I have been intrigued how often the word “Authenticity is used and misused in business. The common phrase these days is to bring your “whole self” to work. But what does that actually mean?

The Merriam–Webster Dictionary describes Authenticity as being “real or genuine, not copied or false. True and accurate, made to be or look just like an original.”

So what is your original? Is it as simple as rolling out of bed and turning up to work or is it something more than that?

All too often, people say, “I am just being my authentic self” as an excuse for being or having:

Limiting beliefs, habits and behaviours
Remaining stuck in their comfort zone
Shrinking, hiding away or playing small
Holding back their voice and genuine ideas for fear of being judged
Fixed or closed mindset because it is easy and familiar
Passive, Passive/Aggressive or Aggressive behaviours to self-protect
To hide their full potential so as not to make others uncomfortable

In her famous Poem, “A return to Love”, Marianne Williamson writes:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure

It is our light (authenticity) not our darkness that most frightens us

There is nothing enlightened (authentic) about shrinking

And as we let our own light (authentic nature) shine, we consciously give

Other people the permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our fear,

Our presence (authenticity) automatically liberates others

Her reference to the light of who we are, is what I believe is our true authenticity. It is not the persona we hide under or the one that emerges out of fear or defense. When we access our true authenticity, we are living our beliefs, principles and values. This is not an idea or a noun. It is a verb and an action. Simon Sinek describes values as “who you are when you are at your natural best.”

For me, Authenticity is:

Owning your space and presence with confidence

Speaking your truth and doing the decent thing

Becoming brave and taking the appropriate risks to develop

Having a growth mindset that is curious and open to new ideas

Being assertive, holding your ground and having boundaries when you need to

Taking care of yourself as much as you take care of others

Embracing your vulnerabilities, mistakes and being accountable for your actions

Owning your identity, story and journey

Making decisions that align to what is right and not just what is popular

Opening to your highest potential

I like to define Authenticity as “knowing who you are at your core and living by that truth.” Needless to say, being authentic is not an arrival point. It is a lifelong journey of discovery, exploration, self-reflection and awareness. It is digging deep and uncovering what we stand for and are made of – our strengths, limitations and resilience. It is about being inspired by those around us and staying true to who we are and who we want to be. It is the courage to find your path, lead by example and leave a trail for others to follow.

In the recent 2021 Wimbledon Championship, the number one world player Novak Djokovic was asked by an American journalist what it was like to be the bad guy chasing the top players to reach his dream. He calmly responded that he did not see himself as the “bad guy” or chasing others but as someone making “his own path, his own journey and his own history.” Owning his authentic self has come from years of challenging himself, his thinking, his behaviour and his desire to be the best version of himself.

So how will you show up as your Authentic self?

How will you live by your authentic vision and truths?

How will you carve a path aligned with your values and beliefs?

How will you be kind to yourself when you trip up, fall or make mistakes?

How will you lead by example so your honesty, credibility and integrity inspires others to trust and follow you.

The Business leadership author Dr. Lance Secretan sums up Authenticity when he says:

 Authenticity is the alignment of head, mouth, heart, and feet –

thinking, saying, feeling, and doing the same thing – consistently.

This builds trust, and followers love leaders they can trust.

So the next time you use the word Authenticity, take a pause and notice if the word reflects a limited version of yourself or your full and true essence.