Being authentic and keeping your job

Written by Charlie Efford

I think being authentic is a tough call for most people, and choosing to be authentic and keeping your job can be a daunting prospect. I would like to look at some of these issues and offer some thoughts on how you can become more authentic and do it in a way that keeps you in the job that you want..

Let me deal with authenticity first – the logic goes like this:

  •         First you have to be aware enough to experience your life fully.
  •         Then you need to be able to accept those experiences –  like them or not.
  •         Finally you can choose how much you want to let others see.

I made a choice to become more authentic in my early 40s. It’s been hard getting to know myself and coming to terms with my layers of life. It’s been hard to accept that some of my thoughts may not go down well – and yet I am allowed to have them. It’s been really hard to be open and vulnerable with my experiences, – and yet it has been worthwhile.

I have gained an inner strength that allows me to rely on my own judgement rather than pandering to popular opinion. I have less tension in my life because I am not routinely thinking one thing and doing another. I have also developed richer and more trusting relationships– because I have started to let people see me and know me as I am. (I also get it wrong lots of times – and this is Ok too).

I hope it is not too hard to see why a Conscious Leader would benefit from developing their authenticity.

So what are the obstacles to becoming more authentic? I think they can be covered by one word – FEAR, whether it is fear of disapproval, fear of being hurt or fear of hurting others.

In John Powell’s book “Why am I afraid to tell you who I am?” – he poses this question to a colleague. The reply was “I am afraid to tell you who I am , because if I tell you who I am, you may not like who I am, and it’s all that I have”.

Facing this existential fear leads to all kinds of unhelpful behaviour.

  •         I may say and do things just to please you so that I keep your approval
  •         I may react aggressively or defensively to avoid being hurt
  •         I may not tell you the truth because I am afraid you may be hurt

All of these behaviours may buy some instant relief – and we can kid ourselves with all kinds of rationalisations that we are doing the right thing for the right reasons- and yet deep down the knowing that we have succumbed to our fears is still there.

These fears are even more prevalent in the workplace. If we speak our truth there is a real fear that we can be outmanoeuvred, ostracised or even sacked. Heretics used to be burned at the stake for airing their views, but hopefully this threat no longer exists.

In principle I believe the only way to overcome a fear is to face it, name it and become friends with it. In my experience, this takes away the power of the fear and returns a freedom to act. I am wary of giving advice to those of you who want to confront their fears in pursuit of becoming more authentic because we are all so different. Some of you may want to dive in, feel the fear and do it anyway; others may want to ease themselves more carefully into the authentic waters.

Some ideas you could try

  • –          Asking others for feedback about how they experience you
  • –          Gaining the support of your family, so they can help you in a safe environment
  • –          At work, ask others if you can give them feedback
  • –          Find a coach, mentor, therapist
  • –          Start listening more actively to your thoughts and feelings
  • –          Keep a journal to support your self-reflection
  • –          When asked how you are – tell them the real answer

As you develop your self-awareness and practice letting others see you,  you will become more comfortable with being authentic.  Those around you will notice that you have changed and you might even encourage them to start the journey too.

You will probably be wary of who you can trust at first. When this happens listen carefully to your inner voice – are your concerns coming from your own fear or are your gut instincts   picking up on something that you should genuinely be cautious about?  I encourage you to go at your own pace, only being more open when it feels right for you. After all – if you have made the choice to be more authentic – then you only really have your self to answer to.

Life becomes so much simpler when you choose to be authentic and there are huge benefits for those who want to Lead. Go on – Have a go. You can get there and keep the job you want.


About the author

Charlie Efford


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