Why Authentic Humanity is a Superpower in a Digital, Disconnected World
Maya Angelou is famously quoted as having said that people may forget what you said or did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.
In our digital world, we are losing a lot of what makes us truly ‘human’ and it’s important that we preserve that authentic humanity and bring warmth, kindness and empathy back into fashion. Authentic humanity is inspiring, powerful and empowering and I believe it’s the key to changing the world.
It seems that the more technology we have created in order to make the world seem ‘smaller’ and to improve real time communication and collaboration, the more we are actually creating a shadow side that is mired in disconnect and distraction. Everyone is so busy on their phones and on social media, that they are missing out on real human warmth and interaction, right in front of them. Worse even, it seems as though our reliance on technology has rendered us almost incapable of having true, meaningful relationships and connections with other people. I believe that was never the intention behind the technology. I believe that technology should be used as a tool to augment our human experience in this world and to free up some of our time so that we can truly follow our passions and seek that self-actualisation that Maslow spoke of.
So, in a digital, distracted and personally disconnected world, being able to display true, authentic humanity, is truly a superpower and will set you apart from everyone else. For me, the concept of ‘authentic humanity’ is built on the following 5 principles:
Being ‘Real’ and Self-Aware
The greatest gift you can give yourself and everyone around you, is the gift of being your true, authentic self instead of some fake-ass version of somebody else. To do this, you’re going to need to put in some work and become really self-aware by doing a lot of personal development and being very mindful of your intentions and motivators. Figure out who you are underneath your job title and the car you drive and the clothes you wear. Take off the physical and the emotional makeup and uncover the real ‘you’ hiding underneath all of those decades of socialisation that told you that ‘a lady doesn’t do this’ and ‘you should be more like that’.
Being Kind and Empathetic
You’re never too important or successful to show kindness to others. Smile. Make eye contact. Greet people in the elevator. Offer to help colleagues who seem to be facing challenges or buy your bestie at work her Monday morning coffee. Any act of kindness, no matter how small, can really change someone’s day – not to mention the fact that you will feel better too.
Empathy is related to kindness in the sense that it requires that you think of what the other person is going through and realize that it could just as easily be you in that position. If the tables were turned and it did happen to be you going through a tough time, how would you like to be treated? What level of understanding and caring would you want to see coming from your colleagues? Figure it out and do more of those things for the people around you. Learn to put people ahead of policies and procedures or even profits. Value human relationships and create a caring and kind environment at work and in your personal life.
Being Honest and Trustworthy
Working with others isn’t always easy and it’s tempting to get involved in the gossip because, as humans, we all have a deep psychological need for ‘belonging’. It’s because of this need to ‘fit in’ that you may just end up sharing information that you really shouldn’t and all that does in the long term, is earns you a reputation as someone who is not to be trusted. Rather focus your efforts on doing what you said you would do, when you said you would do it by. If you’re told something in confidence, don’t breach that trust. Rather seek to create an environment of honesty, transparency and trust, where everyone can thrive without fear of what may come back to haunt them.
Being Brave Enough to be Vulnerable
It’s ok to admit that you don’t know everything or that you have made a mistake and it is ok to ask for help. Being brave enough to share your story and be honest about heartbreak and disappointments or mistakes you have made along the way, is not only freeing to your spirit, but also inspiring to others. Sharing vulnerability helps other women realize that we all go through trials and struggles, and it helps motivate them to hear how you have overcome an obstacle or the actions you are taking to learn and grow. It inspires other women and gives them much-needed hope that they too can overcome their challenges. Vulnerability also reduces the stress and pressure women feel to be ‘perfect’ when they realize there is no such thing, and everyone is hurting, everyone is battling some personal demon. We can help each other to heal and to grow if we are brave enough to be vulnerable.
Being a Mentor and a Coach
Our greatest responsibility as leaders, is to create more leaders. You already have so much knowledge you can share with a younger woman or even a young female relative. Be a mentor to other young women and empower them to speak up for themselves, to educate themselves and to build their careers and their lives on their own terms. You will be shaping a whole future generation and you will be part of changing centuries of oppression and inequality.
Showing up each day and truly living in a way that is aligned with these core principles of authentic humanity, is going to be a total game-changer for you. You will notice that more and more people will be drawn to your warmth and compassion and your vulnerability will inspire them. By being ‘real’ and authentic, you will be creating an environment where others feel safe to do the same. By being a mentor and a coach, you will be empowering others and creating more women leaders in all industries. Time to #HeroUp, girl and go change the world with your authentic humanity!
Deborah Hartung is a Consultant, Coach, Author and Speaker. She has spent almost 20 years advising corporates on matters relating to employee relations, corporate culture and leadership development. Deborah is passionate about people and technology, the human experience in the workplace and the opportunities for the advancement of humanity in the digital age. Deborah lives in Johannesburg, South Africa and is committed to ensuring that her children – daughter, Reagan and son, Owen – have as many adventures and experiences as possible. Amongst her friends she is known as the woman who always needs at least SPF50 sunscreen and someone who can trip and fall whilst barefoot and stone cold sober. A big fan of tequila, craft beer and MCC, Deborah loves entertaining friends and is secretly a rather big fan of baking.