Authenticity and Cheese

By Steven A. Hitz, Founding Director
Author of Launching Leaders

April 26, 2018

I love the realness of the younger generations; it is refreshing to see the unfiltered ways of a generation that values being their true-selves over the opinions of others.  This is often referred to as authenticity.

Oscar Wilde is quoted as saying “Be yourself.  Everyone else is already taken.”  However, just being yourself is not necessarily being authentic, and being authentic is not necessarily being yourself.  What I’m saying is that we live into our authenticity—it is something that is formed over time, and not just dropped in our lap.  Our views of who we really are dynamic and even change over time.

It may be natural for my five year old grandson to drop his drawers and pee off our deck—-certainly authentic (and no, don’t go judging where he learned this from), but is this authentic behavior a good pattern for life?  Can I say, “Oh, Elijah is just being Elijah,”  chuckle, chuckle.  Or is authenticity shaped over time?  Is one of our opportunities in life to shape our authentic behaviors and habits?  Can’t we refine them and still be authentic?  I think we can.

Cheese is great, but it not always good.  As authentic and natural as the mold on old cheese is, we might not indulge just because it’s natural.

Let me be clear, being authentic should be an objective for all of us; clearly it steers us away from being incongruent, which is the total opposite of being authentic.  Actually, one can be authentic AND congruent—the best of all worlds.  Let me iterate some of the great virtues of being authentic and add to each point a footnote for added consideration (On the other hand).

Authentic people lift others to be authentic.  They don’t measure people’s value on how well they fit into their own mold (no pun intended).  They understand that the full picture is made up of many puzzle pieces, all being beautifully different.

On the other hand:  Be free to adopt the best of the best and make it your own—borrow a puzzle piece from time to time.

They don’t “wallow” with negative people. Those who judge harshly are not the type of people they choose to be around.  Barnacles on ships need to be cleaned off for a reason, and authentic people are constantly sailing into fresh water where barnacles are cleaned off naturally—leaving the negative drags behind.

On the other hand:  Don’t crucify yourself if you have a personal pity party from time to time.  Sometimes it’s healthy to vent—-if only to yourself—just don’t make it a habit.

They don’t gage their communication based on whether or not it’s popular. They will express their true feelings about something, usually unfiltered, regardless of the company they are in.  Transparency is their abiding virtue.

On the other hand:  Sometimes what we think doesn’t always need to be spewed from our mouth.  Sometimes it’s better to keep the thought to ourselves while we weigh its effect.

They desire to know someone, rather than to know about someone. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” The authentic generation prefers to talk about things that matter.  They want to know the “why” behind the “what.”  It’s not because they are untrusting, it is because this process adds to their commitment to spend their time making a difference.  The greatest values in life surround relationships—the authentic person knows this.

On the other hand:  There is no other hand.

They are all about discovery and not taking someone’s word for it. Again, not because of a lack of trust, but because they have a right and need to know in order to live in the authentic world they have chosen.

On the other hand:  Google is not the end all in discovery.  Temper the ‘absolutes’ in knowledge with a healthy appreciation for the unknown.

They choose to be positive and accountable. Regardless of their circumstances, the authentic person strives to see the good from any situation and the good that can arise from it.  They want to be accountable for their actions of moving the world toward a better place.

On the other hand:  There is no other hand.

They are internally motivated. I have had many conversations coaching business leaders on how to appreciate the rising generation, who, by the way, will represent about 80% of the workforce within five years.  The carrot and stick approach doesn’t work with them.  They have taught us a better way—to be motivated by intrinsic value—by making a difference.  That is why the younger generations have been shaped to become the best entrepreneurs ever.  I will discuss this in depth in my soon to be released book: “Entrepreneurial Foundations for 20- and 30-Somethings”.

On the other hand:  It is good to remember that intrinsic motivation is born of what is put into the heart and mind.  If you input positive and uplifting things, the ultimate intrinsic motivation will be holistic.

Their world doesn’t end when someone doesn’t like them. Everyone likes to be liked.  This is a normal desire.  When someone doesn’t like you, it is often hard to accept.  But instead of spending much wasted energy on what you did that deserved that treatment, authentic people have limited that anxiety knowing they would never change themselves to try to influence someone else’s opinion.  They have accepted that people with differing opinions than theirs also deserve the respect of authenticity.

On the other hand:  Sometimes there are misunderstandings that deserve healthy conversations to gain true understanding.  This can result in a change of heart—mending relationships, seeking full understanding and being authentic are not diametrically opposed.  There is no need to end a relationship (or even implement ‘ghosting’—a practice implemented by the rising generations that basically ignores the person they have decided to end a relationship with) that could have been saved by seeking understanding.

Again, I celebrate the virtues of the rising generations, one of which is their authentic authenticity.  I hope this authenticity invites consideration of HOW it can be shaped or refined to make an already good life, a better one.  Of course, regular assessment of one’s relationship to Deity is the most authentic you can get. Remember, trimming the mold off of cheese before you eat it might be a good thing.

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