About three years ago when I started consulting and did a website, I finally got around to declaring my own values: Learning, Kindness, Beauty and Integrity. Before then I’d been immersed in my company’s values. I thought I knew what I meant by integrity, but after awhile I felt what I meant was authenticity, which seemed to include integrity. Then I struggled a bit with understanding “authenticity”. What did it mean when I said I wanted to be authentic?
Authentic: being honest (having integrity), being transparent, not posing or pretending to be something I am not.
I worked on raising my awareness of how authentic my responses were.
As a girl I pretended to be something besides myself a lot: a princess, a pirate, a wagon train scout, star-ship empath, Sheena of the Jungle, a detective, and that’s only a partial list. After trying all the roles on offer from TV, movies and books, when I went to college I switched to imagining myself in a professional role: writer, journalist, teacher, actor, director, shopkeeper, professor. I have an active imagination.
Still, it took me a long time to find myself in a career. Once some kind of work was there and money was coming in, I discovered there was often a gap between how my family, my friends and colleagues saw me, and how I felt inside.
I first framed the challenge as being able to be the same person in every role, but that didn’t work because it wasn’t realistic. I wasn’t exactly the same person in each role with only the activity changing. Different activities brought out different aspects, and this seemed appropriate.
When I learned to meditate, authenticity became, just sitting, just breathing, just being aware. This definition created congruence between my feelings and awareness, but didn’t help me much when I wasn’t on my cushion, at least at first.
When I put something on my values list it means I want to cultivate it, understand it better, and I want to see it reflected in my work.
So when I put authenticity on the list it meant that when I talked with you I wanted to be with you, listening to what you were saying at that moment. I wanted to be able to own my feelings and claim them. I wanted to be willing to disclose them, to be more transparent, so you would have the chance to get to know me.
Increasing awareness brings a deeper dive
As I investigated when I was being authentic and when I wasn’t, I realized that even more than being authentic I wanted to cultivate Presence.
Presence means being able to bring all of myself to the present moment and being able to respond as needed.
That’s why this year I changed one of my four core values from integrity to presence. Presence, as it develops, has a definite energy field. You can’t have presence without authenticity; sometimes you can be authentic without presence. Presence is what I am exploring now.
Increasing my awareness of presence has drawn the value of community back into my list as a new appreciation of inter-dependency has grown.
Join the conversation: How would you define integrity, authenticity, presence, and community? What happens when you explore how your values play out in your life? Any tips for exploring values?