Sarah is a strong woman who has already achieved a lot, which she is proud of. She is popular, authentic and has good friends who appreciate her. Her outspoken, questioning, manner was well received by her former colleagues in the insurance industry. Nevertheless, she was considering a career change at the time, with the goal of further development.
She also wanted to turn the dusty insurance industry around, following the American example of “Lemonade.” She then started working at a start-up company that looked very interesting to her. She liked the relaxed family atmosphere and the cool boss, and she hoped for an exciting, self-determined job.
It was known from the boss that he goes his own way and doesn’t let anyone tell him anything. That it was supposedly authentic. She liked that because she has a similar style. However, for the few weeks she has been working there now, she has found it increasingly difficult to be herself. She seems to have lost her easy-going, outspoken manner. This gives her pause for thought and she wonders whether she has allowed herself to be blinded and has possibly only taken the job because of the cool boss.
Just the other day, at a meeting, her boss gave her the run-around, even though she had only been given the project at hand the day before – a very short time to familiarize herself in detail with the content. After the meeting, she says a friendly goodbye to her boss as if nothing had happened. She doesn’t know herself that way at all. In the past, she wouldn’t have acted that way. She would have sought clarification with her boss or at least clearly explained the facts with a snappy remark in his direction. She would not have been cheerful even though she was deeply hurt inside. She has also changed in her private life. Lately she has been yelling at her partner (for no reason). She had never known anything like that about herself before. Is she still authentic at all, is she still herself? “It’s getting desperate,” Sarah says in her first coaching session.
- Sarah’s despair
- What is authenticity?
- Authenticity in Life Coaching
- Authenticity in everyday life
- Authenticity and sociology
- Authenticity and philosophy
- How can I tell if I am authentic?
1) Know yourself
2) Stand by yourself
3) Be yourself
How is it that someone like Sarah, who previously perceived herself as authentic, suddenly no longer believes in herself? Can you lose your authenticity? It is helpful to interpret and analyze Sarah’s development in terms of authenticity. Your professional decision to move forward can be seen as an authentic move.
Many people do not dare to change jobs when everything is going reasonably well and are afraid of change. The way Sarah describes her new boss and the company shows that she has been dazzled by the aura of a start-up and the smart-acting boss. She did not remain true to herself in her questioning manner. She even reacted a bit shyly, which is not her nature. She knows how to defend herself normally well.
The boss plays his role as a cool, laid-back entrepreneur very well. However, it quickly turns out that he is quite self-absorbed and hardly has any social skills. Sarah may have confused authenticity with selfishness in her assessment as to his behavior. She has now acknowledged her ‘misjudgement’ and can already laugh about it. She tells me that she was about to go into psychotherapy.
In a clarifying conversation in which she remained true to her direct, blunt manner, she made it clear to her boss that it was not okay how he was treating her. Meanwhile, she is also respected by the small team because she is the only one who has stood up to the boss. Due to her social intelligence, she has become very important to the boss. She has exactly what he lacks, social skills and an authentic appearance. She has regained her self-recognition.
What is being authentic?
Authenticity is a consistency in thinking, feeling and doing. It is acting on values and beliefs. Being authentic means speaking your mind openly and honestly. Nevertheless, it is just as important to know when diplomacy might be more appropriate. Determining this is not an art, but it does require a high level of self-worth and trust in one’s own intuition.
Using Sarah’s example, you can see that it’s important to examine what makes you tick as a person. Self-knowledge is an absolute condition for an authentic appearance. According to Charles Taylor, authenticity is the most important moral ideal of our time. The idea itself comes from romanticism and refers to the unfolding of one’s own development potential. In life coaching, this unfolding is a central theme.
Authenticity in Life Coaching
An important part of life coaching is restoring balance in a person’s life. Many people, when faced with major changes in individual or even multiple areas of their lives, feel that they are no longer fully themselves, that they are no longer authentic.
Those who have lived for a long time under the control of others, who have always performed, who have often followed the advice of others, who have become dependent, feel paralyzed inside and instinctively sense that their entire environment has suffered. It’s just as possible for someone to be living self-determined lives but feel like they can’t really move forward, as Sarah experienced. Then the desire for an authentic life is there. Sometimes a complete fresh start is needed to find your way to a self-determined, happy life. When life coaching is about living an authentic life, the following 8 points are considered.
Living Authentically: 8 Important Points in Life Coaching
1. Know and live one’s own values and goals.
2. self-reflection and self-knowledge, with the goal of an authentic life.
3. using one’s own emotions in a purposeful way, which means, for example, knowing when anger is justified and when it is self-harming. 4. Knowing and living one’s needs, that is, knowing how to enjoy without falling into the trap of total hedonism.
5. Live self-determined, which means not depending on the thoughts and actions of others.
6. Do not regard the authentic “self” as something fixed that is finally achieved at some point (see Charles Taylor), but regard authenticity as a lifelong process.
7. Know when diplomacy and constructive communication are appropriate in a situation to avoid conflict, but without risking self-denial.
8. Recognize that self-acceptance is the most important pillar and foundation of one’s self-worth.
Authentic in everyday life
There is no agreement on what counts as authentic in everyday life. Is it the same as announcing your opinion directly when you don’t like something, or not hurting others unnecessarily?
So is it better to follow one’s own impulses and emotions, such as anger due to perceived injustice, or is it better to follow one’s values, such as kindness? For example, when speaking in public, should you admit that you are nervous, even afraid, or confidently and inconspicuously mask your nervousness and fear?
So, do you show your (much-vaunted) vulnerability, or do you feel more comfortable (authentic) with a confident demeanor? It can be helpful to follow your intuition, to trust your own experiences, to listen to your inner voice instead of relying on any advice from others.
Authenticity and sociology
It is very difficult to define what authenticity even is, or even to measure it. There is no consensus among psychologists on this, and even the philosopher Charles Taylor pointed out that it is a misunderstanding to think that an authentic self is about a true, undisguised self that one can simply find and express.
Man as a social being is what he is only through the exchange with other people. Therefore, it makes more sense to speak of an authentic self in exchange with others. For example, it is usually not authentic if I behave differently with my friends than with my colleagues at work.
According to the Dutch sociologist Christin Brinkgreve, self-knowledge primarily takes place through a detour with others, that is, through an exchange with others.
Authenticity and philosophy
Since the 18th century, philosophers have propagated an ideal of authenticity. Rousseau considered a life in harmony with nature as a source, inspiration, indeed a prerequisite for a good, authentic life. He also said that we can only find happiness in our hearts, regardless of what others think.
For Kierkegaard, an authentic life meant being true to oneself, even if that meant making painful choices. For this reason he broke off his engagement in 1840, against all conventions of that time. He remained true to himself and showed that changing insights can lead to a radically different view. He said, “To dare something is to temporarily lose your firm footing. To dare nothing means to lose oneself.”
How can I tell if I am authentic?
Psychologist Stephan Joseph says many people struggle to maintain their self-image. On the other hand, it would be much better to deal with authenticity. To this end, he elaborated 3 steps:
1. know yourself
– Know your own needs
– Know your own strengths and weaknesses
– be able to perceive with care
– can be open
– listen to your own gut feeling
Step 1 is about reflecting and shedding certain defense mechanisms. It’s about strategies we use to protect ourselves from threats.
In the case of Sarah (see above), one would look at why she yells at her partner for no reason. This is called “displacement” in psychology, because thoughts or feelings (in this case anger and powerlessness) are shifted to others.
2. stand by yourself
– stand by his decisions
– Know the limits of your own responsibility
– Do not give in to peer pressure
– Endure discomfort
The 2nd step is to take responsibility for one’s own thoughts and feelings. An authentic person does not allow himself to be blinded. He is willing to endure discomfort and respond when necessary.
Sarah realized that she had been blinded by the new company and the new boss. She had admired the man for no reason and then turned back on herself.
3. be yourself
– say what you stand for
– Do not swallow anger
– Expressing love towards people who are close to you
– Be open to others who are appreciative
– being dismissive of others who are disrespectful
The 3rd step is to implement what you have learned.
Sarah has found her way back to her actual values and feels in harmony with herself again.
© Timo ten Barge [14 .02.2021]