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5 steps to regain your professional authenticity in an age of hyperboles

We all know at least one person whom we can call truly authentic. We tend to describe him as being “true to himself” or simply “being real’.

But in today’s attention economy where people seem to want a million followers on their social media profiles, being authentic is quickly becoming a lost sensibility. We also are constantly fed with “authority” lists of what success should look like and how successful people should be.

And you probably have wondered why everyone else seems to be having more successful lives than you on Facebook. Seems like everyone looks better than you on Instagram, don't they? At some point, I bet all these made you question your Self.

Here are my 5 pointers on how you can reclaim your authenticity.

1. Be aware of your top personal values.

Personal values are like the operating systems of your mind. They are formed from your belief systems and are hence mostly subconscious. They affect how you perceive your world, interpret events in your life and react to them. You need to take time out to work out what your top three to five values are.

2. Know what each value mean to you.

It is not enough to pull out your values from your mental framework. You need to know with clarity what each one mean to you. Your description of Success, Determination and Fun won’t be the same as someone else. Yet, your definitions are just as valid as anyone else.

Knowing what they mean is important so that when you tell someone else that you value success, or that you are a very determined person, you know exactly what you are talking about. That creates in you a stronger sense of Self.

You also will not be too bothered when someone else questions your success because you know they obviously have defined it differently from you.

3. One of your top values needs to be about relating to others.

This is something that most people don’t give much thought about. How people perceive you, ie. your personal brand, is very much linked to how you relate to others.

It is about your communication style. How aware are you of your style? How well do you relay confidence and empathy? How tactful are you in expressing your opinions and frustrations? Do some reflection.

4. How do you exhibit your values behaviourally.

It is not enough to know that you got integrity and that you are disciplined. How do you relay these values in your daily interaction with others? It doesn’t have to be complex. Say, you want to project professionalism. You could commit to always arriving for appointments and meetings on time. Let’s face it; punctuality is not as common as we would like to be in the professional setting. It is a simple visible action that will build a positive perception of you over time.

5. Set your boundaries.

There will be times when your values will be tested. When everyone else is habitually late to meetings, would you still arrive on time and wait for the rest?

When your boss instructs you to inflate the expense report, reduce the quality of your product or any other actions that challenge your integrity, what would you do?

Your boundaries will determine your response to circumstances. Will you protest and refuse to inflate that expense report? Will you protest but carry on with it if your boss insisted on it, telling yourself that your conscience is clear? Or, will you just keep quiet and do whatever your boss asks you to do because your value your job?

There are no right answers.

But thinking through these pointers will create a stronger sense of your Self and help you work towards becoming more authentic. One clear trait of authentic people is the consistency in words and action. They walk their talk. And they are not disorientated with other people’s opinion of how one should be.

Benefits of being authentic

  1. When you become clear about your boundaries, difficult choices won’t seem so difficult anymore. You know exactly where you stand on the issue.

  2. People will ‘get’ you because you are consistent. Nobody likes to work with erratic and flaky individuals. Your consistency helps people work with you better. Maybe they don’t like your high standards, but they know why you keep those standards. That helps.

  3. You will have fans and followers. We know that no matter how you are, you can’t please everyone. But being authentic will help you gain trust and likability among a certain group of people. Maybe these are far better fans than the million followers on that person's social media profile.

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