A need to feel important.
A desire to look good and be perfect.
A craving to have the approval of other people, especially those that we hold in high esteem and who have some power over us.
These feelings are universal, all-consuming and very powerful.
Civilizations have been built to satisfy these urges. A lot of massive industries cater to these necessities of human psyche – fashion, beauty, cosmetics, aesthetic surgery, luxury brands, leisure, sports, jewellery – there are just too many of them to even count.
The same instinct also causes us to lie on our CV, talk about our accomplishments with some embellishments, hide our flaws at all costs from public view and tell white lies to our friends and loved ones.
There are many ways for us to feel important and look good, but lying, embellishment and covering up are perhaps the easiest of them all.
When I was a little kid, say of about 4 years old, I would go on an evening walk with my father. Then whenever I will see a nice looking big building I will tell him “look, look, my friend, XYZ lives there.” It became a game for me. I would claim that so and so friend lives in the biggest and best looking houses.
What was the point of it? My family lived in a 300 square feet government quarter. I could not live in one of those nice looking big houses. So I derived importance by claiming that my friends lived there.
Nobody had to teach me how to do it. Even kids have this inherent desire to exaggerate and embellish.
I wish it was only kids who did this.
The University of Massachusetts found in a study that 60% of adults lie once in an hour in an average.
Here is the thing: most lies are not crazy, harmful, criminal, anti-social behaviour. Most of these are even considered socially acceptable “white lies”. There are apparently no direct victims of a bulk these falsehoods.
The need and culture of impressing other people has become so powerful, that people live a dual life today. There is one life they have in reality, and they portray something else altogether on social media. Couples who are fighting all the time, for example, feel the need to appear extra loving on their Facebook or Instagram persona. I am sure many of you can relate to this phenomenon.
Inauthenticity is not just lying. Inauthenticity is pretending to be one thing while you are something else. Inauthenticity is basically putting on a mask and allowing others to have a misconception about you.
The situation is such that at present authenticity is considered a refreshing virtue. Here is a CEO who learnt about authenticity in a drug rehabilitation program, and was able to use it to build one of the fastest growing companies in the United States.
Authenticity is not a saintly quality. It is the foundation of trust. I often talk about the importance of building your personal brand. Without authenticity, your brand will be fake and will go nowhere. Further, the psychological costs you pay for inauthenticity are usually not understood.
When you have short term goals, inauthenticity and embellishment may pay off. However, in the long term, there are severe prices you pay.
Let me give you 3 powerful reasons to practice authenticity:
Inauthenticity will destroy your personal brand while strategic authenticity will make you a sought after lawyer
Trust is a key ingredient in creating a brand. How do you build trust with a market or industry where you operate?
Brands work so well in India because standards in our legal industry are very low. It is hard for most people, including lawyers themselves, to judge which lawyers are actually good and who is not effective in a short time, over a call or even a few personal meetings. Even seeing them in action in the court may not really tell you how good or how bad they are.
This is why in the legal industry, personal brands and law firm brands reign supreme and command a premium.
Inauthenticity may create a positive persona or image quickly in the mind of a potential client and even help you to get one quickly. However, things go south very soon, as results do not match expectations. Overpromising and under delivering is a common trait of lawyers in India, and the long term cost is reputational damage.
The situation is so bad that now not only some lawyers are affected by reputational deficit, but the entire profession is often branded as crooked by the common man and they try to avoid lawyers as far as they can!
In this environment, a lawyer or law firm that practices authenticity has a huge long term benefit. Clients will usually prefer trustworthiness over anything else when they select a lawyer, and building a personal brand as a lawyer that you are highly trustworthy is going to do wonders for your practice.
It is perhaps one of the most important perceptions you can cultivate – and practicing authenticity, especially when it comes to being honest and upfront about factors that go against you obvious interest will help you massively in the long run.
Inauthenticity will destroy your mind in the long run
Authenticity leads you to discover who you really are, and allows you to live by cherished values rather than living by standards of other people. When you are authentic, you essentially stop giving a premium to what others think about you and what you should do and really begin to explore what is important to you.
When you begin to be inauthentic, you start hurting your self image. We are not talking about what others think of you, but what you perceive yourself to be. You end up giving away too much power to others over your emotions and mental well being. As your focus rests on approval from other people, which is highly uncertain and unreliable as a source of realistic feedback, you begin to expose yourself to damaging risks.
Inauthentic people are easily triggered, highly susceptible to being hurt by negative comments or actions, and likely to crumble under pressure.
For one, when you start buying your own lies due to repetitions, you become delusional. The reality does not match with your delusions, leading to frequent mood swings, erosion of self worth, and somehow your entire world view may begin to get shaky.
This is not how it begins though, and the obvious negative symptoms can take years to appear. The smartest people may be able to avoid or hide these symptoms for years – but it is likely to catch up with them eventually.
Inauthenticity has been shown to lead to depression, serve as a trigger for many other mental illnesses, and is a major cause of addiction. Addiction therapies around the world, especially the famous 12 step programs like that of Alcoholics Anonymous relies on radical authenticity to keep their members sober.
Authenticity, on the other hand, gives you a massive sense of self worth, allows you to discover why you take pride in yourself and shortens the feedback loop allowing rapid progress.
Inauthenticity keeps you running on the perception treadmill rather than getting the real work done.
Authentic people learn faster and keep growing
If you made a mistake and was inauthentic about it, you postpone your learning. But if you are authentic, while the fall out is immediate, so is the learning. Over a period of time, authentic people who own up their mistakes, shortcoming and failures without hesitation learn much more than those who find it hard to do so and resort to inauthenticities.
This is the same for organizations. Organizations that value or allow pretence and showing off to thrive and do not value authenticity become slow and lethargic. It is very hard for these organizations to compete with organizations built on the principle of authenticity, as people in such organizations can rapidly evolve, change directions fast and be more agile to adopt to new business realities.
Inauthenticity leads to bloating, in individuals as well as organizations.
This is why leaders who practice authenticity are usually far more successful than those who put up a designed persona.
Being authentic is about being yourself
You are good enough. If you are not upto the mark, you will make efforts to get there. However, you will not pretend.
By being authentic, you bring something unique to the table. On its own, it may not be enough, but it is also a very valuable skill today and a huge competitive advantage.
By being authentic you do not get to vomit your anger, pettiness or emotions on other people. However, being authentic is a radical act of honesty and transparency that allows you to live true to who you really are, introspect about who you really are and what values you stand for, and draw a lot of power from who you are rather than being left looking for external validations.
Practicing authenticity is also going to lead to building up a charisma, passionate outlook and earn you the trust of the people around you.
It is not a cure-all solution to all your problems, but it will certainly make you stronger to face what comes along the way.
All the best.
As an organization, at LawSikho we practice radical authenticity. Our culture is built on this principle. It helped us to rapidly improve our courses, understand what services we must provide to make our students give what they really want, learn from our mistakes every day and accept criticism where due, not give in to unreasonable demands and stand up against false accusations at the same time.
Being authentic requires us to also surrender the fear of bad outcome due to being authentic. And surely we may suffer many times due to authenticity, but we are clear that there are no other ways when we consider the long term. Even if we go down being authentic, it is alright. We believe that we will rise again because we are on the right side of history! Being authentic and surrendering the outcome also forces us to do the most difficult work rather than avoiding it. That’s the kind of strength of character and opportunity for greatness authenticity gives to you.
I am clear that there is no chasing greatness without being authentic. What do you think?
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