The Trap of Authenticity


by Angela Kambouris

Authenticity has been reduced to a meaningless cliché. You hear it in discussions in various circles, see it as a popular meme on social media and thrown around as a mantra in metaphysical sanctuaries. It is overused and misunderstood. Of course, we all make a commitment to be truthful, sincere and genuine but somehow people define authenticity with originality and uniqueness.

Authenticity is in the eye of the beholder. What l share as authentic, you may experience as BS. The only unique aspect of human beings, is there fingerprints and perhaps the way they make love.

When we look at history, study philosophers and mystics, there is no originality. We are inspired by influencers and celebrate the beautiful artforms that have been borrowed, amalgamated from people before them and represented as a collective consciousness. The most authentic thing we can do is to acknowledge the influencers.

Authenticity is a paradox. If you are trying to be authentic, then you’re not. Being authentic is not something we have, it is something we are. How do you attain something we already have?

On so many levels, we crave realness. Authenticity is the ability to be real with you and me. Women especially have authenticity laser focus. There BS detectors go off and they zero in. They know when they are talking to the real thing.

Let’s explore 9 ways of how authenticity has been blurred in today’s world:


The magic formula does not exist

What if we adopted seeing authenticity as the degree to which you are honest about yourself? Identifying strengths with pride, experiencing mistakes without shame, being curious with genuine interest and an openness to learn. Authenticity doesn’t judge, analyse or assume. It takes you back to your unconditional born emotional state. It’s not the magic formula that makes you stand out from the crowd or rise above the noise. It’s your ability to be real with you and me.


Connection is like air to our soul

In business, people confuse the “A” word with purpose. People do not buy from you because you are an authentic person. They become loyal to your brand because they connect and empathise with why you do what you do. Rather than investing in searching for the holy grail, ask curious questions and spend more time infusing meaning into you and your brand.


Cult of authenticity

Authenticity dominates our way of viewing ourselves, our relationships and the world around us. Within individuals, the cult of authenticity can breed doubt and between people it perpetuates distrust. It has bridged into the leadership space as leaders elected have been based on who feels their pain or on the other hand deemed fake, therefore not a suitable candidate to sit at the table.


The concept of being you

“Be yourself” can be terrible advice when you have limiting beliefs, values that move you away from what you want and when you engage in the 7 deadly sins, do you really want to give out “be yourself” advice. When you want to expand your unfamiliar zone, get healthy and fit or start a business, then get used to doing things you really don’t want to do. Do the hard work and act like a grown adult.


Being a better human

Maybe we need to reframe from being yourself to being a better human. We all make mistakes, at times, l can upset people, give an opinion when unnecessary or have foot and mouth disease but l don’t proclaim “if you can’t handle me today, you don’t deserve me tomorrow when l have my life together”. Take responsibility, apologise for messing up, say sorry if you hurt someone’s feelings or tell them to “suck it up sunshine” if they are being ridiculous and milking it for all they can. We all have vulnerabilities, flaws and imperfections. Sometimes it’s rising above and keep moving forward to being the professional human being you always were.


Imposter Persona

Herminia Ibarra’s book, Act Like Leader, Think Like a Leader, shares how people trying to be authentic can often prevent themselves from growing. In her article in Harvard Business Review, The Authenticity Paradox, she talks about how authenticity is misunderstood, specifically when leaders transition into unfamiliar roles. People adopt an imposter syndrome persona, telling themselves that they can’t do something or putting pressure on themselves as they haven’t mastered the new skill within the first week. When things don’t come natural to us, authenticity can become an excuse for people to stay in their familiar zone. When you stretch your thinking and act outside the boundaries of who you are today, that is real.


It is the journey, not the destination

When we view ourselves as works in progress, as part of an evolutionary process rather than a state, we develop our styles that feel right for us and in alignment with our business mission. We adapt to changing needs as our professional identities shift and grow through trial and error, mistakes and feedback. Remember, success always leaves clues.

Be more playful about who you are, be okay with doing things in a different way when leading. As Einstein’s definition of insanity says, you are not going to get a different result by doing the same old thing over and over again.


Forget about your clients, prioritise your needs

People often confuse “being you” and authentic online by over-emphasising all aspects of themselves above all else. Red alerts and fire alarms should be going off. Imagine you were hosting a dinner and all your guests were vegetarians. You decide as you want to be “authentic” that you are going to serve medium rare steaks to your guests as you love to eat meat. Being true to yourself is one thing, elevating your own authenticity above others, that’s on another level. Make a choice, dine with others, or eat alone.


Forget about being authentic, just show up

We become so consumed in defining whether we are being authentic that we start looking for authenticity in others. We swipe, filter and photo shop images into our reality of how we “should” be. Words of advice. Just be. You will make mistakes, fall, cry, you will be called names, yelled at and that little inner voice inside will be your main critic. Set your intention, keep serving and despite your inner critic keep choosing to show up. That’s the most authentic thing you can do.




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