How Are Authenticity and Self-Actualization Connected?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Authenticity has become a common term used to describe a level of human growth or attainment. I previously wrote about the multiple dimensions of authenticity and how they relate to living an intentional, aware, and ethical life.

I became curious about how authenticity relates to measures of human development and Maslow’s concept of self-actualization. Scott Barry Kaufman, a humanistic psychologist who tested and built on Maslow’s research, includes Authenticity in his list of 10 characteristics of Self-Actualization. He found that “self-actualization scores were associated with multiple indicators of well-being, including greater life satisfaction, curiosity, self-acceptance, positive relationships, environmental mastery, personal growth, autonomy, and purpose in life.” (Scott Barry Kaufman, What Does It Mean to Be Self-Actualized in the 21st Century?, Scientific American)

Brene Brown describes authenticity as “the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” (Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection) She connect the dots between authenticity, vulnerability, and belonging when she writes “Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” (Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead)

Brown’s insights about letting our true selves be seen got me thinking about how social media can impact our authenticity and the ways we express ourselves to others. I discovered an interesting paper by Bailey, Matz, Youyou and Iyengar, who “found that participants reported significantly higher levels of well-being after the week in which they posted authentically as compared to the week in which they posted in a self-idealized way.” (Bailey, Matz, Youyou and Iyengar, Authentic self-expression on social media is associated with greater subjective well-being, Nature Communications)

So how should authenticity show up in our leadership? Better Up offers these insights: “Authentic leadership is a style of leadership that focuses on transparent and ethical leader behavior and encourages open sharing of information needed to make decisions while accepting followers’ inputs…” (Kelly Labrecque, Authentic leadership: Why showing up as yourself matters, Better Up)

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

Carl Gustav Jung

We are on a journey of human growth, and sometimes the greatest growth can happen as we work through our greatest challenges. In the process of working toward becoming our best selves, it seems as though when we are comfortable with our real selves, we are also more comfortable with other people’s real selves.

Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership  

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