We all know that ‘change is nowadays the only constant’ and touches all aspects of our being, forcing us to adapt our ways of life, ways of working, ways of dealing with matters, big or mundane. We seem to be in a perpetual rush, overloaded with work, information we need to absorb and act upon, pressure to deliver more for less, among others. And yet, some of us make even more changes to our lives, driven by aspirations, ambitions and dreams. On top of it, many of us are trying to find that holy grail – a work-life balance, an ideal pattern to ensure that we also lead a good-quality life. This may be overwhelming.
How do we ride these waves of change? How do we live our life to the full achieving what we want including well-being? One of the answers may be that we need to learn to survive and thrive in this ‘new’ environment, making sure it doesn’t chew us into little pieces and spit us out in an unrecognisable and unusable shape. And authenticity can help us.
Authenticity has faced a bit of a public relations crisis in recent times. The word seems to have lost its meaning: it’s now present in business, personal blogs and even in style magazines. Everyone would like to be authentic but not everybody seems to understand exactly what the word means.
At the same time, we live in a world where it’s sometimes hard to distinguish between what’s true and fake. People try to stand out, be different by pretending they are not who they are. It is naturally everybody’s choice but I’d question the purpose of such behaviours in some cases – and consequences, poignantly described by André Berthiaume: “We all wear masks, and the time comes when we cannot remove them without removing some of our own skin.” People don’t wear masks to only temporarily hide a social status just like was customary in the centuries-old Venetian masks tradition. ‘Wearing masks’ has taken a different turn. In a world that rewards flawless masks, it can get hard to separate our identity from what we pretend.
Being authentic means staying true to our beliefs – that’s what makes us stand out. Finding ourselves can help overcome obstacles, take difficult decisions, live with those wrong ones and eventually move on from them, and simply make the most of the only life we are given in this world. In addition, staying true to ourselves can lead to having a meaningful life which we can reflect on with pride and satisfaction one day.
Authenticity is also effective at work. An authentic leader can make a bigger impact on his/her teams, employees and the entire organisation. Authenticity, however, requires courage to be imperfect and show vulnerability, which can be tricky as vulnerability is often considered liability for leaders. On the other hand, authentic leaders understand their purpose, exhibit values, are consistent, lead by example as well as with mind and heart, establish connections, to mention only a few traits.
Throughout my life I made some big changes which brought not only a change of jobs, but also turned my life upside down. Although I believe such changes enrich your life and experience on many levels, personally and professionally, they are not always easy to go through.
When thinking about traits one potentially needs to be able to cope with change, imposed on us or self-imposed, but stay authentic at the same time, a few come to mind:
The list is not exhaustive as everybody has a different set of values. However, it’s good to figure them out and live by them to be able to live an authentic and fulfilling life while facing the challenging world out there.
Ralph Waldo Emerson