This world of ours is full of noise.  We exist in an almost constant state of overwhelm from the various inputs coming at us – some by choice and others forced upon us – like the 24-hour news cycle of impending doom.  It’s like everybody and everything is pushing in on us – burrowing deep enough – and steering us to act, speak, and conduct ourselves in accordance with what will garner the most “likes” “favorites” “retweets” and “comments.”  I fall prey to this – guilty as charged!  And the more I think about it, it’s a really REALLY sad way to live.  The world will benefit from us being more authentic as leaders. In this article we will explore the incredibly liberating action of being authentic.

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When I was in middle school, I was a tom-boy.  Ok, who am I kidding?  I still am.  But back in middle school I tried so hard to be somebody I wasn’t.  I bought and carried a purse (why?  I already had a backpack)!  I tried to wear my hair down and keep it down longer than the closing bell of my first class.  I even went as far as to include “like” “as if” and “whatever” into my vernacular even though I thought it was ridiculous.  Do you think I was being authentic? C’mon – I’m not the only one who has tried and failed miserably to fit in to a stereotype – especially as a teenager – we’ve all been there, right?

It cracks me up looking back on it now, but at the time I so desperately wanted to disappear in to the safe majority.  Now, in to my early thirties, I can proudly proclaim that I’m a “preppy redneck” and that I am completely aware of who I am – and more importantly – who I ain’t.  (Yes, ain’t is a word – see previous “redneck” descriptor).

So how do we close the gap in the journey to authenticity?  It’s easy in theory and difficult in application – but let’s dive in to some ways to move away from the need to please (whatever “pleasing” means) and into a space that feels a bit more like “home” even when we are far from it.

Go Back In Time: 

Think back to your youth – go far enough to the precious time before we were aware of others perceptions of us.  Who were you then?  How did you act?  What excited you as a kid? Were you pragmatic? eccentric? driven? free-spirited?  This will shed incredible insight and point you in the right direction on your journey to becoming more authentic.

Ask “Who Am I?” When I’m At My Most Authentic:

Write down your answers.  In fact, make a long list of answers.  Now, go back and cross through anything that merely describes what you do.  Contrary to the prevailing notion (which is precisely what we’re challenging here) YOU are NOT what you do.  You are the summation of the things that you believe in.  You are the things you think about in those rare quiet moments.

Cultivate Your Inner-Voice:

Armed with your childhood memories and your short-list of answers to the “Who Am I” question – begin to build your inner-voice to align more consistently with the answers you’ve just discovered.  When doubt (read:  The world) creeps in, acknowledge it, and push it away.  You need to become your own biggest advocate in the quest to be your most authentically brilliant self.

Invite Your Tribe In:

Finally, let the folks in your tribe in on the journey.  Ask them to answer this question: “When do you think I’m at my best?”  Follow it up with “How do you view me when I’m in my element?”  Check to see if their answers are consistent with your inner-voice and adjust accordingly!  Disclaimer:  While we’ve heard that “Perception is Reality,” do not allow their thoughts to overshadow the hard work you’ve just done if their opinions are different than yours.  You are the captain of your destiny when it comes to authenticity – and only you can truly know if you’re making progress.  But they are your tribe – so they do know you pretty well.  Use their feedback as a tool.

Step Away From The Noise:

This is the hardest step of all – but they say the greatest growth occurs at the end of our comfort zone.  Get away from all of that noise!  The more time you spend with yourself the more authentic you’ll be.  I’m not talking about physically being alone necessarily, but setting time aside for your own growth is so important. Oh, and do yourself a huge favor – Put. The. Phone. Down. Real-life is not happening on iOS and the authentic moments are passing you by as you stare endlessly at that little screen.  Back away slowly!

Cut Yourself Some Slack:

Know that you are capable of change and that you will evolve and refine your beliefs over time.  This means you get to cut yourself some slack and know that who you were a year ago isn’t who you may be tomorrow.  You’re allowed to be moldable and fluid like that – that’s the fun part!  Allow yourself some grace in the process and enjoy the journey.

So now I gotta know: Who are you when nobody is around or watching?  How would you describe the most authentic version of yourself?

Comment below – I’m fascinated by these things.

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