I’m on a bit of an authenticity kick these days. Perhaps because I’m reading a great book by Andrew Potter entitled the Authenticity Hoax.
Although I’m a believer that we must be true to ourselves, I sometimes worry that “being authentic” becomes an excuse for not changing what we need to change.
Last week, a student came to see me about a low classroom participation grade. His reason for his poor performance? “I’m shy, so I can’t talk in class”. His self-image was holding him back from completing a critical part of the course.
Our authentic selves are a collection of our personal experiences and what others tell us about ourselves. Sometimes our understanding of ourselves is accurate, sometimes it is not. We all know what we are good at and what we aren’t good at. But sometimes we use this perception of ourselves as an excuse to resist change.
If we buy into the idea of authenticity, we buy into the premise that we shouldn’t have to change who we are to be effective in a workplace. Unfortunately, that premise doesn’t hold true in the world. People often think if someone doesn’t say anything, that they don’t have anything to say. While this might not be true, and it’s totally unfair to quieter people, the reality is that people who can talk in front of others have an advantage.
While we might like to be our authentic selves, sometimes the expectations of our bosses or the world don’t fit with our image of ourselves. Sometimes we have to change who we are, to achieve what we want to achieve, even if it is uncomfortable.