Our April topic of “Authenticity” was suggested a number of times, by guests who wanted to discuss conflicts between personal and work or relationship needs, standing up for something, finding “true self,” and the Imposter Syndrome (feeling like a fraud).
- What if we are different people in different contexts — at work or with different groups of friends?
- When is being inauthentic useful or better in some way?
- How does social media impact how we express our selves, perceive others, or shape our identity?
- What is the role of honesty, or expressing what we believe?
- What’s the purpose of authenticity? What do we intend to get or be by being authentic?
- ‘Being authentic’ and ‘being true to yourself’ are popular ideas — when do people “use” or “perform” authenticity?
Below are some of our questions and takeaways from the discussion! Use them as a jumping off point to ask your own questions or have your own insights — take what is interesting or useful to you, and don’t worry about the rest.
You may also be interested in our discussion blog posts about… Practical Mindfulness, Imposter Syndrome, Family Expectations, Unproductive Days, and Tough Conversations.
KEY TAKEAWAYS — here’s what participants wanted to remember:
- It is alright to be different, even contradictory, in different contexts — at this job versus another. With my family, versus with a sports group or with my band. These are all parts of us!
- Our identity can be incohesive, paradoxical, constantly changing, not easily fitting into a category. I’ve been expecting myself to fit into one “storyline” or “identity” and I’ve been rejecting some of my preferences or interests because of that.
- Feeling like an Imposter can be useful… It motivates me to keep moving forward. It helps me acknowledge all the people and situations that have helped me. But, I’m also aware of where it holds me back, and notice when I feel it. I’m aware that many other people, successful people, feel the Imposter Syndrome, too.
- It’s fine to not express myself or my opinion. I can be authentic and self-aware without putting it on display.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS — these are the reflections we started with. Feel free to use them to reflect!
- How do you relate to different groups in your life (your work team, family, partners, friends, acquaintances, and other groups)? What stays strong and clear throughout? What adapts, fluctuates, or becomes less relevant?
- What’s a time when what you wanted was at odds with what was wanted from you? When has there been a conflict between personal, partner, friend, company, or stakeholder needs/values?
- What do you believe should be the relationship between things one is passionate/excited about and how one makes a living?
- When have you felt deeply good, like your “true self,” fully authentic — or however you may define or word it?
- When have you felt uncomfortable, “fake,” or inauthentic? Small moments and drastic life-altering experiences are all welcome.
- When have you felt that other’s perception of your success/skills/ability was higher than your own? When have you felt that your achievement was more about randomness or luck than ability? What did you do then? (imposter syndrome)
- When have you felt confused or unsure about “who you are?” What did you do then?
Why does authenticity matter? What’s the purpose?
- When I feel like we are both being authentic, I feel a sense of connection, trust, feeling heard and seen.
- I want to know that others share my experiences… especially of things that are scary, unsettling, heartbreaking.
- If people are true to their thoughts and preferences, things flow more smoothly and predicable. I can expect behaviors from them, so I can depend on others and have them depend on me
- If people express themselves, I have a better sense of who to connect with, who I’d like to get to know more.
- It good and meaningful to express something I am feeling, to stand up for something I value. I think it’s just the contrast of letting time go by unsaid, or standing by and watching as something I don’t like happens.
- Is authenticity necessary?
- Where are you holding back? Why?
When is being inauthentic useful?
- I wouldn’t want everyone to behave at work as they would at a rock concert, or vice versa.
- Maybe it is good that there are completely different norms in different situations — we can be authentic just to the situation, even though we wouldn’t do that at all in a different moment.
- There’s less friction! We all have invisible “rules” to follow.
- Less rejection? Less moments of realising that we are different or not understood by others?
On honesty and feelings:
- In sharing experiences at work and on social media, we were left with many new questions:
- How much am I responsible for other’s feelings or experiences?
- How much am I open to debate… in person, on social media, with those I know and those I don’t?
- Do I believe I should be honest to people? Should I “subject” (or force) honest, useful feedback onto others?
- Is it worth my energy to give feedback, to step up, or to voice my opinion on a contentious topic?
The search for personal “authenticity”:
- What does it feel like in my body when I am unauthentic? Where is there discomfort or tension?
- “Pretending to be someone I’m not” is a good thing if I realise I’m doing it — because I have the choice to behave that way, and I’ll have more information about what feels best for me.
- I expect “cohesiveness” from myself — like my past choices and current projects can be described easily in a story. Clear explanations of what I’ve done and predictability in where I’m going… but this expectation really stresses me out.
- I label myself in a certain way… Feminist, Conservative… and I often try to say things to fit into those labels even when they aren’t the truest things or the most pressing thoughts.
- There are lots of identities… what I think of myself, what I think others associate with me, what they actually think, who I am at different times or moods or contexts.
- I read that most motivation comes from identity (“I am a learner”) rather than rational thought (“learning this will benefit me in X,Y,Z ways). We play characters or roles, in a way.
- I try to be “how I think I should be.” I have spent so much time crafting this particular identity.
- Do I have to express myself to be authentic? Can’t I just be authentic inside my mind? I think expression is unnecessary.
We are authentic, yet behave differently in different contexts:
- I have a life separate from my work life — raw, honest, blunt. It feels so liberating and true … but I can’t imagine having to work in that context.
- I’ve had separate social media accounts to have different, consistent personalities.
- Intimate conversations are something I value, yet I don’t want that all the time. Small talk can be refreshing. Pop music can be refreshing.
- I’m “less authentic” with coworkers… maybe I’m afraid of something. Maybe I just interact with them in a way that will work best for the team and our projects together.
- I’m suspicious of other’s authenticity — do they want to satisfy criteria and please upper management, or do something difficult and fulfilling?
“Authenticity” is a social media trend:
- Some people “perform” authenticity — wanting to make themselves seem open and vulnerable for the purpose of attracting a following.
- Social-media-authenticity can make things too light, too viral and trivial. But the again, its hard to get important, difficult issues in the light by being dark and heavy as well (on depression, eating disorders, racism, losing a child, mental illness, and much more) I hope that people will find the people and blog posts that make a difference in their lives.
- I don’t like when people post cryptic statuses about their life. Shouldn’t they just call? Maybe they worry that people will judge them? Maybe they are afraid of rejection?
- Are people asking (hoping for) attention? Are they simply expressing themselves, and feeling better now that they will be expressed?
- People like “secret” apps — places where they can share a secret, something bad they’ve done, their shame, their feel. Perhaps there’s a desire to be expressed. Perhaps its the consolation that we are not along in what is difficult — and we can feel that without revealing ourselves.
On Imposter Syndrome:
- It’s harder for me because I know Imposter Syndrome exists and I still experience it and have trouble with it, though I “shouldn’t”
- I feel it often.
- I think my successes are due to having help, when others have “earned it” because of “struggle.”
- I’ll do better to remember that we all have it, to be aware of when it’s affecting me.
- Even though I know its a common experience, I still have trouble sharing it with others.