Travis Bradberry recently published a Forbes article titled, 12 Habits of Genuine People. He builds a good case for the value of being genuine, then outlines the hallmarks of genuine people: “they don’t pass judgement … they’re generous … they treat everyone with respect … they aren’t motivated by material things … that aren’t driven by ego … they aren’t hypocrites.”
While these compelling virtues undoubtedly point towards authenticity, the article inspired me to think more deeply about my research and understanding of what it means to be authentic. If one holds these qualities of authenticity as the gold standard of a genuine life, we may unintentionally fall into a trap of attempting to live up to an ideal that’s humanly impossible, then become, paradoxically, inauthentic. Is anyone truly virtuous enough to be immune to hypocrisy, judgement, disrespect, the desire for material things, or ego?
If we are honest, can anyone possibly adhere to these qualities every day? And is falling short of sainthood the same as being inauthentic? And are we perpetuating a culture of complaint when our leaders fall short of these expectations?
What if, instead of being ingenuous, falling short of this near perfect standard of genuine meant being human. Being human doesn’t mean lowering our standards or becoming complacent. We can always improve. Authenticity is a commitment to staying real in our progress.
When it comes to authenticity, the notion of sincerity comes to light. The word sincere is derived from the Latin sine meaning without, and cera, meaning wax. Dishonest sculptors in ancient Rome and Greece would cover flaws in their work with wax to deceive the viewer; therefore, a sculpture “without wax” would mean honesty in its imperfection.
Authenticity, like sincerity, is honesty in its imperfection. We don’t have to hide from or be ashamed of our cracks. In the words of Leonard Cohen, “that’s how the light gets in.”
Rather than creating an illusion of perfection, being authentic means embracing our humanity. It means a commitment to bring our hypocrisy, insecurities, judgements, materialism, and ego into the light of awareness, and notice their impact so we can create safe, honest, accountable, more fully human workplaces.