Ever wondered how to show up with authenticity in business? One of the things that I am told quite often after people meet me is that I am very authentic and relatable. I decided very early on in my career that it took far too much of my energy to show up as anyone other than myself. It often feels like life and society expect us to fit into these predefined, and really rather rigid roles. But trying to fit ourselves into a box of someone else’s making with so little room to deviate can feel suffocating. Suppressing our true selves and personal values in order to conform can lead to dissonance, disengagement and even depression.
Showing up with authenticity in business can help to unlock your inner confidence, creativity, and strength, lead you to more success, and, ultimately inspire those around you to show up as their authentic selves too. And isn’t that something we really need more of?
But what is Authenticity?
The Cambridge Dictionary defines authenticity as “the quality of being real or true”. But what does that actually mean? Well, for me that means aligning who I know myself to be internally with the way I portray myself to the outside world through my behaviour. Essentially, it means not pretending to be someone I’m not and showing up as my whole self. It means knowing what my personal values are and actually living them. And it means showing the negative bits and weaknesses as well as the positive and the strengths.
What is Authenticity in Business?
In business, authenticity means being true to your brand values, mission and purpose. It means being transparent, honest, and genuine in all aspects of your business, from your marketing messages to your customer service interactions.
Why is Authenticity in Business important?
Being authentic is important in many ways both for ourselves and for those people around us and who we work with in business. Allowing ourselves to be fully ourselves contributes to our holistic well-being. It promotes happiness, makes us feel fulfilled and helps us to develop higher self-esteem. When we live authentically we tend to be more satisfied with life.
Why is Authenticity in Business Attractive?
We also tend to be drawn to people who show up with authenticity in business as they exude trustworthiness. We respect people who trust themselves, their own motivations and who act with integrity. Authentic people inspire engagement and loyalty. When we show up as our true selves, others feel safe enough to do the same. It encourages us to be vulnerable and to open up to those around us which allows for deeper connections to be made.
Why is it So Hard to be Authentic?
Showing up with authenticity in business sounds great, doesn’t it? However, it’s not an easy thing to achieve. We live in a society where superficiality reigns and where perfection is rewarded. We have a very narrow definition of success that prioritizes monetary wealth above all else.
The marketing messages that we get and the influence that social media plays in this consumer-driven world do a great job of convincing us that we are never enough and that we are somehow flawed. We are sold a lie that makes us doubt ourselves and question who we are.
We are conditioned by our parents, our teachers, our friends, the media, and society in general to conform. There is a massive pressure to fit in and this can make it difficult to show up as our true selves and to live our values every day.
How Can We Be More Authentic?
In order to show up with authenticity in business, we need to create an environment that allows us to feel safe being ourselves and where we feel we belong. We need to feel free to share our true selves, without the worry of being judged or not being accepted. We often conform when we don’t feel safe.
I have just finished reading Dare to Lead by Brene Brown where she discusses the difference between fitting in and belonging. She says that fitting in means changing who we are to be accepted whereas belonging means being accepted for who we are. So a feeling of belonging is essential if we are to allow ourselves to be authentic.
Let Go of Other People’s Expectations
One of the hardest things we need to do to be more authentic is to let go of other people’s expectations of us. The only expectations that matter are the ones that we have for ourselves. Trying to live up to someone else’s expectations can never make us happy and will only lead to us denying our true selves. This is probably the hardest one for me.
Self-awareness is key to being more authentic. You can’t show up as your true self if you don’t really know who you are, what your values are and what motivates you. So authenticity requires us to really get to know ourselves. To do this we need to get in touch with our thoughts. This can be done through periods of quiet self-reflection such as journalling, and meditation or externally by working with a coach for example.
Embrace Your Strengths & Weaknesses
If we embrace our strengths and what makes us unique, we can ensure that we do more of those things. If they are things that we enjoy doing, we are more likely to do them more often and to be recognised for them.
But it is also important to embrace our weaknesses and recognise what we may not be good at. Rather than beating ourselves up about these weaknesses we can accept that this is not our fault and that we can’t be good at everything and that asking for help is not a failing.
Admitting our weaknesses allows us to release ourselves from the burden of doing everything and to outsource. Admitting our weaknesses publically can also be very powerful. Most of us feel bad when we believe the perception that everyone else is perfect and has no weaknesses. It is actually inspiring to see people being real and sharing the lows and it builds trust.
Creating an illusion is just not my vibe. It takes far too much energy for me to weave a delicate illusion of how I want my life and business to be perceived. I also don’t have the capacity to constantly worry about being found out. If I’m honest and show up as my true self and share my actual reality, people can take me or leave me. If they don’t like what they see, they aren’t my people and never were.
Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.Brené Brown
Listen To Your Intuition
This is a huge lesson that I have only recently learnt thanks to exploring my Human Design. I have spent years ignoring my intuition and seeking validation outside of myself. I often know things and I’m not sure where I know them from. This has made me scared of acting on my intuition as I have no tangible evidence for it.
But I now realise that everything I need is within me and I do not need to seek confirmation from anyone else. It might not always make sense to others, but if it makes sense to me and allows me to be true to myself, then it is the right decision for me.
Trusting our own intuition is an integral ingredient for showing up with authenticity in business.
Know Your Values
Knowing our values can act as a north star for us in life and in business. It helps us to get clear on what we want, why we want it and how we want to get there. Our values are like a road map. We can consult them when things feel confusing and when we perhaps have trouble tapping into our intuition.
Rather than just talking about them, people who live their values build trust. They become an aspirational role model for others.
Setting boundaries is extremely difficult, particularly for women as we are socialised to be people pleasers and to put everyone else’s needs above our own. However, we can only be authentic and true to ourselves if we set boundaries that allow us to prioritise our own needs, desires and negotiate for what we want.
However, it takes work to create boundaries. We need to recognise where we are acting in the interests of others and defaulting to behaviours that help us to protect ourselves. Setting boundaries requires us to be vulnerable, but we need to sit with that discomfort and not give in.
Build Your Self-Esteem
Showing up with authenticity in business requires us to share our true selves irrespective of the consequences and what other people will think of us. To be truly authentic requires us to have strong self-esteem, which is how we value ourselves and perceive our own self-worth. The attitude we have towards ourselves, the beliefs that we hold about ourselves and the judgements that we hold about ourselves dictate whether or not we will have the confidence to show up as our authentic selves.
This is why self-love is so important. In order to show up as our true selves we need to love ourselves unconditionally. We need to know and accept that we are not defined by our mistakes or by our weaknesses. We have nothing to prove and we are worthy regardless of what we do and how much we achieve.
As we saw earlier, we live in a society that rewards perfection. But perfection is a myth, an unobtainable goal that we can strive for but that we will never achieve. Reaching for perfection simply holds us back and degrades our self-esteem.
Authenticity requires us to accept that we are not perfect and to embrace our flaws and imperfections as the things that make us unique.
I love this quote by Brene Brown…
To be authentic, we must cultivate the courage to be imperfect—and vulnerable. We have to believe that we are fundamentally worthy of love and acceptance, just as we are.Brené Brown
Being authentic feels vulnerable. It feels like you are turning yourself inside out and allowing people access to your inner workings. It brings with it the risk of other people changing how they view you and what they think of you and potentially even rejecting you.
Being vulnerable is uncomfortable. But this is where growth happens, outside of our comfort zone.
Face Your Fears
Being authentic therefore forces us to face our fears. We need to confront our fears and not run away from them or default to masking them or denying them. It can feel scary to reveal your true self, but the people who matter will accept and love you for all that you are as well as all that you are not.
Practicing Authenticity in Business
Showing up as your authentic self is a process. It takes time to get used to sharing your true self and requires practice. To make it easier you should surround yourself with a support network that can help you to show up authentically and who can help to keep you accountable.
Authenticity isn’t a one-size-fits-all model though. What authenticity means to you may not be the same as someone else’s definition and that is ok. You should do authenticity on your own terms and be accepting of the authenticity of others.
How Authenticity in Business Can Help You Stand Out
Showing up with authenticity in business, particularly in a world that values superficiality, can be a real strength and can help you stand out from the crowd. We are so used to seeing carefully crafted personas that everyone seems to want to project that when we see someone who comes across as genuine and real, it can be quite refreshing. They immediately stand out as someone we can relate to this builds trust and eventually loyalty. At the end of the day, customers are more likely to choose a business that they perceive as genuine and honest as this creates a sense of connection and relatability between the business and its customers.
Stacey Sheppard is the founder of The Tribe, a small community-driven coworking space in Totnes that caters to creative, growth-oriented female entrepreneurs by providing an inspiring working environment designed to foster collaboration, connection and community.