Authenticity and Risk
I've been thinking a lot about "truth" lately. It started with the article I wrote and the session I did at the CalSAE conference in April. But a couple of weeks ago, inspired by Maddie's post, I challenged everyone: what would YOU do differently if your work and your world demanded real authenticity?
First, did anyone have an answer to that question? If so, leave me a comment. In the meantime, let's talk about authenticity.
It seems like a simple issue–just be yourself, right? Not exactly. I look at my day and all the people I interact with, from coworkers who report to me, to my boss, to the person at the dry cleaners, to my friends, to my kids, to my Mom, etc. If you collected all those interactions and placed them next to each other, you'd see a lot of different "people" in me. That was part of Maddie's original point in her blog post–that these multiple identities are becoming transparent with the help of social media.
And it's obviously okay to have multiple ways of interacting. We call these roles, and playing roles is not in and of itself inauthentic. It's okay for me to be one way around my kids and another way around my office colleagues (and both groups are grateful!).
Within each role, however, there is the opportunity to deny your true self, and it scares me how often we choose to do just that. We choose the convenience of the role over the expression of our selves. Frequently we are not even aware we are doing it. The role is safe and predictable, so we play it, and we choose to ignore the impact it has on us when we end up being less than our selves.
There is a way out of this trap, but it involves risk. In order to push the role boundaries, you have to risk. In order to truly be yourself, you have to put yourself out there, risking the reactions from those around you. The reward of actually being yourself, of course, is tremendous for both you and those around you. So In my mind, the risk is worth it.
Risk is one of those concepts like conflict–we're scared of it and often don't like it and want to mitigate it and control it, but, in fact, risk and conflict drive life! There is no creativity or growth or development without either of them. So embrace it, and be yourself.