We use the word authentic a lot these days.
And, in part, we can thank millennials. This concept has become their brand — they’re the generation that wants real, honest, pure experiences. They want it from their relationships, their favorite brands, even down to their food and drink. They’re the generation that makes us think about who we really are and what we really enjoy. They make us think twice about times when we feel compelled to be someone we’re not.
There are definitely worse things.
We’ve all had moments of inauthenticity. We find ourselves in situations where we want to fit in, sound knowledgeable, or feel good enough. So we go along with the crowd or the conversation, agreeing with concepts or participating in behaviors we don’t really believe in, all for the sake of gaining friends or impressing colleagues who aren’t really like us to begin with.
In the end, the relationships that stand the test of time are those where we don’t ever feel uncomfortable or out of place. We’re appreciated for the things we love, the things we believe — for who we are. We’re asked about that person on the regular. We don’t have to agree or have the same personality or interests in order to coexist, and that can be so refreshing.
So how do we find that sweet spot? Explore these questions to determine whether you’re being authentic, and how you can adjust to be yourself more often.
What do you believe, and why?
In Simon Sinek’s TED Talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” he says this: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” While Sinek is focused on finding your “why” as a method for effective marketing and brand-building for businesses, it can completely be applied to discovering who you are.
Think about it. We choose our friends not solely because of their actions, but because of their motivations. If they are motivated by their personal beliefs – if they choose to represent those beliefs no matter their audience — their actions will reflect it. Then they are truly authentic. They’ve found their genuine voice and personality and don’t care to share it with the world.
What do you believe? Why do you believe it? What do you love? What makes you feel most like yourself? Ask yourself those questions and be aware of (even write down) the answers. Be that person everywhere you go, especially in the places you feel the least comfortable. This will help you establish authenticity as your personal brand. As Sinek said, “It’s those who start with why that have the ability to inspire those around them.”
What makes you feel uncomfortable?
Understanding when you’re being inauthentic is important in avoiding it. Think about the last time you felt uncomfortable in a social situation. What happened? Who was involved? What topics did you discuss? What actions were you encouraged to take? Try to pin down the moment when you felt like an imposter in that encounter. And then decide: Will I do this again with a different approach, or avoid it all together? If you choose to be present in that social situation again, prepare yourself to politely decline if it’s the actions that make you uncomfortable, or to share your likes, beliefs or opinion respectfully in conversation. You never know. You may be more respected for it than you realize.
Who is your tribe?
Once you’ve explored these questions about yourself, you’re on your way to discovering the people who feel comfortable being authentic with you. You likely already know them. Maybe you haven’t put quality time in with them because you’re trying to figure out this whole personal brand thing. That’s OK. Now it’s time to find your way back. And if you don’t? If you’re in a new space and meeting new people? That’s OK too. Now you know who you’re looking for. Share your authenticity up front as you forge any new friendship. Because of your self-exploration, you’ll be aware when someone else is being inauthentic — and you’ll be ready to move on.
Don’t just Be You on the inside — Be You on the outside too. Our shirts are the perfect way to do it!