Truly authentic people have a way about them that makes them instantly likable. They seem to know who they are and appear comfortable in whatever circumstances they face.
Many of us yearn for that authenticity. Yet not everyone will achieve it. This is quite often because we believe one or more of the following three major misconceptions about what it means to really be authentic:
Misconception #1: Being Comfortable in Your Own Skin Means Acting the Same in All Circumstances
About 10 years ago, self-help gurus were shouting from the hilltops that loving yourself means acting the same all the time, regardless of where you are or who you are with. Otherwise, they claimed, it's impossible to be comfortable in your own skin. But just as this concept became popular, social media emerged and Facebook users began to realize that always acting the same isn't all it's cracked up to be. When your former frat brothers post Throwback Thursday photos for your grandmother to discover, it becomes apparent that there are some aspects of yourself that not everyone needs to see.
Studies show that social media can increase your stress levels because you must decide how to present yourself to people from all facets of your life. Researchers have found that the more Facebook friends you have, the more stressed you're likely to be because there's a greater chance that you'll offend someone.
The truth: You shouldn't change your personality like a chameleon depending on who is in the room, but you can present yourself in a manner appropriate to the situation you're in. Using a professional demeanor in a job interview and presenting a more relaxed version of yourself at a cocktail party doesn't mean you're fake—it means you're socially appropriate. You can still be completely authentic while also being aware of how you present yourself to others.
Misconception #2: Your Values Must Always Stay the Same
Many people think that when you're authentic, your values always remain the same. It's a concept that has been shared by numerous CEOs and popular psychology professionals. There is some truth to the idea: Changing your values just because your latest romantic partner believes in something different, or giving up on certain values just because it's difficult to live by them isn't authentic. But that doesn't mean your values can't change over time.
The truth: As your life circumstances change, there's a good chance your values may shift. Your 40-year-old self will have learned a lot since your days in the college dorm. As your career takes off, your family grows, and you recognize what really matters in your life, your values may evolve. But as long as your behavior is in line with your beliefs, you're being authentic. As your beliefs shift, so should your priorities. Adjusting your life so you can live according to your values is true authenticity.
Misconception #3: Being Authentic Means Being Brutally Honest
Some people try to excuse rude behavior by saying, "I'm just being honest." But there's a difference between being truthful and being inconsiderate. You may not like your co-worker's new shoes but that doesn't mean you should share that opinion. And just because you aren't a fan of your sister's new boyfriend doesn't mean you need to tell him you don't like him. Yet so many people say things like, "I'm not fake. If I don't like you I'm going to tell you," as if sharing their displeasure somehow means they're authentic.
The truth: Being kind and considerate—even when you might not like someone—is a social skill. It doesn't make you "two-faced." The way you treat other people speaks volumes about who you are. Don't fool yourself into thinking that speaking your mind makes you genuine. If you want other people to view you as "real," focus on showing compassion without passing judgment.
For a limited time, you can purchase the ebook version 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do for just $1.99.
Want to know the secret to becoming mentally strong? Watch my TEDx talk.
This article first appeared on Inc.