Authenticity

Authenticity is something that has come up a lot in my reading lately. How intrinsic goals are more likely to be achieved and how happiness cannot be found unless we are authentic. Lately I’ve done a lot of thinking about what makes me, me. I’ve gone so far as to draw a diagram. To be honest, I love my diagram. It shows the results of various psychometric tests I’ve done in my work life and the various quizzes online and in books about personality and happiness.

authenticity

And yes, there are inconsistencies and there are commonalities. Some tests were done over ten years ago and many results would likely change over time. For example our values change as we go through different life experiences. And a serious illness like mine can affect our resilience, happiness and optimism.

Despite the illness, however, my resilience is good and my happiness is well above average. My optimism doesn’t seem to be what it once was, however. I remember in my early career I used to have boundless energy. I literally jumped up and down and was known to say things like ‘Yay!’ a lot. As time has elapsed, I have become more jaded, more worn down and of course, more mature. I hope to one day regain a better level of energy than I have now with enough rest and time.

For now my focus is on recovery and I am certain that this illness has been a message for me to change my life. I’ve been forced to take stock of my life and to define a new path so that I can be happy and healthy. One of the most important things I can do now is to know myself well. The better we know ourselves, the better equipped we are to design our lives around what we want and who we are.

I have noticed some things that bother me a little. I’ve been told to live life in the grey and not to be so black and white. Well frankly it’s in my personality to be all or nothing. I know that I can’t give everything my all at the moment because I’m recovering and not back to full health. But I know that I’m not a moderate or mediocre person. I’m comfortable giving my all and when I’m back to a good level of health, I will throw myself into my endeavours because that is who I am. I am conscious of not getting sick again and I need to employ measures of self-preservation but I am not changing my personality or pretending to be someone I’m not.

Recently I have injured myself because I’m overdoing it. The people around me are rolling their eyes at my foolishness. I know that I’m not well enough to push the boundaries right now. But it is my nature to go full tilt. I’m struggling with the restraint that is necessary right now. I’m frustrated and annoyed that my body wont do what I’d like it to do. And the process of becoming strong again is excruciatingly slow. My very nature may well be what is slowing down my recovery but I do need to be me.

Another area I’m being told to work on is emotions. For various reasons and childhood experiences, I adapted to downplay emotions and to rely on thinking instead. Many results of my personality tests show a tendency towards intellectualising things and away from people and emotions. As much as I can try to get in touch with what I’m feeling, I’m never really going to be highly emotional – that’s just not me.

There are three main trends I see from my consolidation of Authentic Kathy. Firstly I have a need for solitude to spend time thinking, reading and writing. This need has not been nurtured in my previous work environments and is something I’m getting the chance to enjoy in this period of recovery at home.

Secondly, it’s clear that I should not be in a team environment. I am more task-oriented than people-oriented and I’ve come to realise that I really dislike leading teams or even being in a team. I love people and I really enjoy interacting with friends and meeting interesting and clever people. But teams are really not for me. One very important distinction that I have come to learn is that we must ensure we focus on what we love, not what we are good at. Knowing our strengths is one thing but it can bring us to our knees if it’s not what we love. I have led teams and I can lead but I don’t enjoy it. I can persevere through bureaucratic processes and high levels of admin and produce high quality output, but it wears me down.

Lastly, although I am predominantly right brained, I cannot ignore my strengths in left-brain areas such as analytical thinking, efficiency, focus and discipline. I have had a lot of success in my life by deploying these strengths and it helps me to deliver on the ideas that come from the right brained thinking. I do love strategy and big picture thinking and I believe some of my tests will show more of a shift in this direction as I’ve evolved. As much as my work environment caused me to become ill, I gained learnings from running a business and using both sides of my brain.

I am in the process of redesigning my life such that it facilitates recovery and ultimately, thriving. It is impossible to create an optimal life without knowing yourself well and without having work that makes the most of your talents. Once we know ourselves, it is imperitive that we accept and love what we find. I’m not good at everything and that’s OK. I’m not a team player and I’m not ashamed to say it. There are many other areas where I’m strong and it’s perfectly acceptable to have flaws.

knowyourself

I remember being a little embarrassed about my skewed Myers-Briggs profile when meeting with my manager. He told me that it’s the people who are exemplary who have a skewed profile. No-one who is middle of the road in everything ever achieved greatness. That helped me to accept and appreciate my strengths and to not be ashamed of my weaknesses.

I’d challenge you to do as many online questionnaires as possible. There are some very good ones on the Authentic Happiness website and in the various books that I have referenced in this blog. Once you know what your strengths are, figure out the intersection between those and what you love. There you will find treasure that can lead you towards a happier life.

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Kathy
I am a champion for living your passion. Writing is my passion, my destiny and my calling. I am a mother of two beautiful daughters and a wife and live in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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