Through focused and deliberate cultivation – making a conscientious choice – authenticity is a value anyone can possess; they just have to be interested and willing to do the work associated with cultivating it. Understanding what authenticity is and how this value influences behavior is fundamental because of its fundamental role in mental health and overall well-being. It is beneficial to understand how authenticity contributes to, or impedes, behavior and affects behavior change. By defining authenticity, both health and wellness coaches and their respective clients understand how core values contribute to behavior change and achieving goals.
There is evidence supporting that being authentic – living and acting in accordance to one’s values and honoring one’s true self – plays an integral role in behavior change. One who is authentic can recognize the need to make change, non-judgmentally accept this and take action, knowing the change aligns with their values and accordingly facilitates goal achievement. By illustrating how authenticity empowers achieving goals, we can better understand how coaching can support goal attainment as it is correlated with personal values.
What is authenticity? It is defined as living in harmony with one’s values and beliefs, where actions mirror values regardless of external pressures and expectations (Yarnell & Neff, 2013). Authenticity is accepting one’s self as they are, including strengths and faults, without being critical or judgmental of themselves. Authentic individuals act in alignment with their true self without allowing the influences from others to dictate their actions or change the way they live their lives. Furthermore, they are willing to be open and vulnerable. In essence, an authentic person walks his or her own talk (Goldman & Kernis, 2002). By defining authenticity, we allow for a greater understanding of how it may impact other behaviors, such as goal achievement.
Research demonstrates self-compassion, a character trait associated with authenticity, contributes to achieving goals. Self-compassion, defined as being emotionally supportive of others and one’s self, consists of three overlapping and interrelated components. Self-kindness (the preference for being non-judgmental, and self-nurturing), common humanity (recognizing we are all flawed), and mindfulness (being aware and present in the moment, in a non-judgmental capacity) are the three components of self-compassion that contribute to authenticity (Yarnell & Neff, 2013). These three mechanisms suggest that one who is authentic could recognize the need to make changes, non-judgmentally accept this and take action, knowing this will enable them to achieve their goal. Research has shown that increased self-compassion results in lower levels of the fear of failure and thought suppression; it is also a healthy indicator of positive states such as personal initiative, perceived competence, self-esteem, and taking responsibility for past mistakes (Yarnell & Neff, 2013). Thus, all of these qualities of self-compassion allow one to successfully acknowledge the need for goal achievement and to take steps towards achieving those goals. The impact of self-compassion is not limited to achieving goals, it also aids in the resolution of interpersonal conflict as well.
Past research has linked higher levels of self-compassion to interpersonal well-being. Self-compassionate beings have increased trust, encouragement, and compassionate goals in close relationships. They contribute toward the ability to balance the needs of not only the self, but also the needs of others in those relationships. The impact of authenticity on interpersonal conflict is demonstrated here by staying true to one’s values in congruence to those of their partner during the resolution. In coaching, it is demonstrated through the willingness to explore personal struggles, allowing the coach to talk the client through conflicts in an open, non-judgmental environment.
How does authenticity, and self-compassion, make a difference in coaching or contribute to, or impede, a client’s behavior and their willingness to implement behavior change? By defining authenticity, we better understand how one’s core values play an integral role in behavior. A Coach can cement the need for behavior change by aligning the client’s goals and generating action steps using their core values. The client, in essence, is being reminded of what is important to them. Additionally, a coach can gauge whether the client recognizes and acknowledges the need for change, and whether or not they are ready to take the necessary steps towards achieving their goal, by measuring their level of self-compassion. Self-compassionate beings possess an aspect of authenticity that will contribute to their success of achieving their goal, because a coach will have an easier time talking a client through conflict resolution knowing they are open to compromise. The more authentic the client is during a coaching session, and willing to explore who they are and what matters most in their life, the more successful they will be in achieving their goal.
Goldman, B. M., & Kernis, M. H. (2002). The role of authenticity in healthy psychological functioning and subjective well-being. Annals of the American Psychotherapy Association, 5(6), 1-7.
Yarnell, L. M., & Neff, K. D. (2013). Self-compassion, Interpersonal Conflict Resolutions, and Well-being. Self and Identity, 12, 146-159.