What’s Really Authentic for You?

17 July, 2014

Young RobynHow do you find out what’s really authentic for you and not some ishme-mishme crap?

Good question.

You’ve heard it SO many times. Be authentic. Be real. Be honest. Be true. Be yourself. It can make you want to gag.

What does being authentic really mean? To you? And how do you do that? How do you know the difference between what’s really and truly you, and what you’ve pretended to be all these years so that you can meet others’ expectations of you?

I’ll tell you something about me. I grew up being the model child, or ‘the good girl’ – TGG as my husband puts it. (There she is. Above.) TGG behaves, tries hard, works diligently, and listens painstakingly to the demanding voices inside her head that never fall silent. TGG goes through an endless inner trial where she is her own prosecutor, defender and judge. These characters nag, bicker, interrupt, contradict and correct each other every moment of every day. TGG earns the love of everyone around her by meeting expectations and being ‘good’. In other words, TGG surrenders the development of her true self to please others.

If this is the case, what happens when you wake up one day and realise what’s been going on? How do you know what’s authentically true for you anymore? Where do you even begin?

Maybe you’re not TGG. But if like me, you’ve ever questioned what’s really true for you, what your authenticity really is, then try doing some of these exercises. You don’t have to do them all. Pick one or two that feel good. They’ll help you figure out what’s real, and what’s utter crap.

1.     List your Shoulds

I am a mother. Mothers should behave like this:

·      Not have a career

·      Look forward to school holidays

·      Bake and make beaded jewelry with their girls

·      Climb trees and kick balls with their boys

·      Prepare delicious, well-balanced and nutritious meals 3 times a day

·      Not faint at the sight of blood

·      Enjoy family outings

·      Enjoy reading aloud

·      Enjoy Lego/Star Wars/Harry Potter/Barbie

·      Fill in the blank

The truth is I only enjoy doing a few of these. Does that make me a bad mother? Or does that simply make me the mother that I am?

Go ahead and list all the things you feel you should be doing in your role as mother/executive/business owner/gym bunny. I don’t know – pick one. Then cross off all the things on your list that aren’t you. And let them go. They aren’t serving you and nor is the voice in your head.

2.     Write down what you enjoyed doing today

It’s really as easy as that. Buy yourself a diary and write down everything you enjoy doing, every day. Even the simple ones, like: eating popcorn on the bed, writing a specific blog post (I’m enjoying this one), Googling a cool topic, working in a coffee shop.

After a few weeks you’ll notice a pattern emerge. This pattern is what’s true for you.

3.     Ask yourself where you add value

This one’s a little more complicated. It requires you to take time to reflect on your day and ask yourself these questions: what happened today that was great? Where did I add value? How do I know that? What did I learn about myself (not what I can’t do, but what I can)? What was I surprised about, positively?

You’ll start to uncover the ways you make a positive impression on others. But very importantly, you must answer these questions from an inner place of knowing, not from external validation. In other words, how do you know you’re adding value, even when you don’t receive feedback saying so? Where you add value is linked to your truth.

4.     Mindmap what’s important to you

Jot down the 4 or 5 big picture things that are important to you. Mine are: family, work, nutrition & exercise, personal development and creativity. Pretty much in that order. Then, unpack each of them and list the things within each category that are valuable. For example, family nature outings are higher on my list than playing Lego. (Although the other day I did enjoy sorting the Lego pieces. The perfectionist in me connected with that). Relating one-on-one with business leaders is more valuable to me than teams. You get my drift.

This is not a quick exercise to be put away after half an hour because it’s done. No, it takes days, weeks, months even, to write, come back, refine, change, tweak, add and generally fiddle around honing what’s most important to you – what feels best. Then step back, have a look, test and tweak some more.

5.     Say what you feel

When I was looking for advice about a difficult client, my business coach asked me “Do you want him to like you, or respect you?” Saying what you feel takes courage. And from experience I can honestly say that being respected feels better than being liked. Way better.

The fastest line of attack to tap into what’s authentically you, is to say what you feel. Expect raised eyebrows and indignation – after all TGGs don’t say things like that – and depending on how ingrained your habits are, expect guilt. But most of all, expect the euphoria that comes from not betraying yourself i.e. Speaking. Your. Truth.


Living authentically is not a one-off exercise. It takes a constant learning, challenging, and picking through old belief systems to grow up and become who you were meant to be. And what does that look like? That looks like you when you feel at peace, when you feel alive and when you feel free.



Robyn Young - Personal Leadership Branding for Executives

About the Author

Robyn Young

As a personal leadership branding strategist, Robyn Young helps individuals identify and articulate their unique strengths, values and goals, empowering them to build an authentic personal brand that resonates with their stakeholders.

Robyn has a keen eye for aligning personal attributes with professional aspirations, helping her clients project a powerful and compelling image in their chosen field.