Authenticity in 2023, I feel, includes an awareness that wherever you go, you are being observed and judged based on interpersonal behaviors.
Of course, it’s the center of being self-aware to know that how you behave affects other people, and that this influences their perceptions of you.
So what, you ask.
Well, it matters because you’re leaving a trail as you go. Of vivid images that will be stored in people’s memories and affect how those people will proceed to form an opinion of you, and engage with you when they see you, and generally describe you to someone who calls and asks for a reference.
Some people are always changing themselves to ‘fit in.’ But that’s not authentic. It isn’t easy to keep up all those personas. I think these kinds of tendencies to chameleon around into whatever we think people will ‘like’ are going to get old, fast. Because it is quickly identifiable; someone who isn’t who they were yesterday will be called out for their lack of consistency. Last week, you wanted blue and this week it’s red, huh. Is that right, so, you’re saying, your values changed overnight, huh?
Changing our minds happens. Sure. We change our minds and that’s fine; but you know, when someone isn’t decisive about anything or consistent in the way they behave, this is a sign that something’s not quite genuine about them. I feel that way. I know it isn’t possible to ensure everything is always rosy when it comes to how people perceive you, from a reputation-management point of view, (was it, ever?) so the best thing to do is be real.
This means that it’s highly important to be who you say you are.
And do what you say you will.
To build trust.
I made a lot of projects around the concept of being real, in the last 20 years. Some of them are Origin, Rooftop Philosophy in Phnom Penh, and ‘N’.
According to this article on authentic relationships, the authors at Harley Therapy say that not every relationship can withstand authenticity. I feel it’s quite important to note that. For those of us, however, who do aim to be authentic and in relationships that are, too, they advise: ‘Take risks. In order to be fully loved you must be fully yourself, even if this means you must risk being vulnerable. Yes, you might experience the other person’s disapproval when you share your real thoughts and feelings. Yes, you might even get rejected, and it might hurt. And no, not all relationships can withstand authenticity. But the risk pays off when you find yourself surrounded by people who support all that you are, instead of just parts of you.’
The risk pays off.
Is trust the big currency in the Age of Anxiety?
Integrity and consistency are required for trust-building. Honesty and being real and all that stuff. People will remember how you made them feel.
Will they dispute your version of who you say you are, if someone asked them to talk about you in an honest way? I’m just asking to get you to think about it. The good news is that being real and being genuine are easy things to do. If you are very clear about your values, know yourself well, and aren’t afraid of people who are going to try to tell you not to be the person you really, truly are.
What’s important is being true to yourself. Staying true to your core values. Maybe things change with time, naturally; we adjust as we go. But keeping track, and knowing, is one of the most important things you can do to take care of your ‘authenticity’ reputation.
How the narcissist in charge undoes organizations
Lee Simmons writes in a story about narcissists who are in leadership positions, and what their way of doing things does to collapse organizations from within. It’s at Stanford Graduate School of Business’ site, at this link. The article says:
Quoting the school’s Charles A. O’Reilly: “… a plague of toadies, opportunists, and enablers equally guided by self-interest and short on scruples… So you end up with these individualistic cultures with no teamwork and low integrity… If you see that the path upward requires you to scheme, suck up, and withhold information, then you have a choice: You can either do the same or not, in which case you’re going to be excluded and probably eliminated… Too often, when boards select CEOs, especially outside CEOs, they do it through interviews. But interviews play to the strength of a narcissist. And you can’t just look at performance, because they can fake performance… What would really be far more illuminating would be to go talk to the people who’ve worked for them and with them in the past. You have to get data from people who have seen that person operating.”
Raw data. Quality data. Offline conversations that tell you, richly and more deeply, exactly who it is that person is, according to anecdotes of many, and not a script the candidate will give you at an interview. I think one of the surefire signs of a narcissist is if they repeat the introduction they gave you in a kind of overly polished, exact way. And then you hear it all the same way, again, the second time you meet. This is a dead giveaway. Just a personal opinion, there.
Read more like this in DK’s Autumn 2023 collection of zines in S P A C E. Visit the online shop here.