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Layers of Authenticity – Being Ourselves … To Ourselves

When we ask people how they’re doing, most will say they’re doing well, followed by “how are you?” which sometimes seems like an attempt to get the “hi-how-are-you-I-am-fine” exchange done in order to move on to the real discussion. But during this time, asking people about people’s well-being, and being sincerely interested, could be the highlight of their day.

We all know that professional decorum is essential in the workplace, along with displays of emotional intelligence, tact, and positive attitude. The truth is that sometimes smiling and appearing to be well does make people feel better. Psychologist Richard Wiseman calls this phenomenon the “as if” principle. This is not a new idea. Philosopher William James stated in 1884 that if you behaved “as if” you were a certain type of person; you became that person.

So, the fake-it-‘til-you-make-it idea can work, and it might get you through your meetings, classes, a.nd even an entire busy day. But sometimes that approach just drains your energy further and makes you feel inauthentic

And what does it mean to be authentic?

Psychologists Brian Goldman and Michael Kernis defined authentic living as “the unimpeded operation of one’s true or core self in one’s daily enterprise.” In his 1888 book, Twilight of the Idols, Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “If we possess our why of life, we can put up with anyhow.” This can be interpreted as reminding us to know ourselves and act according to our own values.

During a time when we are all still improvising, suffering from decision fatigue, and just plain fatigue – when our minds are feeling scattered due to lack of comfortable patterns that our brains love, and we have to juggle myriad responsibilities…… it’s okay to not be okay some days!

Should you let people know you’re not at your best on a particular day, or should you plod through the day pretending you’re fine? Surprise – it doesn’t matter! What matters is that you recognize, acknowledge, and name your feelings, and then decide what feels like the best way to present yourself.

“Being authentic” means you practice self-monitoring (i.e. mindfulness), develop self-awareness, define and live by your values, maintain a strong and empowering identity, and make decisions about your life and actions that represent who you are.

Perhaps we are not only one “real self.” Maybe we are a collection of “selves” whose words and actions while remaining congruent with our values and integrity, can be adapted to align with the context. Or maybe we are one “core self” that guides our choices and helps us be nimble.

We don’t have to show all aspects of ourselves to everyone. We confide in some people and not others; we let our silly sideshow in some situations and keep it toned down in others; we confess to not being okay if it feels right to express. We get to decide, based on our self-awareness intuition, and wisdom. Making authentic choices increases our self-worth, self-respect, and guides our future choices.

When we live in a manner consistent with our values, we create habits of mind that are more nurturing and self-sustaining – leading to a stronger sense of well-being, Whether or not we are okay at this moment, and whether or not we share this with others, we can find solace in knowing we’re walking this path together and there are people who will care and be supportive.

Finding people with whom we can be our most authentic selves, free from judgement and reticence – being valued for who we are, is life-affirming.   

Lisa Elsinger
Lisa Elsinger
Lisa Elsinger, Ph.D., is a lifelong advocate for taking care of body, mind, and spirit, so we can live this precious life with vitality and give our best to the world. She leads the Live Well at Broward College employee wellness program, where she integrates health and well-being into employee experience and organizational culture-building strategy. Committed to helping people integrate healthy habits into busy lives, Lisa emphasizes a “no extremes” approach, and provides regular insights on lifelong well-being via Well-being Wednesday, a weekly newsletter; Purposeful Pauses, weekly mindfulness, meditation, and rejuvenation breaks; interactive department and class sessions on multiple aspects of health; and ergonomic workstation assessment and remediation. Lisa values being immersed in the College’s altruistic initiatives, advocating for student and community health, and empowering people to share their stories to support and inspire others. She loves the breathtaking seaside sunrises in South Florida, farm animal sanctuaries, learning about all things neuroscience, music, and the experience of waking up, getting up, and showing up each day to make the world a better place, one action at a time.

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