Do you ever feel strung out or nervous because you’re trying to make the best impression on somebody you just met?
Does a feeling of unease gnaw at you when you just go with what your peers want, even if it makes you feel uncomfortable?
In a world where we crave Likes on our Facebook or Instagram posts, where our lives are curated for all to admire, do you ever find it hard to just “keep it real”?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you’re reading the right article.
Here we will look into what authenticity means, why it’s sometimes hard to follow our own hearts and some traits of an authentic person (that can’t be faked).
Without further ado, let’s dive in.
What is authenticity?
What does it mean for a person to be authentic?
In the simplest terms, it is when you are being true to yourself – when you live by your values, beliefs, and stick to your convictions.
Your authentic self goes beyond your profession and even who you are in relation to someone else.
Whether you’re someone’s daughter, son, niece, nephew, wife, husband, friend, colleague, or boss, your true self stands independent of all these things.
When your thoughts, words, and actions align with one another, then you may have the traits of an authentic person.
Too often, our lives get in the way of becoming authentic.
For instance, you might have jobs where we have to perform at a certain level, which involves you planning things down to the minutest detail, or detaching personal feelings from decision-making processes (like hiring someone for a job).
However, your real self might be the total opposite – your real self believes in living in the moment, slowing down, and just going with the flow. You might also be most yourself when you use your mind and your heart when making choices.
That said, C-level executive coach and author Henna Inam describes authenticity as being brave enough to live what we think is a successful life.
It’s reconciling the logical, worldly side of yourself with your inner, freer side, which can be one of the traits of an authentic person.
What happens when you abandon your authentic self?
When you constantly choose the face we show the world over your authentic self, you might get too caught up in the pursuit of perfection.
While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be our best versions (it’s only human, after all), we tend to forget the thing about perfection – it doesn’t exist.
The end result? Burnout.
Always putting your best foot forward can be exhausting. You find yourself drowning in things people expect of you and even things you expect of yourself.
Not being authentic prevents you from enjoying the moment, focusing on chasing things in your life and not on what you already have.
What are some of the traits of an authentic person?
Nobody’s perfect, and this is something that you know of yourself and of others.
And because you’re aware of this fact, you’re slow to judge others, if at all.
Nowadays, it’s so easy to pass judgment on something or someone, especially if you’re looking through the lens of social media. All too often, we forget that there’s a real being behind that post.
But as an authentic person, you understand that everyone has their shortcomings and you’re all just out here in the world doing your best.
This may make you more compassionate and more forgiving towards others, even when it’s hard to do so, and that’s one of the unmistakable traits of an authentic person.
In turn, when you are more understanding of other people, you allow yourself to be open with others on a deeper level, too.
If you can’t share your real self with others, how can you ever hope to be authentic?
You’re constantly looking inward, readjusting and evaluating how your life is going; rather, if it’s going the way you envisioned.
Are your actions and words aligned with your values?
Are you learning from your mistakes?
How can you improve yourself moving forward?
Depending on your answers to these queries, you take the necessary steps to steer yourself in the direction you want to go.
Therefore, self-reflectiveness is among the strongest traits of an authentic person.
This quality relies on focusing on your daily activities.
Being intentional means taking the time out to plan each day, identifying your priorities and your passions.
Even if it doesn’t seem like a lot, actions add up to a whole lot.
What we do with our time makes us who we are.
Being authentic means being honest with others, and being honest with yourself.
You respect yourself enough to do what is right, even when no one else is looking – which means that you aren’t doing it for admiration or some other external validation.
Being honest also entails some measure of courage, because others might not want to hear what you have to say. You don’t choose who you are honest with, and you don’t sugarcoat it to spare their feelings.
An authentic person inspires trust in people who appreciate their honesty.
With you, what others see is what they get.
Another one of the traits of an authentic person is working hard at being consistent.
This connects to the quality of being self-reflective, where you base your future actions off of your self-evaluation.
You understand that working on yourself is a life-long process, but the important thing is to keep at it.
Your word is also your bond: you don’t say one thing and turn around just to do differently. You stick to your guns, no matter if it’s contrary to public opinion.
7) Not easily swayed
This means that you’re able to resist peer pressure better than others can.
Unlike others, you’re not immediately spending money that you don’t have on, say, the latest model of the iPhone, or splurging on designer items just because you want to win the approval and praise of other people.
You know who you are and you know what you want out of life. If what society wants from you does not serve you, you would gladly forego it.
You’re not blinded by the flash of material wealth or novelty, no matter how popular it is with your peers at the moment.
8) Grounded in reality
Among the sure traits of an authentic person is being grounded in reality.
You have no delusions about the world, such as believing that the world owes you something.
You also choose who you put your trust in.
9) Sets boundaries
Knowing how to set boundaries is also a true mark of authenticity.
And it makes perfect sense: as an authentic person, you want nothing to disturb your peace, nor do you want to be forced to do things you don’t want to do or are misaligned with your values.
Through boundaries, you cut out toxic people and avoid toxic situations, allowing you to stay true to yourself.
Why is it so hard for people to be authentic?
Ever since we were little kids, we have embarked on a journey of balancing parts of ourselves so other people would accept us. In other words, we aimed to please them.
When we got a little older, we did the same thing to get ahead in our jobs, make friends or to gain a partner.
Every time we do this, we mold ourselves into people we think others want us to be.
Why do we do this? There’s more than just one answer, but you don’t need to dig deep to figure it out:
- We’re afraid people won’t like us;
- won’t accept us;
- will judge us;
- Or that we’re opening ourselves up to being vulnerable.
Or maybe it’s even all of the above.
This behavior stemming from childhood was carried over into adulthood where we shape ourselves to appear a certain way in other people’s eyes.
Social media hasn’t made that easier either. It has compounded the need we feel to construct a version of ourselves we think our peers will like.
But as I said, what we show the world – called the Adaptive Self – isn’t necessarily in line with who we truly are – the Authentic Self.
Which begs the question in the following next section:
What’s the point of being authentic?
It’s a fair question.
If people end up accepting the version of us that we intend for them to see, what’s the benefit of having the traits of an authentic person?
When you are authentic, you know who you are.
You’re more present in what’s happening to you and around you.
You are freer because you’re following what you want to do, unburdened by those who frown upon it. You become happy (or happier).
You’ll also know who is worth having in your life because it is they who will love and accept you for who you are on the inside.
You’ll have more honest and more intimate relationships with others because you’re opening up yourself to them.
Being authentic is not about being perfect. In fact, it’s not even about striving for perfection.
In my view, it’s striving for excellence. It’s when we make the effort to become to very best, realest versions of ourselves.
When we aren’t muddled by society’s (or even our own) expectations for us, only then can we figure out what’s right for us and what gives us joy.