In one of my last business workshops on the topic of“personal branding“, the question was raised as to what authenticity actually means and whether it is also okay to show emotions in public spaces.
Well, that probably depends on what you yourself understand by “authenticity”.
Basically, this term is very often misunderstood. Thus, it can be observed in various media that many people fundamentally believe their “true self” to be what they portray to the outside world.
However, this does not correspond to reality, because we tend to consider “real” what we personally like. Accordingly, it is not surprising that mostly positive, socially recognized characteristics and ways of acting are considered particularly authentic. Yet authenticity means so much more and brings with it diverse perspectives.
So what exactly is authenticity?
What does it mean to be “real”? Aren’t we all committed to different roles every day? We want to be liked, meet expectations at work, fulfill gender or status stereotypes, and mimic the behavior of others whose traits we deem desirable.
Often, terms such as authenticity, credibility, reliability, genuineness or truthfulness are equated with the value of authenticity. For material objects, this is understood to mean originality; for us humans, it is primarily our behavioral and thought patterns that are used as criteria.
However, the most accurate translation is probably the word “authentikós”, which comes from the Greek: to be oneself.
Myth or truth – Who am I and do I want to show myself like this?
For me, being authentic means being able to accept and take responsibility for your whole personality with all its positive as well as negative facets. For this reason, I talk about multiple facets from my life. It’s about finances, business, relationships, but also entrepreneurship, with all its ups and downs. As you can see, this is my form of authenticity and it is constantly balanced with the criterion of self-reflection. So I can always be authentic as long as I respect my basic beliefs as well as values and at the same time consider myself part of an appreciative community.
Honestly, however, I have to admit that in the past I also found it difficult to open up completely with regard to my supposedly “negative” characteristics and thoughts. This is not because I was ashamed of them, but because I wondered why others should take part in this part of my character and story.
Basically, I made the same mistake that many of my colleagues still make today: I unconsciously described my “authentic self” with noble qualities in order to create the feeling for myself and others that we both (author and reader) can feel good about ourselves.
Ultimately, such behavior may lead us to increase our well-being by leaving socially undesirable behavior unmentioned or avoiding it altogether, but it is certainly not authentic. This is also noticeable in the fact that such profiles often lack a connection to a community.
However, with the renewal of some of my social media channels, the increasing experience as an entrepreneur, my inner growth process, which due to its speed feels like Elon Musk’s hyperloop system, I made some important decisions with regard to social networks, which I keep constantly until today:
Authenticity needs contemplation
Have you ever looked at a beautiful painting and after a few months/years realized that it still impresses you, even if your circumstances, tastes or habits have changed? If this is the case, you have managed to completely “lose” yourself in the beauty of the object and accept it, even if you have discovered unevenness, curious color constellations or peculiar shades on it.
From perfection to the beauty of the imperfect
Authenticity works in exactly the same way, except that here even “the painting” is allowed to change. No matter what “shades, bumps, or the like” arise in life, as human beings we always remain authentic in dealing with them (even in the eyes of others) once we have managed to embrace the phenomenon of contemplation. People don’t buy products or services, they believe in people, want to be part of a story or help shape the path of a vision. For this reason, the topic of personal branding has become increasingly important in the professional and corporate context in recent years and is strongly linked to one’s own self-perception.
People want connectedness, this has become clear to us not only since a pandemic occurred. Even in advertising, marketing, and ultimately in social media, a purely one-dimensional self-presentation is not sustainable.
We long for shades, unevenness – For someone to tell us that we are not alone in our (negative) feelings. For this reason, it is important not to use authenticity as a self-dramatization tool and carry it in front of you like a slick shield, but to actively listen, ask questions, interact, and connect with each other.
Should you go the route of revealing more of yourself, definitely be aware that you don’t have to please every person. True to the motto: Let’s be authentically inauthentic together!
It’s okay, not to be okay
To take up the above question again:
Yes, feelings are allowed to be shown in the public sphere, because being authentic does not mean exclusively reporting the positive aspects of life and presenting oneself in a good light.
Authenticity means accepting the contradictions of one’s own self and making them clear. In this way it is possible to show others that not only love, joy and happiness, but also loneliness, sadness and anger belong to oneself.
So the next time you have a bad day, despair, feel fear or are really angry, show your feelings and you will be surprised how great the connection to other people is and how wonderful it feels to be accepted with the whole you.