by Jane Anderson, Columnist & Featured Contributor
[su_dropcap style=”flat”]W[/su_dropcap]HEN I WAS given a copy of this book the first thing that caught my attention was the word ‘authenticity’. Just recently I read through a dialogue on LinkedIn where there was enough debate about what that word means to make me question the authenticity of the discussion. Wired for authenticity? I was intrigued. I didn’t get past the introduction before the lessons began. You can’t be your authentic self if you are trying to emulate someone else. You just end up being the second rate version of someone else. Now Henna Inam had my full attention because I already believe that. I settled in to find out more about this subject of being authentic.
We’ve all heard about being hardwired. Right? This is a part of our natural DNA that doesn’t change. Think of this in terms of talents that seem to come naturally to people such as athletics, music, and art. Then there’s the softwiring. Have you heard of that before? I hadn’t, but it makes sense that this is the part of our brain that learns from experience, responds to rewards, and develops proficiencies through working hard at forming a habit or developing a skill. In fact, it’s our softwiring that helps us find our identity. Henna says, “Our identity is a complex mix of how we see ourselves and want others to see us.” Wrapped up in that statement is what drove me to dig into this book and learn more about what we can do at any stage of life to become our authentic selves and help others to find their authenticity too. The author explains it this way, “My authentic self is the intelligence at the core of who I am. It is the part of my being that is wise, calm, creative, and adaptive. It is the most inspired part of me.”
Why do we even care about being authentic? That’s a very good question and it deserves a very good answer. Authenticity sees inside your hard shell exterior and opens your eyes to what you really want from your life. Authenticity means you aren’t exhausted trying to be the person you think you must be instead of who you were meant to be. If we are true to ourselves we are not limited, we are fulfilled, we are healthier, happier and here’s a newsflash for you; when we are authentic we trust – trust ourselves and others trust us too. Authenticity paints a wide stroke affecting individuals, team morale, employee engagement, innovation, customer service, and the cultures in our workplaces. The effects of authenticity are real.
Before you even finish reading this book you can start to practice authenticity.
It may surprise you to know that we are all reluctant to act out of our authentic selves. Why is that? One reason is because we fear our imperfections and take feedback of such very personally. We also don’t sit still long enough to get to know our true selves. We don’t know ourselves well enough to project who we are to the outside world. We wear a mask of who we think others expect us to be because we haven’t examined our interior scrupulously enough to be convinced that our authentic self will be acceptable. Let’s get started working on that right now.
Befriend your body – Do you use a GPS? I know. I do too. Sometimes I use a GPS in my own community because finding the right house on the right cul de sac from the right street is complicated. Well, let me tell you, finding your authentic self is complicated. Our culture tells us our bodies are a tool to help us look good, be productive, and to get pleasure. Untrue! Our bodies are our lives, our state of consciousness, they are the full experiences of life achieved through our senses. We have two brains: one in our skull and the one in our gut that sends signals about our emotions to the brain in our skull. Together they are like a GPS that allows us to connect to our state of being, tap into our potential, and bring us back from wandering to a state of authenticity. But to engage the GPS we must slow down and listen to the wisdom that tells us what will bring us to authenticity, happiness, and fulfillment.
Stay curious because this is where creativity gets its start. Curiosity is an essential characteristic of leadership. The author encourages us to rediscover our inner child and bury the assumptions we adopt as adults that prevent creative and curious thinking. Stop assuming you already know the answer. Ask questions and gain new perspective. Stay curious. Don’t wait to ask questions until you’ve come up with one that sounds smart and informed. Ask a short, dumb question and invite dialogue. Stay curious. Stop saying, “I know what you mean.” As soon as you say that, the listening comes to a halt. Stay curious.
To become authentic, you have to get to know yourself and since you are a party of one, you need to bring in other people to tell you things like what you do well, how you add value, how you stand out. Become an authentic leader. Think about your values, what do you believe in enough to take a stand, what energizes you, and what your purpose is. “One of the most important leadership traits is to believe in your people. As leaders and human beings, we have daily opportunity to help people discover the parts of themselves that empower them. When you notice, point it out so their potential is called forth.”
Let go – Let me just say that this chapter on letting go is not a reincarnation of Queen Elsa singing “Let it Go”. However, the author describes the encumbrances that we hold onto that impede our efforts toward authenticity and are without benefit to any purpose. I heard once that the reason people have so many shoulder issues is because the word ‘should’ is embodied in the word ‘shoulder’ and they say, “I should. Whether that’s physiologically accurate, I don’t know but I do know that saying “I should” can “ all the time. “I should” becomes an exhausting, demoralizing burden. Learn how to transform your nagging ‘should’ into a power of choice. Do you want to lose a couple hundred pounds of emotional burdens? Here are a few more liberating things to let go of. Labels – Don’t put labels on others and don’t let others put them on you. Limiting Beliefs – if you or others have untapped potential, your penchant toward believing the same old thing zaps it before it has a chance to get out. Trapped emotions – Learn how to stay in the moment and centered. Stop carrying grudges and anger around. Taking things personally – this could be a reflection of your own insecurities. Let go of your obsession to be right. Let go of what you can’t control. Do any of those sound familiar? There are more just ‘let it go’ opportunities in the book. No music score required.
Give yourself an A – When you were a kid and played school with your little friends, didn’t you always get an A? But this is real life. You’re right, this is real life, and the truth is you can give yourself an A. This means you accept yourself and make peace with the flaws as well as appreciating all that you like about yourself. Nobody is perfect and if we expect perfection we set ourselves up for failure. We have to believe that our self-worth is not dependent on outside circumstances. Expecting perfection breaks our connection to creativity and reduces our productivity. By practicing new behaviors neural pathways can be rewired that will lead to acceptance of emotions, imperfections, and help with personal reflection. Giving yourself an A doesn’t mean giving yourself a trophy all the time, but it means being comfortable with who you are. Be a friend to yourself right now while you’re becoming more of who you want to be.
Have you ever met someone who seemed to be a chameleon and you never got to know the real person? They seemed to have a situational personality. In this chapter, Henna warns that being inflexible isn’t the answer to authenticity but neither is being so indecisively adaptable that you are not true to yourself. The key to authenticity is to be curious, open and adaptable without compromising values, integrity, principles, and things that make you consistent and trustworthy. “The practice of choosing be before do allows us to adapt quickly by accessing the different parts of who we are in order to be fully effective.” Make conscious choices based on values and purpose in service of the greater good. To be authentic means making tough decisions and capitalizing on opportunities to do those things that make you feel awesome. Authenticity acts out of confidence so you can lead others with energy and compassion because it comes from deep within your true self.
In her book, Henna Inam, discusses the courage it takes to be authentic. She says courage is not the absence of fear, it’s choosing to act on something that’s more important than our fear. Being authentic is courageous because it requires that we act out of what we know is right, see the truth, stand up to adversity, face change with courage and speak up. If this all sounds too complicated, it isn’t. To be authentic is easier than being a fake version of yourself. Henna gives you a 5-step practice to become courageous.
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- Identify what inspires you
- Identify your saboteurs – those voices that create doubt and get in your way of being your authentic self
- Identify your personal board of allies – these are the gifts you have that are wisdom, support, confidence, appreciation, and others that have a positive influence on you
- Take the next small step immediately after steps 1, 2, and 3. Commit doing one thing to practice authenticity. Pick a practice related to a goal. “Today I will practice _____.”
- Celebrate success at every step. When you don’t give up, you can’t fail. Being authentic has some parameters that need to be practiced.
Make authenticity the whole of you. It’s possible you, know. The content of the book is so much greater than this short review contains. Armed with a copy of this book, Wired for Authenticity: Seven Practices to Inspire, Adapt, & Lead, you have a roadmap in the text and navigation tools available on the website. The author, Henna Inam, recognizes the need for support to lead your authentic life. She offers nine ways to deepen your learning experience and internalize what you’ve learned while building your leadership skills around authenticity. Each of these next 9 ways are described in the book. 1) Do the Authenticity Assessment; 2) Download the Authenticity Tools; 3) Join the Online Community; 4) Find an Authenticity Partner; 5) Find Your Tribe; 6) Bring this to Your Team or Mentoring Group; 7) Become an Authenticity Advocate; 8) Join the Authenticity Olympics; 9) Hire a Coach or Become a Coach
If you wonder how you will learn enough to start the practice of identity and authenticity, don’t worry. Henna includes a review and ‘questions to ask yourself’ at the conclusion of every chapter. They really make you think about the application of principles you’ve just read about in the previous pages. As an added benefit she has also given specific examples of what you can ‘try today’ to commit to living as authentically you.
Remember what the author says, “Failure is not falling off the bike. Failure is failing to try again.” You can do this. You can be authentic. You can lead from a place of authenticity.