Three Ways to Greater Authenticity

To be authentic is literally to be your own author – to discover your own nature energies and desires, and then to find your own way of acting on them.

~Warren G. Bennis

To be authentic is to act in alignment with who you are. To be authentic is to feel right about what you say and do. To be authentic is to be real. Being authentic involves being in tune with what’s happening inside of you. Webster defines authenticity as “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.”There is no fixed ‘authentic’ self. We don’t one day realize ‘this is who I am” and then become authentic. We change and evolve over time. Our day-to-day experiences tell us who we are, and when we are present in the moment, we can tune into what feels right. We discover whether we are being true or faking it by how we feel in the moment. When we notice what’s happening in our lives – how we feel and what gives us energy – we gain insights that inform and guide authentic actions, aligned with what we value and want to be creating in our lives.

Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.

~Brene Brown

Only you know if you are being authentic. Only you truly know if your actions align with your values. Only you know if how you respond to a situation feels right. Of course, others sense when you are being authentic. There is a power in being courageous enough to show our true selves. Even when someone doesn’t agree with you or like how you behave, often they respect you for your clarity and confidence.

We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.

~Mary Sarton

Three ways to open to greater authenticity.

  1. Explore what gives your life meaning. Clarity about your mission in life can help you live each day with purpose. Clear intentions can guide you toward authentic action.
  2. Notice your thoughts, feelings, and actions. When do you say yes/no? How often does what others want guide your behavior? Do you feel pressure to fit in or seek others’ approval? Be open to the answers you find, without judging yourself as good or bad.
  3. Explore what it’s like to let go of others’ expectations and judgments. When others make requests of you, pause to consider whether what they want is what you want. Sure, listen to what they have to say and consider their perspective, but tune into your feelings to guide you.

The body has its own way of knowing,  a knowing that has little to do with logic,  and much to do with truth, little to do with control,  and much to do with acceptance,  little to do with division and analysis,  and much to do with union.

~Marilyn Sewell

NOTE: This post first appeared on the IBM Jobs Blog on March 30, 2017.


Vicki Flaherty
Vicki Flaherty
VICKI FLAHERTY creates and spreads joy in the world through one-on-one coaching to support individuals being their best, facilitating mindfulness and resilience-related experiences, blogging about leadership and life, and capturing moments of joy through her photography and poetry. She believes in being present in the moment, focusing on what really matters, honoring every individual, listening from a place of openness and caring, examining issues from different perspectives, and acting with passion, courage, and creativity. The common thread of her career is that every step involves helping people succeed. As an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, she designed a variety of people-focused experiences such as onboarding, mentoring, career development, and talent management programs for organizations. She’s created leadership, mindfulness and resilience programs for a Fortune 50 company, and is most fulfilled when facilitating experiences that help people lead their lives with clarity, intention, and authenticity, and that encourage health and wellbeing. She loves taking long walks along the Iowa River, cooking delicious food, and traveling with her husband, and she enjoys yoga, gardening, writing, and photography. Follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter, and subscribe to her blogs: Leading with Intention, And Then Opens Possibility, Where Possibility Awaits, the joyfull eye, and the small things.

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  1. Dear Vicki,

    Your article possesses so much synergy with what I have experience over the years. Whether presenting a persona or manner, dress-code (e.g. shirt-tie-suit or ‘dress-down-Friday!).

    Sometimes I find myself walking down a tree-lined pathway and think to myself, ‘who I am I?’. Does this mean I have more than one personality? Do I put on a ‘face’ depending who I am engaging with?

    Your article and quotes certainly sent me on a path of self analysis. But as Brene Brown said, ‘There is no fixed ‘authentic self’. I guess we do react to people and situations. Should we be confronted by an aggressive arrogant individual, do we retain our true selves or do we, not confront, but deliver a stature and posture than intimates we’re not a walk over? I am aware the best way is to keep your cool. The one that shouts the loudest looses the argument. Those who use verbal violence do so as a protection, a shield from their own weakness of character; typically bullies. A bully seeks a reaction of timidity. When confronted with calmness, dignity and a gentle strength of character, they will either shout louder or shrink away pretending they have won the ‘conflict’.

    I agree 100%. ‘Even when someone does not agree with you, or like how you behave, they respect you for your clarity and confidence’. A sort of agree to disagree scenario. People may have dramatically differing viewpoints. But why put on a face to project a persona that is ‘not you’ or back off. Or just ‘be you’ – a ‘take it or leave it attitude. ‘That’s me’! what put on an act?

    What I have written in a couple of articles is that even when we may or may not ‘put on a face’ when seeing someone; subconsciously reacting, adjusting posture, or just being ‘comfortable in our own skin’; the other person may be putting on a face. It is human behavior.

    When I used to be active in recruiting for American companies/start-ups in Europe, one had to wear a suit, a tie and a pair of acceptable shoes; especially in the Netherlands, where one can be assessed upon what one wears! Having been involved in client meetings, and then living in the Netherland for a few years, I came to understand why a dress-code was seen as exceedingly important. A bit snobbish, I guess!

    It is a bit ‘old fashioned’ now, but I like wearing a blazer or shirt and tie etc. Not because of others, but that’s what I like, and still do. Attending a client meeting or interviewing candidates in various countries, I wore a suite not only out of respect, because I wanted to, I felt comfortable.

    Enough about me!

    Vicki, your article launched me to write volumes of comments in response. I have to thank you. No, I don’t ‘have to thank you’, I wish to thank you for the stimulating an inward analysis.