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What Does it Mean to Be Authentic?

Read Time: 9 mins

Authenticity - it’s something many of us search for. We’d all like to think that we like authentic lives, but what does it really mean? In this tutorial we’ll think about how you define an authentic person, what it means to be authentic, and share tips and tools for living a more authentic life.

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Are you wondering what it means to be authentic? (Image source: Envato Elements)

What Is "Authentic" Anyway?

To start with, let's try to define "authentic". This definition from Dictionary.com seems particularly relevant, in terms of personal qualities:

"representing one’s true nature or beliefs; true to oneself or to the person identified". 

Other definitions of authentic include

"not false or copied; genuine; real" and "reliable; trustworthy." 

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It's important to define authentic and understand what it means. (Image source: Envato Elements)

If you dig deeper into the meaning of being authentic, then several key qualities stand out. These include:

  • being true to yourself 
  • having a strong moral code
  • being honest
  • being accountable and taking responsibility for your actions

In general, it's about living in integrity, both in your personal life and in business. As our article What Is Integrity? +7 Reasons Why It’s So Important in Business points out:

"When you act with integrity, you’re the same person in all scenarios, whether you’re talking to the boss or the janitor. You don’t present different faces or tell different stories to different people. You're whole."

What Happens When We Don’t Live Authentically?

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Not being authentic at work can have real (negative) consequences. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Beyond the definition and meaning of being an authentic person, living inauthentically can have negative consequences for us. For example, if we've got to hide a key aspect of ourselves, we can become extremely unhappy. Imagine being neurodivergent and pretending to be neurotypical or being introverted but having to fake extroversion. 

This type of event can happen more often than you'd think and can actually lead to greater stress for people who aren't being their authentic selves. In some cases, people may fail to fulfill their potential and meet their goals and may even face mental health issues. And these negative consequences of not being our authentic selves can affect our lives and relationships, too, both at work and in our personal lives.  

Benefits of Being Authentic

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Being authentic can lead to better mental health. (Image source: Envato Elements)

On the other hand, when you know what it is to be authentic, and live that way, there are several advantages.

First of all, you'll find you're a happier person, because you don't have to pretend to be anything or anyone other than who or what you are. That also contributes to reduced stress in your life. You won't have to spend time looking over your shoulder waiting to be caught out, or crumble under the strain of maintaining a false front. 

When you live and work authentically,  everything is in alignment, making it easier for you to accomplish your goals. And since integrity goes hand in hand with authenticity, you'll earn the trust and respect of your colleagues, friends and family. And you'll also be more confident, which pays off in business.

Are You Living Authentically? Here’s How to Tell

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What does it mean to be authentic? (Image source: Envato Elements)

When thinking about what it means to be authentic, one way of telling if you're living authentically is to question yourself. Psychology Today suggests some options. In relation to your goals and plans, try to figure out:

  • How you really feel about them - for example, excited or ambivalent.
  • Whether your goals and plans are really driven by pressure to perform for other people rather than what you want yourself.
  • Whether you've got difficulty fulfilling your goals and plans and feel guilty when you don't.
  • If your goals and plans have meaning for you and reflect the person you are.

SoulSalt suggests that taking a personal inventory can also help you determine if you're living in an authentic way. Two questions that can help you get started are:

  1. "Which type of people, activities, or situations make you feel the most alive?
  2. Are there people or parts of your life that make you feel unhappy, angry, or toxic?"

These can help you in working out the internal and external factors that either motivate or demotivate you - and those can also help you decide if you're living authentically.

If you're looking for a quick way to get started, Simple Life has two tools that might help you assess where you are in terms of authenticity. First, there's the Simple Life Authenticity Quiz. There's also a list of 25 questions you can answer at your leisure. 

7 Ways to Live Authentically

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You can learn to be more authentic. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Ready to live a more authentic life? Here are seven steps you can take. 

1. Identify Your Values

In order to be true to yourself, you've got to know yourself, and what matters to you. Think about what brings you joy, what gives your life meaning or purpose, and the causes you care about. And consider what personal qualities matter most to you. Start writing down qualities like empathy, kindness, truthfulness, loyalty and so on, and then pick the ones that resonate with you most. 

It's just as important to think about the things that you won't stand for, such as dishonesty, cheating or similar qualities. Make a list of those, and between the two lists you'll have some boundaries for what matters most. Learn more about defining your personal values in this article:

2. Communicate Them Clearly

Once you're clear about what matters to you, the next step is to communicate your values clearly to those around you. In a business setting, this might involve putting together a values statement for your company. For example, you can let people know what your business ethics are, and how these affect every aspect of operations. Learn more about business ethics in the tutorial below:

On a personal level, you may choose to communicate what you find unacceptable (such as not valuing other people's time or discrimination against people who face isms) and what matters to you (like charitable giving or being welcoming of all). 

3. Choose Your Goals

When you know what your values are, it's easier to align your personal and professional goals with those values. Think about whether everything you're doing now is in alignment with the person you aspire to be. As well as your values, consider what you're most passionate about and how to make sure you're moving forwards to achieve something in that area. Then break down that overall idea into things you can achieve - tasks that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time bound (SMART). Learn more about goal setting by reading:

4. Be True to Yourself

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Your values play a big role in being an authentic person. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Next, be true to yourself, and set yourself the personal goal of living authentically via your personal values. To do that, you may need to talk yourself out of self-limiting beliefs that stop you from trusting your own intuition about what's right and true for you. 

Being true to yourself also means speaking your truth and being honest. In other words, let colleagues and contacts know where you stand on various issues and behaviors. And, if you feel safe to do so, and are lucky enough to be in a workplace where commitment to diversity is more than lip service, it means being your whole self at work, and resisting peer pressure to be anything other than the person you are. 

5. Develop Emotional Intelligence

When thinking about what it means to be authentic, emotional intelligence is a core component of authenticity. It's about understanding and expressing your emotions and being aware of other people's emotions.

In fact, self-awareness, which is also helpful for authenticity, is a key part of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence isn't just a key part of knowing yourself better; it's also a key leadership skill. Learn more about this vital part of what it means to be authentic in this tutorial:

6. Lead by Example

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Living authentically sets a positive example for others. (Image source: Envato Elements)

When you define authenticity, leading by example is another quality that stands out. Whether you're leading in the workplace or in your life outside work, you can set an example for others by your actions. Leading by example is a great way to showcase your values and ethics, and to create alignment between your values and your actions. And leading by example can encourage others to be authentic, too. Learn more about leading by example and authenticity in this article:

7. Live Your Values

Other hallmarks of people living authentic lives include:

  • Treating others as you'd like to be treated and operating in an environment of mutual respect.
  • Reserving judgment on other people. 
  • Owning and accepting responsibility for your actions.
  • Being transparent and reliable.

All of these show that you're confident and comfortable in your values. 

Share Your Values in a Presentation 

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Use Envato Elements or GraphicRiver to share your values. (Image source: Envato Elements)

As a business leader, you'll no doubt be called upon to showcase your business values, especially in relation to authenticity. One way to do this is via an eye-catching and engaging presentation.

While we've focused here on the question of what does it mean to be authentic, if you want to explain your stance on that to someone else, Envato Elements has what you need to present your views.

There's something for everyone. Not just presentation templates, but graphics, web templates and more. Download as many as you want for one low price.

And there are more templates available for one-off use from GraphicRiver. Make sure your leadership presentation game is on point by exploring the options. 

Are You Ready to Be Authentic?

You've learned how to define an authentic person, and the meaning of authenticity, both in business and in daily life. Use the tips and resources in this article to discover what matters to you and to use those values to create a more authentic you.

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