What Does Your ‘Authentic’ Self Look Like?

Meeting in casual office space

I’ve written a few posts about being your authentic self, being you instead of trying to be someone else, and having the courage to do this. In the past couple of weeks I came across content from Seth Godin and Adam Grant related to this.

In a podcast in April of 2020, Grant spoke about “Authenticity is a Double-Edged Sword.” He raised three key points during the episode.

  1. Be your authentic self, show your vulnerability, but not at the expense of how your competence is viewed.
  2. Authenticity without empathy is selfish.
  3. Authenticity without status and trust is risky.

Grant is talking about these in the context of the workplace. These may seem wrong or unfair, but I think he’s accurate that this is the way it is in many if not most workplaces. Point number two, frankly, is one of those things that may not only make the workplace miserable, but also the Internet, politics, and some family dinners. You can’t be a complete ass to others and then excuse it with “I’m just being my authentic self.”

He also pointed out that points one and two are particularly true for people who are from marginalized groups. The pressure to “fit in” is that much more evident for people of colour, women, religious minorities, etc. It’s not right and we should work to change that.

A couple of weeks ago, Seth Godin wrote:

There’s a desire to celebrate our “authentic” self.

But perhaps our considered self, the one that shows up when we’re doing our best to be consistent, generous and professional–that’s our authentic self. And the voice that slips out when we’re tired, stressed or busy is simply an incomplete and lesser version of who we actually are.

We’re the sum total of the interactions we choose to create and the changes we contribute.

– Seth Godin, And who are you really?

I’d like to think that my authentic self is empathetic, courageous, and generous, and that when I lose my cool or am impatient that’s not really me. Of course that means that if I want people to see me for my authentic self, then that’s who I need to try to be most of the time.

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