“Today you are you, that is truer than true, there is no one alive that is you-er than you”
- Dr Seuss
What is authenticity?
Just a buzz word I hear you say! Maybe a trend in the world of leadership, coaching, self-development or a growing science-based notion in the field of coaching psychology?
What do we really mean by it? Does a true self actually exist?
It seems only right to start with the meaning I make of it.
In its simplest form I know it as ‘Being me’ which originates from my family philosophy of ‘know who you are in your entirety (head, heart, body & spirit) & let others see that self'.
Yet, how do we know that self?
My story of authenticity is about answering that question …who am I? cue the song from Les Mis https://youtu.be/uWIdEooF49U?t=72 couldn’t help myself sharing a tune from my favourite West End musical!
I find using an image or a metaphor helps to make sense of things and to relate my experiences to in the moment.
Today, I describe who I am through the perfectly imperfect beauty of an aging African fig tree. I am humbled and privileged to have met this tree in person many years ago in Uganda.
If you imagine me as this tree (for those of you that know me well that won’t be hard – I have been known to take on the appearance of many an object – visions of being a plane spring to mind).
Anyway, I digress, let’s get back to the tree...
I have roots running deep and wide giving me stability and flexibility, emerging above ground they transform into the trunk – I see these as my essence/core – it is my beliefs and values, what is important to me – it is where I hold my dignity just as this tree does standing tall.
From here I am able to hold my ground, stand in my power and let the strong winds and gentle breezes pass through but not uproot me.
Choice in belonging
As the tree grows branches reach out, seeking sunlight. Leaves unfold and age as the seasons change.
In choosing to reach out I am able to connect to others in my world/system whether that is physically, virtually or energetically - sometimes that means providing a canopy of protective cover or branches for support - my sense of belonging rests here in these branches (just as these lions do)!
These leaves represent all my experiences in life, their lifecycle the ebb & flow of my emotions connected to these experiences from the most joyful to the most painful.
A life of learning & possibility
You could describe this particular tree as having some unusual flowers or fruit - did I mention the lions already?!
'Unusual' - may not be a surprise to some when you think of me – I remember early in my coaching career my clients describing how they experienced me as ‘HAVING OTHER WORLDINESS, UNCONVENTIONAL, PRISM TURNED IN A DIFFERENT WAY’
– maybe it is as a result of taking the less conventional path in life, seeking out learning, gathering new knowledge be that through formal or informal ways or finding novel opportunities.
This gives me a sense of depth to who I am – that is an abundance, a richness, a presence full of colour & flavour - and in this moment an overwhelming feeling of possibility.
Courage found from the light & darkness
As I write I notice the feeling of vulnerability rising from the pit of my stomach – for some reason I hear the evening song of the cicadas as they tell us the darkness isn’t far away.
The voice of ‘Bridget’ is close by (you remember Bridget don’t you? - if this is your 1st time at the feeding frenzy don’t worry you can check out that story in my 1st feeding frenzy blog - triggering the patterns & stories that I hold about myself; the doubt, the imposter, the responsibility of getting it right.
I know this is the moment to breathe and focus my attention back to standing tall (my roots/trunk), reaching out (my branches & leaves), sensing my depth (unusual flowers/fruit).
I draw on what protects and nurtures me, just as the tree is protected and nurtured by the bark that covers it and sap that runs through it. This is what keeps me safe, gives me courage, where I reconnect with a feeling of serenity – my guiding ethics, boundaries, supportive listeners and self-care.
> I am that mighty tree: it speaks of courage, choice, serenity and wisdom <
Why does authenticity matter?
For me it is the practice of setting the intention every day and declaring my commitment to…
- Be Courageous
- Honouring my voice for the sake of
- The importance of Choice
- Having Compassion for myself and others
- Doing the work that matters
- Finding the joy even in the darkness
Dare to declare who you are. It is not far from the shores of silence to the boundaries of speech. The path is not long, but the way is deep. You must not only walk there, you must be prepared to leap.”
- Hildegard Von Bingen
For the sake of what do we want or need it?
In being this commitment and acting on these intentions I nurture my wellbeing (mental, emotional, physical, spiritual) – I am my healthiest, best and truest self.
Goodness! Now the cat is out of the bag so to speak I might just have to actually do this as quite rightly you can hold me to account and
… when I drift and wobble which I inevitably will – ‘cos of course life happens (doesn’t it Bridget)! I know I can count on my trusted supporters to help me refocus & centre on this commitment.