In coaching circles much is spoken of ‘authenticity’ but what does it mean and what is its relationship with our work as coaches?

Most frequently authenticity is described as the degree to which we are true to some form of integrity, spirit, or character, in the face of the pressures of living in a material world with its external forces, pressures and influences.

Speaking from the premise of an NLP model, I have experienced authenticity as an alignment of my behaviours with my capabilities, beliefs, values, sense of identity and sense of something beyond identity.

So often we, as coaches, are expected to ‘be authentic’ at all times.  This carries with it an unspoken judgement that we should never be caught being ‘inauthentic’ as this would imply that we were failing in some way.

During my recent reading around the Narrative Approach to coaching I have encountered a more flexible, more realistic definition; a definition which seems to me to open up more possibilities:

Narrative Enquiry suggests that ‘inauthentic’ might mean ‘naturally occurring’: with our ‘authentic selves’ being easily ‘lost’ in the everyday routines of our customary responses.  These responses can be viewed as the result of the narrative of our personal history, sometimes referred to as ‘the past that lies before us’.

Inauthentic in this sense is not a value laden judgement, rather an observation.  As we begin to understand ourselves in this way we give ourselves more choice. We can choose knowingly from possibilities.

What makes a response authentic, according to this description, is that a decision has been made true to something akin to personal beliefs and values as constructed by self in the moment.

This feels to me like freedom.

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