Authenticity Is Something You Wear

Jan Deelstra (2)Authenticity is a trait that’s easily spotted. It’s your second skin. It’s also very attractive, in the sense that others are attracted to the genuineness of authenticity. It’s also apparently a rare and desirable characteristic.

The old adage, “Fake it till you make it,” has helped many people get through very challenging situations. Walking into new situations such as starting a new job, mingling with strangers, facilitating a workshop, or that number one fear of public speaking, can cause us to feel insecure.

In an attempt to neutralize our nervous energy, we forge ahead by portraying a forced persona of confidence. This kind of “faking it” can be a valuable tool and may help us to cope in uncertain situations. I prefer to see it as facing the fear and doing “it” anyway. It’s that NIKE add that says, “Just do it.”

But, here’s the thing we have to watch out for. Sometimes when we are feeling stressed, our nervous behaviors can suddenly show up as if they are on steroids. An example of this is a person who and is typically extroverted may over compensate, and is then perceived as loud and boisterous when in a stressful and unfamiliar situation. Others may get the impression that this person is arrogant, cocky, or generally inauthentic.  This may be completely untrue or not; regardless, if we don’t manage ourselves during these types of situations, we too could give the wrong impression of not being authentic or genuine.

3 Common Missteps People Make When Feeling Self-Conscious or Nervous

1. Making fun of yourself. Although it’s common to poke fun at ourselves, use this kind of humor sparingly. Self-deprecating humor is not self-esteem building behavior. Leave these jokes to the stand-up comedians. If you constantly downplay who you are, people will absolutely perceive you in the same way you represent yourself.  Remember, whatever you speak, think, or dream about, you ultimately bring about, so consistently speak approvingly of yourself, and since we know that what we are projecting is our self-perception, also speak kindly of others.

2. Bragging or dominating the spotlight. When speaking with others, do not dominate the conversation. Confident people share the spotlight by showing interest in other people. Listen. Really listen, with your whole attention on the person speaking. You’ll be astonished at the results of authentic communication and connections being created.

3. Gossiping. There’s an easy trick for breaking the nasty gossip habit. The next time you’re tempted to say something derogatory about someone, imagine the person standing next to you.  How would your words make that person feel? How would you feel if those words were directed at you? Your mother taught you, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it.” Your mother was right. And anyone who has ever played the game, Telephone, can attest to the fact that the facts are wrong by the second repeating of the gossip. Have some class and don’t gossip. And if you’re tempted, bring to your mind’s eye the image of Eleanore Roosevelt saying, “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.” Step consciously into the realm of “great minds.”

eleanor-roosevelt with quote


Next time you feel nervous and less than confident, pay special attention to your behaviors when fueled by nervous energy. And, if you catch yourself committing any of the missteps above, take a deep cleansing breath, and exhale most of your fears. Repeat the process three times, and reconnect with your authentic self – not with your “fake-it-til-you-make-it” self. It shows. You’ll be rewarded in kind for your rare and precious authenticity.


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