authenticity and vulnerability

On my mind this morning:

  • Is there a difference between authenticity and vulnerability?
  • What’s the line between the two? Can you have one without the other? Can you be authentic without being vulnerable? Can you be vulnerable, but not authentic?
  • Why are both considered so important, yet both seemingly so rare (or did I just answer that question?)?
  • If they are rare, does that mean we are operating most of the time from a point of defensive falseness?
  • How does this fit in with the concepts of honesty and integrity? Few would define themselves as liars, but how many can say they are fully authentic? How do we account for that gap?

What thinks you?


who do you think you are?

In the business world authenticity and transparency are getting more and more attention. As customers, employees, friends, and spouses, us humans don’t like fake, hypocritical deception. We want the people we deal with to be straight with us, we want to know that what we see is what we get. We want to be around people who are real and comfortable in their own skin.

Spin that around, now. The people who deal with us want to know that we are authentic, that they can trust that we are who we present ourselves to be. They want us to like who we are.

SCREEEEEECCCCHHHHHHH…. and that’s where it grinds to a halt. We spend so much or our lives  learning how we need to be that we never learn who we are. How can we authentically be who we are if we don’t know who that is?

WHO ARE YOU? Chances are you don’t know. I can’t tell you who you are, but I can tell you what you’re not.

You are not your nationality. You are a citizen of your country, but it isn’t you. Move to another country and you are still you.

You are not your job. Your job exists independent of YOU. If you leave the company, your job will still exist – it’ll just be done by someone else. If your job gets eliminated, you don’t disappear.

You are not your accomplishments. Trophies and certificates acknowledge and authenticate what you’ve done, but not who you are. Who you are does not change if you get a degree, renew a certification, or win the softball tournament.

You are not your material goods. Although we often try to define ourselves by aligning ourselves with the brand image of the products we buy, it’s not you. You are not Red Bull Under Armor Levi’s Sprawling McMansion. Your house? Your car? Oversized TV? Storage shed and garage full of stuff you never look and but means too much to get rid of? It might be a reflection of your taste or priorities or income, but none of it defines you as a person.

You are not your income. Yawn.

You are not your family, friends, or relationships. I hope you’re a great friend, fantastic partner, and even better parent, but that’s not who you are.

You are not who your parents, teachers, bosses, and friends said you are. Their opinions are not you.

You are not your favorite sports teams, musicians, authors, TV shows, or movies.

You are not your hobbies.

You are not your manners or social niceties.

You are not you clothes or haircut.

You are not your “brand”.

Notice the pattern. When we strip away all the things we use to define ourselves, we still exist. Underneath all the layers we pile on, all the costumes we wear, all the things we distract ourselves with, is our true self. Tear it all away and we are what’s left: our hopes, dreams, fears, insecurities, and humanity.

WHO ARE YOU? What are your hopes and dreams and fears and insecurities? What are your gifts and talents? What is the humanness that propels you and compels you and makes you laugh and cry and shout and tremble? Only you know, only you can define it, and only you can be real about it.

Can you be real about who you are? Can I?

Your thoughts?