I was having dinner with my thirteen year-old daughter the other day and we were talking about friendships and community and she shared this gem with me:
“All I want is to hang around with people who are honest with themselves.”
I am not sure if a more truthful statement can be made. And while middle school is usually a pretty awkward time where we often feel weird and out of place,
it is equally true that in adulthood we yearn for this honesty as well. It doesn’t exactly help that society seems bent on shoving in-authenticity and superficial judgment in our face on a regular basis.
(Because, you know, who would I be if I couldn’t judge?)
We know that leaders who lack authenticity tend to create dissonance in their organizations. Daniel Goleman talks about this in his books. And Simon Sinek has talked about this in his book Leaders Eat Last.
He even gave a TED talk about it, so you know, it has to be a real thing.
(This is actually about much more than just honesty, but you know what I mean…)
It is my belief that we human being are starving for authenticity from our leaders, from our colleagues and from ourselves, and that this is not just a phenomenon left over from middle school. If you have ever had to work within a group and felt like people weren’t being honest with themselves, then you know how hard it is to feel safe and to trust.
We owe it to ourselves as leaders, parents, colleagues and human beings to be rigorously honest with ourselves and to learn who we are. The more we know ourselves, the easier it is to communicate from an authentic place. The more authentic we feel, the better our well-being. (At least that is how I read the abstract. You can also read a blog entry here.)
What does it take to be true to ourselves and to be honest?
1. Know yourself.
Seriously. Socrates wasn’t kidding. Who are you? What do you like? What lights you up? What frightens you and what attracts you? Take the time to learn these things about yourself.
2. Stop comparing.
Trying to measure our worth by comparing ourselves with the sea of others is like using all the skills we learned in Middle School in order to make sense of our lives. (FYI, it doesn’t work.)
3. Trust yourself.
While this is probably just self-help-mumbo-jumbo for most people, I have found this to be one of the most difficult and profound things that we can do. Talk to anyone who has made a giant leap in their lives (business or personal) and they will talk about that moment when they had to trust that they would be okay. There is no guarantee that we will ever be in control, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t leap.
“The leap, not the step, is what makes experience possible.” Henry Muller (from Anne Bogart’s book, A Director Prepares)
4. Finally, trust others.
There is no sense in doing any of this if we can’t let others into our world. As long as we are clear about who we are and we accept ourselves, then the possibility that we can trust others and make those authentic connections is more than likely.
As for me, I agree with my daughter. If we could all be a little braver and more honest with ourselves, think of all that we could accomplish. Think of how free we would feel and how attractive we would be.