A Coaching Power Tool By Raluca Hutanu, Transformational Coach, SPAIN
Artificiality vs. Authenticity What’s the Difference?
Many times, we tend to be artificial, because we want to please others or because we don’t trust ourselves. We don’t think we are good enough. We don’t think that others will accept us for who we are. Thus, we mask our true self, we show an improved, artificial image of who we are. All this, to be accepted and loved. To fit in. To not be alone. The irony is, that by doing this, by showing an artificial reality, others don’t get to know us for who we are. And the risk is being surrounded by people or situations we don’t like. Or the other hand, when we take the leap of faith of showing our authentic self, we attract people and situations that are aligned with our inner truth. Just then we experience real connections, grounded in authenticity and honesty.
What Is Artificiality?
According to Cambridge Dictionary, artificiality is the quality of not being real or sincere. Many people lead their life based on perspectives and values inherited from their society or their family. And rarely do they challenge them. For all our life we followed the crowd. What our parents, teachers, or role models told us. All this leads to the creation of an artificial self. Our perspectives and our behaviors are not in reality ours. Many times we don’t even know ourselves. We feel stressed out, anxious, depressed, unhappy. And oftentimes this happens because we are not aligned with our inner truth. By speaking up your truth, you risk rejection. And that is what makes many prefer being artificial. Because the risk is too great.
Sign of artificiality:
- Feeling stressed out, anxious, depressed
- Changing your beliefs because of your family, spouse, friends
- Changing your opinions because of your family, spouse, friends
- Always following the last trends in fashion, diet, interests
- People pleasing
- Watching TV constantly
- Not having a sense of identity and direction
- Ignoring your intuition
- Blame people, circumstances
What Is Authenticity?
Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen. Brené Brown
As Brené Brown states above, authenticity is rooted in honesty. And it takes courage to be honest. To oneself, in the first place, and then to others. Things might change in our life when we choose to be authentic. The relationship might end. Careers might change. What we want in life might change. To be authentic you need to be self-aware. You need to know yourself, your needs, your boundaries, your likes, dislikes. And then you need to have the courage to act according to your inner truth. It’s everyday work. It’s unpeeling the layers of your persona one by one and doing self-introspection. It requires determination and a real commitment to staying true to yourself. And from that space, you start creating a life aligned with your authenticity. You feel happier, calmer, more grounded, and with more sense of meaning. You attract people alike.
As the same Brené Brown says:
True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.
So, when you are authentic you find true belonging. First to yourself, and then to a group of like individuals.
Signs of authenticity:
- Feeling happy, light, calm, grounded
- Trusting yourself
- Listening to your intuition
- Choosing nourishing relationships
- Doing a job that is aligned with your inner truth
- Having the courage to say no to people and situations that don’t serve you
- Being determined in your choices despite opposition
- Having the courage to be different
- Taking responsibility for their life
What Works Shifting From Artificiality vs. Authenticity?
When clients act artificially, they tend to blame other people or life circumstances for their problems. They attribute responsibility to the outside. And because of this, they feel disempowered. What works shifting from artificiality to authenticity is helping them in creating awareness and taking full responsibility for their actions. Honesty is key here.
Another sign of artificiality is when clients have been building up a career in a field that doesn’t spark their interest, only because they were told so. By their family, teachers, or society. They don’t like their job, but they keep pushing, arguing that there is no perfect job anyways. Ultimately this creates a lot of anxiety and it might even lead to depression. In this situation, what we can do to help the clients is again create awareness and discover what they would like to do for work. What are their passions, their interests, their strengths, their weaknesses?
This power tool can be used as well when clients are involved in a relationship that is toxic or that doesn’t serve them anymore. Many times people prolong relationships way past the expiry date. The reasons for it vary: they invested a lot and it’s hard to let go, deep down they don’t believe they deserve better, they don’t think they can find someone better or they believe that any relationship has downsides. The first step is creating awareness about how they feel concerning the relationship. Getting them to be honest with themselves, first and foremost, and then with their partner or friend, if it’s a friendship.
I noticed that questions like the ones below can help in shifting from artificiality to authenticity:
- What do you want?
- What’s the real challenge for you?
- What does your intuition tell you?
- What emotions does this person/situation awake in you?
- What would you say no to if you chose authenticity?
- If you could be whomever you want, who would you be?
- If you could do whatever you want, what would you do?
- If money wasn’t a problem, what would you do?
- How would you like to feel?
- How does your ideal life look for you?
- What do you need in a relationship?
- What are the benefits of being authentic?
- Whose belief is this?
Artificiality vs. Authenticity Case Study
Megan is a 42-year woman, in a 4-year relationship that doesn’t make her happy anymore. Together they have a 1-year-old son. Even before their son was born, Megan could sense that her husband’s behavior had changed. He was working very late hours, and in the little time that they would spend together, he would be absent. Moreover, he didn’t help her at all with the household chores and with the baby, and oftentimes he would get verbally aggressive. She felt lonely and unhappy. The reason why she sought coaching is that she wanted to improve the relationship with her husband and her overall wellbeing.
Megan came from an unhappy family, with an absent mother and an alcoholic father. She had to take care of her younger sister from a very early age and act as both mother and father, because neither took care of them, the children. Although financially they were doing well, their mental and emotional state Megan was suffering. She always felt like she wasn’t doing enough and she was taking on blame for her parents’ behavior.
In her young adult years, with romantic partners, as well as with friends, Megan started to recreate the pattern learned at home. Of her being the giver, the savior, accepting anything and not standing up for herself.
This was the pattern that was repeating in her marriage too. Megan always felt like she was the one that had to put the work into the relationship and compensate for her husband’s wrongdoings. That’s why she wanted to work on the relationship. Because she felt that it was only her job to make it work.
I saw what was happening for Megan and first I helped her to create awareness. Through intensive active listening and powerful questioning, she got honest with herself and admitted that she is not happy with the way that her husband treats her. She realized that the way she behaved her whole life wasn’t an authentic one, in tune with her true self. But one imposed by the circumstances she grew up in. She always felt like there was a mismatch between her intuition and her actions.
I helped her find out what kind of relationship she wants to be in and what she needs from a partner. She came up with an action plan that she felt comfortable with and I made sure she is holding herself accountable for executing it. After a while, she found the courage to talk to her husband and tell him how she feels about their relationship. In the beginning, he promised he will change. Megan gave him some time, seeing some improved behavior. However, ultimately she realized that he can’t be the partner she needs and decided to file for divorce. That wasn’t an easy decision to take, but she felt like a weight was removed from her shoulders.
Nowadays, Megan feels at peace and happy. She realized that living according to her truth is what she needs. She is focused on her child, her career, and pursuing new areas of interest. She is living an authentic life, rooted in honesty and courage. Moreover, she is infusing the same values to her son too and she is aware that setting up her example for him is the first step.
Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone
Michael Bungay Stanier, The Coaching Habit: Say, Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead