To be or not to be?  The authenticity debate…

Catching up on the Sunday papers from a couple of weeks ago, my attention was caught by an article surfacing the debate on the value of authenticity.

I certainly agree with the concept of “being true to yourself”.  But indeed, how far does this go?  Ruth Whippman, the author of the article argues that her authentic self is a “fan of pyjamas and inertia” and who “doesn’t take out the bin or write thank you notes” (all of which if I’m being honest, resonates with me too!).  If authenticity is the idea that we should make the way we behave match the way we feel inside, then at what point do we rev ourselves up to ‘do the right thing’ which tips us over into inauthenticity.  Ruth argues “a functioning society depends on keeping a healthy distance between the two”.

For any of this debate to be relevant, I believe it’s important in the first instance to be aware of what our innate vs dialled up energies actually are.  Enter the Lumina Spark personality questionnaire…which measures 24 personality qualities and (most relevant to this discussion) does so at 3 levels or ‘personas’:

  • Your ‘everyday’ persona is how you tend to behave (the person you like the world to see)
  • Your ‘underlying’ persona is the natural you (your authentic self)
  • Your ‘overextended’ persona is who you are when put under stress

As a coaching tool with both teams and individuals, there is huge value in exploring the differences between these personas.  Here we can pinpoint the qualities a person is dialling up or down; the reasons for this (e.g. role requirements, team culture etc); the effort that it takes and the potential impact of this.

My favourites are ‘hidden treasures’.  Finding those qualities where a person is high underlying but low everyday.  I’ve seen some brilliant lightbulb moments, when people realise they have the opportunity to tap into natural preference – something authentic they weren’t consciously aware of and which could be of real value.

So amidst all the debate on the value of authenticity, there sits firmly for me a starting point about understanding who my authentic self is and from there being conscious about the choices I make to dial up or down certain behaviours in order to “get the job done”.  At least I now know when I’m being authentic or not!

Right, where are those bin bags…?


Sam Eddleston
Learning Curator and Team Coach


The Week Magazine February 2017:


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