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How Authenticity and Vulnerability Pay Off

Published inAuthority Magazine, Dec 26, 2022 ·

Trust. You have shared something personal. Something painful and you are authentic. Trust is one of the hardest things to earn, so this is a quick way of connecting with someone on a deeper level.

Being vulnerable and authentic are some of today’s popular buzzwords. It may seem counterintuitive to be vulnerable, as many of us have been taught to project an air of confidence, be a boss, and act like we know everything. In Brene Brown’s words, “vulnerability takes courage.” So is vulnerability a strength or a weakness? Can someone be authentic without being vulnerable? How can being authentic and vulnerable help someone grow both personally and professionally? In this interview series, we are talking to business leaders, mental health professionals and business and life coaches who can share stories and examples of “How Authenticity and Vulnerability Pay Off and Help You Win Personally and Professionally.” As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rachana Adyanthaya. Rachana provides her clients with career-enhancing performance coaching and etiquette. The result is quite unique. She appreciates the delicate balance and impact of juggling a competitive, determined spirit with the subtle but necessary qualities of empathy, kindness, and respect for others. She firmly believes aligning her clients core values and goals is not only highly effective but the building blocks of a successful and happy life.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory? Iwas born and raised in England, am of Indian descent and currently reside in the U.S. I learned very quickly the need to adapt to your environment but also the importance of recognizing how these cultural influences can play such a great role in seeing things from different perspectives and from different values. I am one of 3 kids, the middle child of 2 brothers and was considered a bit of a tomboy. I have always been a keen athlete. I love working in teams and pulling together to achieve goals. I was fortunate to represent the England national team in Lacrosse. I draw from this and my corporate experience of working in “magic circle” law firms and investment banking. It is these experiences that have enabled me to hone skills and a mindset that translates to all areas of life and coach clients to achieve next level success.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life? “When you stop growing you start dying”, by William S. Burroughs. This is relevant because to me, it is the quintessential meaning of life. We need growth to live. The moment you stop and give up, is the moment things decline. Many times, growth can come from tough situations, when we are in it, we don’t see the benefit or necessarily the point, but the collateral beauty is the growth.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much? One of my favorite books is Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. The book is divided into parts and each teaches us a lesson. It is powerful because it goes through all the human challenges, decision making, acceptance, compassion, forgiveness through the narrative of this person’s life story. It explores the different parts of the human psyche that we all grapple with on some level. The story makes you assess your own life, the way you approach situations, what you want from them and ultimately how to find peace in the chaos. It was a book that really challenged my thoughts. To this day, it is one of the books I will re-read and find something new and compelling. If you haven’t read it, read it.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Let’s begin with a definition of terms so that each of us and our readers are on the same page. What exactly does being authentic mean? In its simplest form, it means being true to yourself, your values, beliefs and what is important to you as an individual, regardless of external pressures. We all have different values, different beliefs, and different goals. The important thing is to align yourself to your own standards, not someone else’s. If these things match up, then you will be happy as you will be in alignment with your true self.

What does being vulnerable mean? Can you explain? Vulnerability is opening yourself up and allowing others to share in an experience or a fear that is painful for you. The experience can elicit feelings and emotions that make you feel helpless, painful, or even fearful. This experience may mentally take you back to a particular situation. It takes courage to go there as it is not somewhere you want to live all the time, but it can be helpful to visit.

What are the positive aspects of being authentic and vulnerable? Can you give a story or example to explain what you mean? People immediately relate and engage. Not only is it a story, but it’s also a true story that elicits love, pain and suffering that the listener can engage with. When you are being authentic and vulnerable it is very hard for people to not listen. It takes guts to open -up. It is also a way to make the listener feel special. Like you are opening to them with your deepest darkest secrets and that builds trust. Once they trust you, they align themselves to you through your story and are hooked. Then, when they are fully engaged and invested, they become fans. To be vulnerable, there needs to be authenticity. People can see through if you try and fake it. The other benefit that is often overlooked is the benefit to the person sharing. The more you share the most painful and vulnerable moments, the less shame you attach to them. It can be quite cathartic. Many feel that by sharing and opening themselves up in this way, it allows engagement with others who have also been through similar experiences and dilutes the shame and guilt they may have attached to it. This is powerful.

Are there negative aspects to authenticity and vulnerability? Can you give a story or example to explain what you mean? If vulnerability is overused it can make you appear weak, especially in some situations. For example, if you are working on the trading floor of a bank and you are constantly telling people about your deepest darkest fears and vulnerabilities, it’s not going to fly. You are delivering this information in an arena where you are expected to bring your “A “game, you don’t want anyone to throw you off your game with a tear-jerking moment from their past. In these situations, vulnerabilities can be seen as a weakness, especially if it is constant. There is a fine balance. You need to know your audience will be receptive to this vulnerability. In terms of authenticity. I believe you should be authentic to yourself, your needs, beliefs, and values. Aligning yourself to your authentic self will make you more confident and self-assured. If you work in a situation that allows you to be authentic, then it is a good fit. If you are in a situation where you are not authentic because the job or the situation does not allow you to align to your true self, for example, your authentic self-thrives on being an open book but you work as a spy, where you cannot divulge personal information, then this is clearly not a good fit. You will always clash with your own values versus those you are supposed to exude. There is a disconnect.

From your experience or perspective, what are some of the common barriers that hold someone back from being authentic and vulnerable? Primarily I would say fear. Fear of looking weak, fear of feeling vulnerable, fear of losing respect, fear of re-living the experience. FEAR. If you are not living authentically, you are not living in alignment with your true self. I liken it to holding down an inflatable ball in a swimming pool. You can do it, for a while but eventually it rises to the surface. It takes a lot of effort to keep the ball underwater. In the same vein, it takes a lot of effort, and it is tough to be doing something that is inauthentic to your nature.

Here is the central question of our discussion. What are five ways that being authentic and vulnerable pay off, and help you win, both personally and professionally?

  1. Respect. Displaying vulnerability and authenticity can be extremely effective. You can’t help but have some respect for someone who can be so raw and trust you with their experiences in such an authentic way. Whether you like the person or not, it commands respect at some level.

  2. Trust. You have shared something personal. Something painful and you are authentic. Trust is one of the hardest things to earn, so this is a quick way of connecting with someone on a deeper level.

  3. People value you and your opinions. They fully trust you. Why shouldn’t they? You have opened up to them and they like it, they value this. Now you have fans that not only trust you but hold value to your opinions.

  4. Creditability. Authenticity builds credibility because people trust you and believe you.

  5. Relatability. By opening and being authentic, people relate, and this leads to engagement and trust.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? The ripple effect. My son recently studied this at school, and I thought it was brilliant. Random acts of kindness can have such a big impact on the wider scale. It can also work conversely, for example, if someone is unkind it can often have a negative impact on one’s self esteem and how that person treats the next person they meet. I believe that we don’t fully think about how our words and actions effect everyone around us. Taking time to appreciate and what we have and what others have done for us doesn’t take long but can make a huge difference to their day/week/lives. I love the idea of a challenge. Challenge yourself to perform 5 random acts of kindness daily. They don’t have to be huge. It may just be that you hold the door open for others or that you pick up the trash on the floor, even if it is not yours! These acts set an example, a precedent. No matter how small you may think this can have an impact on the next person, and then the next and so on. Soon its huge. It costs nothing but can impact our lives enormously. That would be my challenge.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens! Serena Williams. She has transformed women’s tennis and taken it to the next level despite all the naysayers. Her dedication, skill and perseverance are second to none. She has pushed boundaries and pushed the women’s game to new heights forcing the rest of the competition to raise their game to keep up. She dominated the game for years, proving she is no one shot wonder. There is an indomitable spirit to her that I would love to have the good grace to meet and find out what sets her apart..

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