ask thoughtful questions, and listen intently. By developing a genuine understanding of and connection to the people you are with, you are more likely to feel genuine and authentic yourself.
Don’t Be Perfect: What’s wrong with being perfect? It’s impossible. Therefore, if you try to be perfect or act perfectly, you are already being disingenuous. Embrace your imperfection and dare to be a bit vulnerable. You’ll be amazed where vulnerability can take you.
Be Present: It is easy to be in the middle of a conversation with someone, and while they are talking, your mind wanders to crafting the perfect response, the score of the current game, or all the things on your to-do list. Once the other person finishes their thought, you reengage and share your perfect rebuttal. While the other person has no idea what you were actually thinking about while they were talking, people intuitively can sense another person’s focus and presence. Try to be more present in your conversations and relationships. Be an active listener, and give people your full attention. Mastering the art of presence perhaps is the single most effective way to ensure authenticity in any situation.