our world group

Authenticity & Vulnerability Who ARE you really anyway?

by Maria Katsarou, Managing Partner, Our World Group

neuroWhat do you need to make a JUDGEMENT about another individual? What are the behavioral aspects (what one does, one does not do, what one says, what one does not say) that you are looking for to MAKE a JUDGEMENT? And what do you do when a person does not ‘fit’ with your preconceived idea of HOW one ‘should’ be and behave? Do you discard them? How fast? We are meaning-making creatures and this is ‘biology’ and not ‘my opinion’.
As human beings we need to make meaning of anything and anyone really fast so that we know instantly whether he/she is a friend or a foe. That ‘categorization’ takes place in our brain in split seconds. What do we do then? We seek all the evidence that will confirm our first impression and unconsciously and very skillfully disregard evidence that would disconfirm our initial belief.
How do you know – what is your evidence procedure to say that someone is authentic? What are the behavioral terms you need to see, hear and feel to make a judgment about someone’s authenticity? If one takes away your fancy job title, company car and any other perk – WHO ARE you? What identifies you REALLY as in individual? Human beings are social animals and have a fundamental need to belong and be included in varying degrees of course, but the need IS there. In a scale where one weighs the society’s expectations-norms and being the REAL YOU – which of the two wins eventually?
There is another fundamental need of humans, which is, to be liked and loved (again this exists in varying degrees) and on the altar of being loved we sacrifice what we want and who we really are…. Being authentic presupposes great deal of SELF-AWARENESS and knowing what you WANT – YOU not what family, society, etc EXPECTS from you (unless of course the 2 really coincide). In the words of Dr Brene Brown: “There comes a time when we just get tired of those Ps – proving, pleasing, perfecting, performing – and it normally happens between 35 and 55”. Self-awareness in this context includes understanding your own beliefs, motives, desires, impact on others, your own biases and getting in touch with your vulnerable side.
Dr Brown believes there are three shields we use to protect ourselves from vulnerability: perfectionism (doing everything perfectly); numbing (using alcohol, drugs, food or work to deaden true feeling); and ‘foreboding joy’, the dread that kills happiness. Her argument is that we should drop those shields. But when she visits corporations she says she encounters as much resistance to vulnerability from female leaders as male. ‘Men say, “Hell, no, that’s weakness,” and women say, “I’m successful because I haven’t been vulnerable.”’ Authenticity involves acknowledging one’s freedom and taking full responsibility for one’s choices (Jean-Paul Sartre). Bill George defined Authentic Leaders as “genuine people who are true to themselves and to what they believe. Rather than letting the expectations of others guide them, they are prepared to be their own person and go their own way”. He broke down the process into five distinct dimensions:
1. Pursuing purpose with passion,
2. Practicing solid values,
3. Leading with heart,
4. Establishing connected relationships and
5. Demonstrating self-discipline.

So, what is YOUR purpose and WHAT DO YOU REALLY WANT?