The Brilliance of Your Authentic, Real Self

How much time do you spend thinking about yourself?

This isn’t a trick question – we’re not trying to trip you up here.

How well do you know yourself?

Let’s try something out quickly. I’ve done it before with students I’ve taught, sports teams I’ve coached and graduates I’ve worked with who are fresh out to the world of teaching.

The Publisher’s Dilemma

CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve been handpicked by a publishing company to release the book you’ve submitted to them (sure, it could happen).

However, they need two final pieces of information before printing can happen:

  1. Three qualities, traits or values that summarise you (perfect for a back cover of a book)
  2. A quote that best describes you (everyone loves a quote on the front cover)

Which words do you choose?

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This is the important, and slightly challenging part: do the qualities, traits, values and quote really summarise you, or just what you think your friends, family, colleagues or audience would want to read on your book?


The idea of authenticity has been a long studied affair for philosophers and thinkers throughout history. We can thank those wily and wise Ancient Greeks who one day decided they needed a word to describe people, objects or ideas that seemed real…Aha! Authentikos!*

The crowd went wild after hearing the word Authentikos for the first time

Since ancient times, our idea of an authentic person hasn’t really changed that much.

We often talk about people being ‘real’, ‘genuine’ or ‘themselves’. People like Lady Gaga or Jennifer Lawrence stand out. People react to them by saying something along the lines of “It’s so refreshing to for someone to just be themselves“.**

This makes sense when you consider the various digital and physical worlds we now live in. Every day our personal branding and images are surreptitiously crafted on social media.

Is that photo showy enough, but not too showy?

Was that status update humble enough to not seem too self-indulgent?

Do I really need to put up the weekly voluntary service I undertake on LinkedIn?

Have I been doing duck face in too much?



If we aren’t being ourselves in our digital, personal or professional worlds, can we be called an authentic or genuine person?



Let’s jump back to The Publisher’s Dilemma.

Look back over the words, values qualities or traits you wrote down.

Which qualities, values or traits do you really believe in or want to develop?

Remember, no one needs to see this, so put down what you really believe in and value.

…..go on, take your time. We’ll still be right here.

Imagine understanding, knowing and owning what you really believe in. Self-confidence, self-esteem and self-image would have to be high. Every part of you that you truly value and see as important would be on this list.

Values List 1.png
What qualities or traits do you believe in?

These are the non-negotiables for you, those things you look for in your partner, your real, long-term friends.

As opposed to some other values, qualities or traits that some people really do think matter, but really shouldn’t hold any sway.

Values List 2.png

Now you’ve worked out your core values, qualities and traits you believe in and work towards. Cast your eyes over the school or organisation you’re in.

Do they really share and act on these qualities, traits and beliefs?

Be honest.

If you’re struggling to identify those qualities within your organisation or school (as well as the leaders within it) there’s a fair chance that you’re in the wrong place. Which is fine, you just never may have realised that until now.

Right now I have a collection of friends who are completely opposed to what their company stands for and believes in. Every single time I have a chat with them about work the first thing that usual comes out of their mouths is,

“The culture sucks”

Head Shake
Even the Starship Enterprise had issues with its culture (maybe)


Which isn’t that surprising when you consider that culture is simply a collection of ideas, behaviours and customs that groups allow to occur.

It’s no wonder the culture at their workplaces would seem to suck to my friends – they don’t share the same key qualities, traits and values as their workplace.

This moment of realisation can be intense

Now, this isn’t to tell you to simply walk away then and there.


What if you suddenly did know what you believed in and could find an organisation that shared this too?

When you believe in the people and group you are a part of, work can be an amazing place to be.

Know what’s even better than that? When you are surrounded by a wider array of people who most likely hold similar values to you and will help bring out the best in you…which in turn allows you to be your genuine, authentic self even more.


Let’s not forget, time is pretty important.

Time is probably the most important non-renewable resource used by you.

Once it’s spent, you never get it back.

Consider how much time and effort you invest in NOT being yourself. Holding your tongue during a meeting, not providing that idea, deciding to not go for that promotion, spending time with those people you no longer click with, but have known since you were 15, so you  keep hanging out with them.

All of those hours and days you could have invested in things that interest you, finding passions, identifying people you connect with or discovering more about your world.

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Your time and world is in your hands so what are you going to do about it? Source: SeniorLiving.Org

Consider what would happen if you really stopped and began to seek out a place where you could work and feel like you a truly a part of something.

For most of us, no matter what we do, we are going to have to head into work…I don’t know about you, but when it comes to the 1845 hours (or 110, 743 minutes) we spend at work each year on average, I’d rather do it at a place I connect with and want to be at.

If we only get one shot at this, why wouldn’t you spend more time investing in yourself?

Like Carl Jung, a legend of psychology, once said:

The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are

How would you answer The Publisher’s Dilemma?

How would your workplace respond?

How do these compare?

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*Historically speaking, this is probably wrong…as in we don’t know if one person suddenly yelled out, “Aha! Authentikos!”. It might have been two people. Or three.
**Granted, sometimes Lady Gaga completely throws us all with her perspectives on things, but don’t we all secretly wish we could just be ourselves and wear a meat suit too? (Imagine how good your next barbeque would might be.


Further Upgrades

Dr Russ Harris – The Happiness Trap

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Bill George – Discover Your True North  OR Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the secret to creating lasting value.

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Simon Sinek – How Authenticity Builds Trust

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