You've probably heard this phrase tossed around in discussions on leadership and self-improvement. But it's interesting how a phrase so commonly used — something closely tied to knowing yourself — can mean such different things to different people.
Growing up, I bounced around countries every three years, and let me tell you, being genuine felt like a puzzle. In Japan, where I spent some years, it was all about blending in. There's a saying there: "The nail that sticks out gets hammered down." Suffice it to say, they take fitting in seriously.
Fast forward to my university days in the US, I experienced a total shift. People were all about sharing their opinions openly and letting their unique quirks shine. Pulled in two very different directions, I spent my life shuffling through different versions of me, trying to find the right fit.And over the last few years, I’ve been on a journey of discovering what authenticity means for me — as a coach, as an educator, as a wife, as… Fukuko.
But before we dive into why authenticity matters, let's peek at why it's so tricky to navigate. Have you ever noticed how you can feel like a completely different person in certain meetings? As if you're flipping a switch to become this "other you"? Almost like… a chameleon?
Turns out, it's often about sense of belonging. According to this study from MIT, they say our brains react to social inclusion the same way they react to cravings for food. It's like, we're wired to connect. And that's where the cycle starts - trying to fit into a mould that doesn't really fit our own values.
And what exactly is authenticity? Contrary to popular belief, authenticity ****is not about blurting out the first thought that crosses your mind. Many perceive this as authenticity, though it can be a result of social conditioning, trauma, or responses that aren't truly genuine.
On the Art of Accomplishment podcast, authenticity is defined as the ability to "Embrace oneself without evasion or defense." True authenticity emerges when you grant yourself permission to acknowledge, listen to, and express your inner self.
When we're not being authentic, a few things happen. First, we shortchange our potential by following what we think we "should" do, rather than what truly lights us up. Second, our relationships lose that juicy depth.
"When we're busy curating an image for the outside world, we disconnect from ourselves inside, and that means we can't fully connect with others."
Lastly, we end up swimming in a sea of regrets and "what ifs." Life isn't all about right and wrong decisions, and authenticity becomes our anchor.
To embrace authenticity, a journey of time and intentionality is essential. A connection between heart, mind, and body must be forged. Often, our minds rush to find solutions, yet authenticity compels us to turn inward to our hearts and bodies.
Next time you're in a nerve-wracking situation, notice your emotions. Pay attention to how your body reacts. Is your stomach doing somersaults during that conversation? Are your shoulders up by your ears in that meeting? These signals are your starting point for recognising patterns, tuning into your inner self, and making a change.
Or ask yourself, as I often do with my coaching clients, "What's that 'other you' you’re looking for?"