Courageous Authenticity: I first happened upon this phrase earlier in 2020. I was describing someone as having “contagious authenticity”. I used to really like that phrase and was considering it for a future book title until, well, COVID kind of took some of the shine off of using the word “contagious”. I reflected on the qualities of the person I referenced, and the word courageous became a much more accurate and meaningful way to express what I was trying to capture, anyway.
In the immortal words of Kermit the Frog, “It ain’t easy being green.” Well, it ain’t easy being authentic either. It is a perpetual choice of courage over comfort. I believe courageous authenticity is about standing in your own right space – always. And that’s no small feat! To really be courageously authentic, it may take intentional work to set aside thought frameworks you’ve adopted along the way that try to force you down a cattle chute going the opposite direction from where you want to go. Courageous authenticity may also require fortitude and effort to find clarity and ways to stifle the noise of other voices in your head besides that one, clear voice whispering which way your heart wants to go. It also requires bravery, knowing that the authentic choice may not always be the popular choice. To live a courageously authentic life means you will sometimes disappoint others so that you do not disappoint yourself. You may disrupt how others see you, and they very well may not like that disruption.
To borrow a phrase from my dad, courageous authenticity is one of those things that “says easy, does hard.”
So how the hell do you become more courageously authentic?
- Practice! Start by eliminating the white lies. In 2009, Psychology Professor Emeritus Paul Ekman from the University of California-San Francisco found that the average person lies three times within 10 minutes. Think of your day-to-day conversations. We are asked how we are doing and respond, “Fine!” when truthfully we are anything but. Someone asks if they can help us, and we say “No, no… I’ve got it.” But really, a little help would make things so much easier. We face disappointment and tell ourselves, “Eh, it wasn’t really that big of a deal anyway.” But in reality, it was meaningful to us. Build your courageous authenticity muscles by practicing consistent truth-telling — starting with the small stuff.
- Intentionally apply a strict filter. One of my favorite sayings about data management is “garbage in, garbage out.” I like to apply that to whose voices I allow in my head besides my own, as well. Now, I’m not saying that your well-meaning mentor, your vociferous best friend, or even your beloved grandma are speaking garbage to you. Or, at least, not necessarily. But it IS possible that they are sharing opinions, thoughts, or pieces of advice that don’t ring true to you. Regardless of where it comes from, be sure you apply a super-strict filter when getting input (solicited or otherwise) from others. Check it against your authentic self and true nature before incorporating it into your action steps.
- Swap your “should”. Any time I find myself saying or thinking the word should, it’s a little red flag for me, requesting my attention and a quick check-in. Oftentimes, I find that swapping my “should” for the legitimate question, “What do I want?” leads me on a whole new path, one that’s much more aligned with my authenticity. It can sometimes be difficult to answer that question, and yes, it often requires courage to follow a different path, but it has never failed to be more deeply rewarding than simply doing something because “I should”.
Yes, choosing to live with courageous authenticity might cause some raised eyebrows, invite some challenging conversations, and result in some gut-clenching moments. But as you live more in line with your authentic self, you’ll also notice some deep peace creeping in and boosts in your satisfaction with your days. I’ve also found that the more aligned I am with my authenticity and the more courageously I fight for that alignment, the more ease I experience. It doesn’t mean that decisions are simple, but it means that the friction is much substantially reduced and the path becomes much more enjoyable.