5 Ways To Tell If You’re Being Authentic At Work

5 Ways To Tell If You're Being Authentic At Work - The Brainy Babe

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What does it mean to show up authentically? We see the word in business and health care; in the self-help industry and even in politics. People are focused on showing up authentically. But what the heck does that even mean?

Authenticity in Business

As Laura Vanderkam points out in her Fast Company article, “What Does Authenticity Really Mean?”


“…it doesn’t mean the ‘be yourself’ phrase that probably pops into your mind first. For evidence of this, consider that many of Donald Trump’s supporters praise him for what they view as authenticity. He says what he thinks. He doesn’t seem to care what other people think of that. Yet business leaders emulating this approach might quickly find themselves in trouble.”


Instead, it means being yourself, with skill. To read more on the subject, check out Why Should Anyone Work Here?: What It Takes To Create An Authentic Organization by Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones. 


We’re complex individuals, able to be flexible in every environment – including the workplace. You may authentically prefer shorts and flip-flops, but if you work in an environment where that’s not appropriate attire, then showing up in your beachy wear isn’t the best way to go. Doing so is pretty disrespectful. But that doesn’t mean you can’t dress in something that speaks to you. Perhaps your workplace has a jeans-are-ok policy. Invest in a few Hawaiian-print button-down shirts and pair them with your jeans. You still get to express yourself authentically but within the bounds of the rules.

What Are the Characteristics of Authentic People?

“Humanistic psychologists would say that by definition, authentic people possess a number of common characteristics that show they are psychologically mature and fully functioning as human beings,” states Stephen Joseph, Ph.D. in his Psychology Today article, “7 Qualities of Truly Authentic People.” He continues with a list of characteristics for us.  


1.      Have realistic perceptions of reality.

2.      Are accepting of themselves and of other people.

3.      Are thoughtful.

4.      Have a non-hostile sense of humor.

5.      Are able to express their emotions freely and clearly.

6.      Are open to learning from their mistakes.

7.      Understand their motivations.

This is what is meant to be true to oneself.” 

How Do You Know Someone Is Being Authentic?

Sadly, in my opinion, you can’t know for certain that someone is being authentic in one interaction. However, you CAN look at an aggregate of their behaviors and actions to see if they all align.

“Authentic” doesn’t mean “good” or “bad.” Instead, it just means that you’re being yourself. Some of the most authentic people I’ve come across are complete jerks.

You can also look at an aggregate of your behaviors and feelings to tell if you’re being authentic.

Here are some questions to ask yourself.

1. Do you feel good about the decisions you’re making? As in, do you find yourself questioning a decision after it was made? Look at the reason you made the decision. If you felt pressure from an outside source (person, society, etc.) and then don’t feel good about it, you’re not making a choice based on your authenticity.

2. Do those decisions align with your values? Remember values encompass a wealth of characteristics. Maybe you like to live by the Golden Rule, or maybe you believe that companies should deliver transparency to their clients. If your decisions aren’t aligning with those values – or worse, if your boss is asking you to act in opposition to your values – it’s an inauthentic move.

3. Have you felt yourself holding back in certain situations because you feel like your (perfectly fine, respectful, situation appropriate) actions will be “too much” for people? I’m not talking about holding back when you really want to cuss someone out. Who are we kidding? We’ve all wanted to do it at some point or another. I’m talking about holding back because you’re afraid to “stick out.”

4. Are you being honest and open? Sometimes it’s hard to speak the truth, but if you can manage it, you’ll feel better about the communication in the long run.

5. Have you reported information from your own experience? Sometimes the best way to tackle a problem is to come at it from a personal point of view. Encourage others to do the same thing. Report your CURRENT experience, not something that you heard about from someone else or something that you’ve been holding onto for months.

Once you start operating from an authentic place, one that aligns with your goals, passions, and values, you’ll notice a difference. The good news? It becomes easier to do over time! Pretty sweet, right?


If you’re a healthcare provider, biz babe, or soulful entrepreneur, consider joining my BB Sisterhood circle. We’re a community based entirely on Slack and support one another in our life and work progress. It’s just $6.99/month and you can cancel any time.