Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

As I travel in the world of speakers, and now writers, I keep hearing one thing over and over and over: “be authentic”.

How have we gotten to a society where actually being yourself is rare?

How can a key to success just be not being fake?  Are there really that many fakes out there?

Why is it so unusual to find a writer or speaker who is actually themselves?

How can so many audiences and readers think – or know – they are being fed piles of fakeness from most “experts”?

It’s a complex question. It’s one I’ve put a lot of time and attention into.

What is the answer to this puzzle?

The comments I’m hearing suggest, though I haven’t seen a survey on it, that most of the people think most of the people talking to them are fake! Fake is the new normal. And when an audience feels someone is not fake they instantly engage.

So it could be very simple. We could just hate on the fakers. But the truth is it’s probably not that person’s fault they they come across as fake. Afterall all of us have had a lot of societal training that pushes us to conform and act certain ways.

Programming Started from Day One

At one point each of us was young. We had to depend on the care of others to get us from being a helpless infant to some point in our journey where we could care for ourselves.

Humans are curious in the amount of care our infants need. And throughout our childhood we are learning from those around us. We gave attention to particular adults such as our parents and teachers.

And each adult we learned from was programmed with what is right and wrong and how society should work from those that programmed them in their growth and experience. And when we were little we usually weren’t in a place, intellectually, to question the programming. It comes in and we accept.

For instance when I was in school I was programmed about the founding of the United States and how all of America came together. I was given a story about struggle and how much the original colonies liked each other and came together.

And that programming stuck for a long time. But later, as an adult, I read a series of books on the formation of the US including Cousin’s Wars. WOW!  All of my programming was overly simplistic! Yet until I read and studied I knew no better!

But it’s not just history. It’s our social norms. What we should value. How we should conduct life.

So much of what we believe is just because someone – sometime – told us that’s what we should believe.

How Much Choice Did You Really Have?

Which raises the question of how much choice did you really have. How much of your life direction, values and beliefs is yours?  How much was handed to you?

If you are like most people most of what you have was handed to you and programmed by others. It’s not like you really stopped and thought about getting the good career, wanting a new car or the success associated with the big house.

Many of these choices were just made for us and programmed into us. Most adults aren’t telling children about the pluses and minuses of decisions. When I was in high school, for instance, everyone said going to college was a success. There was no weighing of the benefits of not going to college.

Now, of course, more people question things like college, career paths and our societal values. But a lot of the programming and teaching about what is right and wrong came to you without your choice in the matter.

What is Fundamental Really Isn’t

Which leads us to the point that what is fundamental, what we believe to be core beliefs, really aren’t as fundamental as they might seem.

Many of us are taught about democracy and freedom early in our lives. And what it means to live in a “free country.” The blessings of liberty and all that jazz.

But what is freedom, really? Even in a “free” country there are many legal boundaries of what you can and can’t do. In his work, Yuval Harari who is the author of the popular book Sapiens questions what freedom really means. Freedom to most of us means living in the boundaries set by others.

Even in a free country we must work within society’s boundaries. Driver’s licenses, restrictions on speech and paying taxes are just some of the things we must all deal with and comply with in free countries.

When you pull back the layers there’s a lot to question about what should and shouldn’t be. And many in society have taken little to no time to question the norms.

Almost Everything You Believe Came From Someone Else

Which leads, of course, to the question of how much of what you think and believe is from you and how much is from someone else. I would venture to guess, for almost all of us, that almost all of our beliefs came from someone else implanting them on us.

If we are going to get to authentic there’s a lot that needs to be reexamined.

How to Unshackle

But how do we do that? How do we unshackle ourselves from our past and our learn to get to this mythical “authentic” that is apparently so craved by our society?

We need to start questioning things. Question everything.

Why is this this way?  Why is that that way?

Are we doing things the right way from what I believe?

There’s a lot of great writing on around this topic. Vanessa Torre questions Mother’s Day, it’s meaning, and the pressure of society in one of her articles. Laura Rosell questions monogamy in one of her articles. And there’s a lot more. Just a search away on Medium or other channels questioning long held “normals” of society.

Wherever you sit on these issues it opens the question of “why”?

Do you believe in these things because you have examined them and think they are right? Or do you believe because someone told you to believe?

The Challenge of Being Authentic

Being “authentic” is applauded by most audiences. It seems whether you are a writer or a speaker if you are authentic you connect better with those consuming your content.

But it’s not without challenges. Being authentic means that some will disconnect from you because they have different beliefs. Many will question you questioning things. In many ways you’ll be alone.

The odds are your exploration of issues and being authentic will lead you to disagree with others. And the examined life usually means you won’t agree with everyone.

Sometimes it’s hard to take ownership of being different and that’s part of the challenge of being authentic.

The Upside of Authenticity

As tough as being authentic is if you can get it right, and get people to see it, you can have a huge upside. Please will follow you, buy your work, and applaud you.

There are definite rewards to being authentic in making an impact in others and being heard.

What I’m Doing

I, myself, am on a journey to authenticity.  I am pulling away so many layers.

I already dress differently than others and question a lot of the “norms” on life goals and what we should be striving for. I am constantly looking at what I truly want and what is programmed into me. It seems it’s a long journey to live in your uniqueness.

And uniqueness costs you some friends but attracts others. The journey to authenticity is not without bumps and the churning of your friends.

Would I recommend it for you?  Yes! If you are willing to do the work and stick with it. It’s not an easy process – but it’s a rewarding one.

By: The Our Shawn McBride who is constantly studying the Future of Business as the host of The Future Done Right(TM) Show. If you want regular content on the future of business subscribe to get new blog posts from us here.

One of my recurring themes on is looking at what words mean. Here are some prior articles on the subject:

Why Sorry is Misused

How “unprofessional” is misused

And for some completely different topic from me check out Why I’ve Given Up On Work-Life Balance.

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