What does it mean to be AUTHENTIC?

Nina Wagner
5 min readAug 30, 2021


I’ve always valued authenticity, and would put it [top 3] on my list of most desirable attributes in another person.

But when it really comes down to it — what does it mean to be authentic? In a world of buzz words and over-used corporate jargon, some of these big words (big, and popular) start to lose their meaning; and subsequently, their value.

I recently participated in a Clubhouse room titled “The Authenticity Your Audience Needs — Can We Get Real” hosted by Futur Pro. As the conversation started, each of the guests were asked to explain what authenticity means to them.

Have you ever had a moment, where someone else was perfectly able to articulate exactly what you feel in your heart but could never properly describe? I had one of those moments during this talk! Had I tried to form the words to write my own description of such a critical term I would never have been able to articulate it so eloquently.

I might be paraphrasing here a little (my notes are hard to read) but the speaker, Brian Grossman, said something like this:

“To me, authenticity is the coherence between the way you feel and the way you act; it’s a more wholistic version of your whole personality.”

Another participant explained a similar interpretation. For her “to be authentic is to be truly, unapologetically, you. This comes from deeply understanding wo you are, and how you show up every day.”

So how do we move towards living from a place of authenticity?

Step 1: Defining Inner Self

For me, the first step to living authentically starts with defining what it means to you. It’s about inner reflection.

Try this exercise: draw a small circle and label it your “inner self.” Write down the key words that describe WHO you are, and WHY you are. These words should capture your core beliefs, your essence.

It’s about knowing what you are all about, what really matters to you, and what you’re really connected to as values.

The heart of living authentically is understanding what you are living for.

Step 2: Assess Your Outer Self

The next step is to define how you operate externally; meaning, the person you are in your day-to-day interactions — how you present yourself to the outside world.

Go back to the exercise: now draw a larger circle and label it your “out circle.” Write down the key words that describe who OTHER people think you are. I would suggest asking a few of your close friends/family members to pick key words to describe you. How would they define you as a person? What are the main personality traits you are known for to them?

Understanding how we present ourselves outwardly is helpful in determining our level of authenticity.

Step 3: Compare Inner and Outer Self

If you recall the insight I shared at the beginning, one of the best definitions I’ve heard of authenticity is based on “coherence between the way you feel and the way you act.”

Look at your inner circle; now look at your outer circle. Are the words the same? Similar? Or totally different?

When there is a disconnect between your inner self, and your outer self, that’s when we lack authenticity. On the flip side, if we are operating from our core beliefs this will show itself outwardly; there will naturally be congruence, and alignment.

Step 4: Checking In

Now there is a difference between what we see on paper, and what we experience in real life. And living authentically can be challenging! It requires a great deal of confidence, and an ability to stand our ground in compromising situations. Sometimes, we can unknowingly shift away from our inner self; the influences of the world around us can cause us to second guess ourselves and push us away from our core.

One of the easiest ways to identify if you’re not operating from a place of authenticity is to check your gut. For me, the further I get from my authentic self, the louder my gut gets. It’s a feeling in the pit of your stomach, and underlying sense of discontentment stemming from disconnect. I find myself getting drained faster, not having much creative energy, and having a harder time making decisions (or worse, making bad decisions). It can feel like you’re lost. Something is wrong in your gut.

Every time I find myself in this place, I check my gut. I lean into my instincts, and I reflect on the way I’m presenting myself vs my core value.

Where Are You Operating From?

When you’re feeling lost, or out of alignment, try asking yourself this question:

Am I operating from my core beliefs and values, or am I operating from a place of trying to get approval?

Outside influences have a nasty way of pushing us towards trying to get approval, even if it means compromising our core values. No wonder our guts start screaming when this happens! It goes against the very essence of our being.

Getting to a place where we can confidently operate from our core beliefs, instead of focusing on approval, is incredibly valuable (and freeing). It requires a high level of trust in self; if you can’t trust yourself, how can you ever really trust anyone else?

Keep Trying, It’s Worth It

My encouragement for you today is to strive for authenticity. It’s a journey, and will require you to continuously evolve. It requires self awareness, trust, and strength. The benefits that come out of existing from this place are tremendous, and so worth the effort. Existing in a place of coherence, alignment, balance, is not only good for your head — it’s good for your heart and your soul. It makes you a better human being, and I guarantee it will draw people closer to you (the real you).

Questions for Reflection

  1. What does it mean to you to be authentic?
  2. Is authenticity important to you?
  3. If your answer to #2 is yes, are you willing to fight for a life of authenticity?
  4. How are you showing up every day? Do your inner self and outer self align?
  5. What steps can you take to practice your inner values outwardly?



Nina Wagner

People First Leader | Personal Growth Obsessed | Just Trying to Figure It Out