S2E32 Authenticity

Most of us tend to know when something feels fake or feels genuine or authentic—but how?? In this episode Dr. Pete and Dr. Rubin introduce discuss the concept of authenticity, and how it may be a value, a personal experience, or something we assess in others. Tune in to learn how finding authenticity in your life is broken into four categories: self awareness, unbiased processing, behavior and relational orientation (Kermis & Goldman, 2000).




Pete: Sometimes I like to be authentic and sometimes I'm not sure if I am, but it's sort of like a chameleon, I think overall I'm mostly authentic, but Nikki, what do you think about authenticity?


Nikki: I'm laughing because I'm like, oh; I think you're very skilled at practicing it.


Pete: I am.


Nikki: So yeah. No, I, authenticity is a value that I feel very connected to, it's something that I practice quite a bit personally and professionally. I talk a lot about it with my supervisees actually, as they're learning to become therapists, right. How to balance [crosstalk 0:55]


Pete: I wish I had a supervisor like you.


Nikki: Oh, that's very sweet. I wish I had a supervisor like


Pete: Now it’s not authentic.


Nikki: Yes it was. But yeah, I think it's so important because I think what you're getting at a little bit in what you just said is that, being a chameleon we have many different roles that we play. So authenticity is something sort of deeper than that is what I would argue.


Pete: Yeah, I just dove right in, because there are times where, because of our roles, I feel less authentic in a given situation, you know? It’s kind of like when people are discussing politicians or, we've got like governor things going on now, and it's like, how authentic are people in the public life? And from my stance, I'm going to say it's a job, they're not fully authentic, you know, they might find some authentic values underlying maybe, but then also, maybe not because it might just be paying the bills.


Nikki: Yeah, I think that's very true and I think this is where actually, I'm glad you used that example because I think we want to be really careful to distinguish authenticity from honesty, because I think this gets confused a lot of times with people, right? Because I think honesty is a value as well and honesty obviously means like sharing truth, right, sharing facts.


Pete: Right


Nikki: Certainly authenticity and honesty oftentimes go hand in hand though. I think the reason I want to sort of be careful with that is that we may choose not to share every truth and we can still practice authenticity. And of course, the reason I'm thinking about this in this way is in our roles as psychologists. So we even on this podcast, Pete and I share some things about ourselves so there were more private about our own wives because in therapy, we don't want to take up that much space right?


Pete: Yeah.


Nikki: It's about making space for the patient and among the other reasons though, I still feel very authentic when I'm in that role.


Pete: I like this.


Nikki: Thank you. I'll say to patients, I'll say, look, we different roles mean that we speak in different ways. We wear different clothes. We don't share different things. And I'll say like, if you saw me on the street talking to a friend or something, I would say, look, I might be dressed a little bit differently. Or I might be using slightly different language than you here or very different language than you hear me using in session, but I would still feel like the same Nikki.


Pete: Right.


Nikki: And it's like, we can't measure it, you know what I mean? This is what you're talking about is in other ways and other episodes; it's like the stuff we don't have Western tools to measure yet. So humans intuitively we know authenticity when we feel it from in ourselves and other people.


Pete: Also like, Jim Carey's ‘Liar, Liar’ movie, like no one could be 100% truthful. They have to listen to, I'd never even seen that movie, but I mean, for the listeners, like also if you've never been in psychotherapy or curious about it and kind of tuning in about that. As psychologists and that's why Nikki was saying about this When East Meets West, that we are boundary around what we share around ourselves. Even though we are our authentic self that we are going to be character logically kind of similar to who we are with friends or on the street but in a boundary way, because that's how this works. And the APA definition of authenticity actually references psychotherapy because it says in psychotherapy, genuineness and caring, demonstrated by the therapist or counselor through a, down to earth attitude. But the client senses to be reflection of the true person and not simply of a professional acting in his or her professional role.


Nikki: Good job, AVM. Yeah, that's right. It's like, there's something again, that's where I'm using the word intuitive.


Pete: Yeah, I like that.


Nikki: We sense it, right?


Pete: And we say, look, there are certain groups like say like adolescents, like they have the bullshit meter like, you can't pretend to be something. If they say like a song that I've never heard of, I'm not going to be like, oh yeah, cool. Like, no I'm going to be like; I don't know what that is so now you're just making me feel old.


Nikki: Right, totally. And I think like, look, people can struggle to connect with their authentic selves because of certain contexts they'll find themselves in. I think maybe a great example would be we've all felt imposter syndrome at some point right.


Pete: Define that because someone may not know what that is.


Nikki: Okay, sure. So imposter syndrome, by the way, it's not really a syndrome it's sort of like a colloquial term.


Pete: Yeah. I feel like we’re going to talk about that next too.


Nikki: Well I think in any field but I mean, it's just sort of like out in the world, it's not like you're [crosstalk 06:05]


Pete: You’re right; it is in any field why didn’t I just say that?


Nikki: I don't know, because it feels diagnostic, but it's not.


Pete: I think I just got confused with med school syndrome where you're diagnosing yourself with every medical issue. Isn't that a thing?


Nikki: Well, yeah, but it's kind of similar, it's just sort of like [crosstalk 06:23].


Pete: Okay.


Nikki: So, imposter syndrome basically means like when we were in some kind of role and we feel like a fake, right so people can feel it in anything. People can feel it, like you're a new, if you're a new parent, you might feel imposter syndrome. Like, oh, how can I call myself a dad? Like, I don't feel like a dad, I don't know what I'm doing. 


Pete: Right.


Nikki: So most of us are familiar with that experience and it can be really difficult to connect with our authentic selves while taking on a new role or being in a position where there's a lot of pressure, a lot of expectations put on us. And then that can lead to engaging in inauthentic behavior.


Pete: Yeah. Which everyone, again, you smell that and that's intuition you talked about. How do you teach your supervisees about that intuition or authenticity?


Nikki: Well, intuition of course, it's another episode that we did. So we'll get into that, I guess but authenticity, again, all roads lead to mindfulness. I, I really helped them start by like being in their bodies.


Pete: Right.

Nikki: I'll say like, I want you to pay attention to like get a mindful body posture, like roll your shoulders back, put your feet on the ground. And I'll also highlight moments when we're supervising students we watched videos of their therapy sessions because students work under our licenses when we're supervising. So I also highlight moments in session when they seem like themselves. I'll actually say to supervise these, you know, there was a moment in the session that seemed like you, and then I'll ask, did you feel more like yourself in that moment? And they usually say, yeah. And I'll be okay. And that was different than this other moment where it sounded like you were trying to emulate something I said, for example, you know, just being yourself. I mean, how do you do it?


Pete: It’s beautiful. Well, I'm also sitting here thinking, God, you're so good because I think a lot of us kind of breeze through some of the videos with audio recordings. But I think you, as a good behavior is by looking and give them some incremental, good feedback so here again I would love if you were my supervisor.


Nikki: I got a Pete band glove today I'm really into.


Pete: Yeah. So authenticity, we could think about it in the real world, in your professional world and it's almost like that sort of boundary feeling or boundary vulnerability with others.


Nikki: Yeah. And it's [inaudible 08:54] you brought up when you said like intuition specifically, not just intuitive sense. I think it's also a feeling that we have within ourselves when we're connected to that core sense of ourselves, like intuition or obviously in a lot of Eastern traditions, like the core self. I'm also of course thinking about values, Like that's often a way I try to help people connect with authenticity as well. Like I'll say again when you're focused on what you connect with your being your authentic self. My apologies to the listeners, it's almost hard to put words on right?


Pete: No, I think you’ve done a good job with it.


Nikki: I mean, [inaudible 09:34] is like, you're talking about it, like we're using language the best that we can to describe what it is though I recently read a quote that I found really helpful. It's like, ‘but the language is the map and not the territory.’


Pete: Yeah.


Nikki: Like authenticity, but we're using the map to describe it, but it's not the same thing as the territory. It's something that you'll feel [inaudible 09:58] it.


Pete: And we're saying it from a clinical lens so I think it'll be helpful in tangible in the real world, because there are times where, like you said, you'll be yourself, say at a concert but you're also going to maybe let go a little bit. or maybe be a little bit more reserved because the person you're with is letting go more And that's why I started off by saying, like, I think there's a million aspect of this. And maybe that's just because of, like you have also said, is that the intuition, so you sort of know when you need to scale it back or dive right in.


Nikki: Yeah. So I think the dialectic cure would be that what's changeable is the behavior that we're doing in a given context. So what we say, how we're dressed, just anything that we're doing and the authenticity piece is feeling like oneself across contexts. So, I would ask listeners to think about like, when do you feel yourself? Gosh, I guess I would even say when we're connected to authenticity, there's an ease perhaps kind of that.


Pete: I like that.


Nikki: That we can then bring to whatever context we're in, whether we're behaviorally letting loose or being more buttoned up. Your sense of who you are is very, for me, I guess I'm speaking my own personal experience when I feel very grounded. I feel very solid; I don’t know does that resonate with you at all?


Pete: I was meeting with an executive recently and I’ve realized that, it was like the second meeting we had, it was more social, even though it's a colleague. And it happened to be an executive of one of the [inaudible 11:51] I'm in. Anyway, she liked disclosed something to me that I had said the first time we met and I was like, I said that to you, the first time we met. And my reflection was, oh, I guess I felt comfortable and I was being pretty authentic with you because I shared more than I probably would have. It just shocked me that I had said this thing to her about like, you know, I kind of name-dropped in a way, which I don't do often. 


Nikki: Right and I think maybe that's an example though, of where authenticity and honesty can be linked right? So like when we feel really ourselves and really safe sometimes we might share more. Though, again, I think I would just be mindful to say that you can still feel really authentic while not sharing everything that's going on in your head. Because it's more of a getting out of clinical we're here, but it's like a vibe that you feel and a vibe you put out.


Pete: Yeah. Bernay brown wrote on this as we've referenced her before and she says, “If you think dealing with issues like worthiness and authenticity and vulnerability are not worthwhile because there are more pressing issues, like the bottom line or attendance or standardized test scores? You are sadly, sadly mistaken, It underpins everything.”


Nikki: I agree with that.


Pete: Yeah, worthiness, authenticity, vulnerability. I mean, these are all things that, you know, they connect a lot to what we're talking about in terms of like behaviorism and really thinking about the east. Because, the gift that the east has brought to what you and I do in behaviorism is this idea of connecting to worthiness, authenticity and vulnerability. you know, I don't know that some of the first waves of psychotherapy would have done it in the way that we're doing it today.


Nikki: Yeah, I agree. Look, I think any skilled student of or teacher of human experiences in modern Western psychology or, ancient Eastern spiritual practices. I think anyone in that regard is a tuned to authenticity is an important part of human experience. So I totally agree with you that it's not something maybe that we targeted as concretely and in earlier forms of, it's certainly not an earlier forms of behaviorism right. We were just focused on changing behavior though, in the third wave authenticity becomes a part of; it's a value, right? So it's something to connect with it’s this thing that's intangible and yet somehow tangible at the same time, something that, again, we know it when we feel it, we know when we see it.


Pete: Yeah, and in earlier years are practices of psychotherapy. Perhaps I'm going to say, maybe even encourage people to be in authentic at certain times I'm thinking of. And this is like a very narrowed example, but like, it was 1973 that homosexuality was removed from the DSM. And so if you went to a therapist at that time, they would encourage you not to be gay because then there was this pathology. And so even today what I'm thinking that is about like multicultural competence also links really nice to the work we're doing to say like, hey, how do we help people find their authenticity?


Nikki: Yes, and then that goes to what we say a lot on this podcast, right, which is that there's no one right way to be a person, right. There's no one right way to do things and it's connecting to your own inner wisdom as a human being. Again, I never really thought about it this way until today, but it it's really linked to intuition, I think in my opinion.


Pete: Well, we've said that a lot today and there are some other science you have Courtesan Goldman in 2000 had the authenticity inventory. So for any listeners out there, and for us social scientists, we have a measure for almost everything so there's an authenticity inventory. And there were four key factors that they study, which are self-awareness, unbiased processing, behavior and then relational orientation. So that's, that's authenticity, you know how self-aware are you around who you're being that chameleon piece. This unbiased processing so nonjudgmental sort of view of who you are, the behavior. So knowing how you act in certain situations and then relational orientation so your interpersonal skills that you implement.


Nikki: I think that's nicely broken down in what they were assessing though I'm actually surprised that there's not an emotional component they assessed.


Pete: More self-awareness maybe?


Nikki: That's more behavioral, like I wonder about that’s the action part right?


Pete: We'll get to our producers on this, but the definition of the self-awareness factor is, ‘knowledge of, and trust in one's own motives, emotions, preferences, and ability.’ So there we go and it's so wonderful.


Nikki: My number one fan today.


Pete: Yeah, but of course you picked up on that because it would have been, I had it in front of me, so I was reading it. But also I think of like emotional intelligence and so self-awareness is always how they define even emotional intelligence, so for me that [inaudible 17:16] immediately.


Nikki: Sure, and of course, since it's a measure that's going to be defined behaviorally though. I guess to me the emotional component piece is what like stands out most to me, I think, because I think again, humans tend to get confused between like practicing honesty behaviorally and practicing authenticity. And it's like, wow, they're similar though, they're not exactly the same thing, Authenticity is something, again, it's that vibe I keep coming back to you today.


Pete: That vibe, I love that you're saying that. Yeah. And so I think for listeners, think about what it is that you connect with and really are you being authentic? But also when it is important to be authentic versus that it's okay when you're not doing so non-judgmentally with compassion. Any last words before we wrap up? Because I can't imagine that we're already at the end of how authentic and I think you and I do a good job of being authentic here.


Nikki: Yeah. Because I think, [inaudible 18:15] speak for myself like that. That's a value of mine right, practicing authenticity and so I guess I would encourage people to see how can you practice authenticity across context So you can be more open or be more closed. And regardless of where you are, you could be alone in your house, right, and you can still be authentic.


Pete: I love that you just said that. So I'm going to end with a quote from Michael Jordan who better to talk about authenticity. I don't know why I just said that, but here it goes. “Authenticity is about being true to who you are even when everyone around you wants you to be someone else.” This has been When East Meets West I'm Dr. Pete Economou.


Nikki: And I'm Dr. Nikki Ruben. Be present, be brave.


Pete: This has been When East Meets West all material is based on opinion and educational training of doctors, Pete Economou, and Nikki Rubin.


Nikki: Content is for informational and educational purposes only.