How to Find ‘Authentic’
I have a client at the moment who told me one of the things she wants to work on is being more authentic in her communication. I’m sure she isn’t alone.
I want to be more authentic at work.
I want to be the real me in my relationship.
I want to be seen for who I am.
We all want some version of that, in some, if not all, parts of our life I’m sure.
But what is it, and how do we find it?
Putting Words to a Feeling…
If we were to put words to it, we might describe it as a connection that feels genuine and honest; that is also easy and obvious, we know it when we see it, because we respond to it in others, even if we can’t quite describe it.
And yet, higher somehow, like we are stepping out of our human persona and tapping into a new, more gracious perspective, without the platitudes, or rehearsed opinions that we often bring to our everyday conversation.
It’s simple, and beautiful.
We can taste the difference, like a home-made, lovingly prepared, meal versus a pot noodle hurriedly bought from the corner store. One is nourishing and vibrant, no matter how simple, another is flat, industrial and you can practically taste the E-numbers.
We recognise it, even if we can’t always articulate it.
What’s the ‘Recipe’, Then?
If it’s a home-cooked meal, what’s the recipe? Simple question, right?
But there’s a trap in looking to that question: when we make something about ‘getting there’, we can be fooled into thinking the answer must lie with the thing we are looking for. That there even is a thing; an identity we can wear, like a favourite coat, a technique we can practice. It can seem as if, once we find ‘it’, then we’re done, we’ll be good.
What we don’t realise is that there is no ‘it’ to find.
There’s no ‘authentic’ to create or hold on to; it’s simply what’s there when we let go of expectations we put on ourselves or hold for others.
It’s what’s true beneath the noise.
It’s This Simple…
It’s a lot more simple than even thinking we need to learn to cook, or follow a recipe. Just do this…
Say what feels true,
as I told my client.
Or, as I sometimes phrase it,
What feels true right now?
I don’t mean, ‘ let’s talk about our feelings ‘, and bring up all those niggles I might want to get off my chest, just so I will feel better and also justified in my annoyance.
Nope. I mean, what, underneath any nervousness or irritation, actually feels true about a situation, that likely hasn’t occurred to me to say before?
My neighbour stopped me to complain about the building works across the road from her.I could see it bothered her, and I could see she wanted to share that, but what came out was “you know, it doesn’t really bother me.”
I wasn’t trying to deflect her, or dismiss her concern, or be unsympathetic. It just felt true to me that I didn’t feel particularly strongly about my neighbours project, and, in that moment, it felt more genuine to say what was true, rather than make-up a scenario for the purpose of joining her or arguing with her.
I did something similar with a potential client this week,
You know, normally after a conversation like this I feel really clear about how I can help you, and, right now, I just don’t.
I’m not saying I’m perfect, by any means, and I don’t always tap into that truly ‘authentic’ place in me but, I try, and, when I do, I can notice the difference.
I don’t need to rush, I don’t need to prove anything. I can pause and allow what’s true to show up. It’s a lot easier than trying to process at lightning speed what I think my potential client might want, or what I want, and dream up something in the moment.
Sure, I might look like an idiot, or that I’m being unhelpful, or a bad coach (quite possibly!), but, if nothing comes to mind to say, then why would I say anything at all?
Give it a Moment…
Another client, when trying to formulate what he had to bring to the strategic debate in his organisation, commented that he really didn’t know what he could contribute.
I don’t know what we should do,
he said, looking slightly defeated at what a bad ‘leader’ he was being. I knew there was at least a whisper of something going on for him that he thought he ‘had to’ show up in a certain way now he was in this more senior role, that his boss had ‘expectations’ of him, that he genuinely wanted to represent his department as best he could, but he was all out of good ideas…
We all have that kind of noise, stories we run about what is or what might be, and more stories, often sub-consciously, about the implications of that.
And we can put those to one side and go deeper.
What feels true?
I asked him.
He paused for a moment and then told me he felt they weren’t spending enough time deciding on the balance of X versus Y. The leadership team was diving straight into a shift from one to the other, without considering, and deciding, consciously and thoughtfully, what the best balance of these two approaches might be both short-term and longer-term.
It was new, and fresh, it was insightful, and helpful I thought, and it felt true.
That’s what we mean when we use the word ‘authentic’.
We want the feeling of something ‘real’, the fresh, impersonal version of the idea, not the rehearsed idea or the one that is motivated by ‘being seen to be…’ something we’ve made-up, or by trying to prove ourselves one thing or another thing.
It’s looks very simple to me: when we can step out of thinking there is any ‘position’ we should or shouldn’t take, when we allow the mental noise to settle just for a moment, there is a stronger signal that wants to be heard. A wiser, more compassionate, less judgemental, less personal sense of what is true, even if it doesn’t make complete logical sense or you’ve never thought it before.
We all have this same sense of ‘knowing’ beneath any idea of being authentic, or being right, or being clever, or being anything we think we have to be.
It’s a lot easier to speak from that place than to try and make-up something that will probably always fall short of some imagined, and possibly ever-growing, never-achievable checklist in your head.
Authenticity is easier than you think, if you simply,
Say what feels true.
Originally published at https://cathypresland.com on May 10, 2020.