Being Authentic in a World of Fake News

These are strange times and I marvel at state of the world’s geopolitics. Just a short two years ago seems a lifetime away – when there were less in-your-face fabrications by prominent world leaders and there appeared to be a rules-based world paving the way forward. Today, democracies around the world are taking a beating and lies becomes truths if they are stated often and loud enough. How we have come to this point is a complex topic which warrants many debate sessions. My intent here is not to dissect the current state of world affairs but to relate it to ourselves and what it means to us as individuals.

I notice within myself a sense of fatigue with the constant barrage of information and misinformation especially from ubiquitous social media sites. This constant “always on” mode has morphed my sensation from information overload to information apathy. I feel a throbbing pain in my head as I read articles and wonder about the authenticity of what is being said.

Perhaps as an extension of the prevalent inauthenticity, I notice that I am a lot more aware of the way I show up for others – especially when in groups, facilitating sessions or coaching clients. I do this by stating my needs and intentions; naming what I notice; and asking questions with genuine curiosity.

This can be especially challenging when I conduct leadership workshops for clients who prefer a more structured approach. Being authentic in those moments can sometimes lead to discomfort with my colleagues who prefer the tried-and-tested way of doing things rather than hearing and sensing what is needed by the participants. But even if my colleagues do not agree with my suggestions, I remind myself the importance of owning my voice and speaking my truth.

This brings me to an interesting observation about being authentic – somehow it seems easier to be authentic with strangers than it is with people we know. I have sometimes been able to say what is deep within me more easily to people I have just met rather than those I have known for a long time. I feel the ease comes with knowing that there will be no judgements or history being carried into the conversation. In a way, strangers accept you as-is rather than their perception of who you should be. There is no historical baggage.

What can we do to remain authentic? For me the answer is somewhat counter intuitive. It is to be childlike.

Being childlike is to be curious and inquisitive. To always question the “why” of the things we do. Sometimes we get so caught up with our own assumptions that we accept things without questioning if there could be a better way. Ask questions like:

  • Why are we doing this?
  • Who does this benefit?
  • Whose perspective might we be missing?
  • If we didn’t continue doing this, what would that mean?
  • Explain it to a 10-year-old child.

I find that the greatest clarity I have is when I explain what I do to my kids. The simplicity of their questions helps me to further fine tune what I actually mean – and helps me to remain authentic.