Being Authentic

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That inner voice has both gentleness and clarity. So to get to authenticity, you really keep going down to the bone, to the honesty, and the inevitability of something - Meredith Monk

"Don't shout" is a commonly used hypocritical statements by a parent to a child. When the command is barked, the child is confused because the parent is expecting contrarian behavior from the child. I too have 'shouted' these words several times and now I laugh at my folly because the words and action never matched. I wonder, was I telling my child or myself to be calm.

Arrogantly, I believed I lived a life of integrity. As I became more self aware, I got a rude shock and had to humbly accept that I was as much of a hypocrite like all those who I judged. I didn't keep my word, I was not honest with myself and I behaved as if I was better than many. I had a rather misplaced self-image. The import of the word authenticity was unknown and living it was definitely not an easy task.

I was working with a client who enjoys adventurous water sports. He feels totally aligned and exhilarated while playing such sports. Another value that he cherishes is being respectful of others and their feelings. With my client, the value of respect for others had suppressed the adventurous spirit. He took risk only where he believed he was not impacting another. Consequently, the risk taking personality was limited to vacation time and he did not take much risk in professional or personal life. Our life is shaped by values that become integral to our personality. Sometimes, one value superimposes its influence on another and creates disintegration in our personality and thereby resulting in lack of clarity and frustration.

During childhood, parents may draw boundaries or rules to instill a sense of responsibility and awareness of consequences for choices. Also, parents react to life from their experiences and are often ignorant of the true inner nature of the child or are simply protecting the child from failures or consequences of taking risk. The boundaries inadvertently become norms of behavior and we forget to reflect as an adult and make choices that are true to our inner nature. While respecting others or rules, we create conflict for ourselves by not respecting our inner needs.

How do we live a balanced life of values?

Authenticity is the key to living a balanced life. When we do and say in line with what we think and feel, and express our inner desires, fears, hopes and feelings, we live an authentic life and are able to build trust. Often when we want something, we present several excuses or reasons to build a story and logic around the desire. We hesitate to simply say, I want this or I think so, for fear of being rejected or seen as foolish. We make assumptions and limit ourselves from expressing honestly or living with honesty.

What if we are seen as wrong, what if we make a mistake, what if we get rejected? We can start again, get another or different opportunity, have a difference in opinion. Are we truly being rejected or is it that our needs don’t fit with those of another? Also, we experience every event for the first time, so how can we expect to know how to deal with a situation. Sometimes, we know and sometimes we don’t. We need to learn, apply and move ahead.

I believe that we are so attached to winning, that we are unwilling to face disappointments or failures or be seen as wrong. We become so desperate to get the outcomes we work towards and completely lose sight of the journey. Above all, we get lazy to flex those muscles of the mind that can adapt to change. Our mind has the capacity to be alert to dynamism and opportunities. We build habits and thinking patterns and live our whole life with the same patterns. Ironically, we expect to face higher challenges and receive better outcomes without making commensurate change in our thought process.

While coaching, I mostly listen for paradoxes in conversation. Clients express their problems and when they are questioned, they often get defensive, when provoked further. Most successful people provoke themselves to look for opportunities to grow. However, they may not always apply the same rules of provocation to grow themselves holistically as a person. Here is where inauthenticity creeps into life. Over time, we become masters of deception and we live with a distorted self-image. The joke is that we are dishonest only to ourselves. The world can see through the inauthenticity, our tone, words, actions, voice give us away.

Laws of nature are perfect and however, successful a life we live, our inauthenticity catches up with us. The purpose of life is to evolve and even if we want to stay in our comfort zone, circumstances do not allow us that privilege. Relationships that are built on the foundation of inauthenticity and deception, suffer cracks and either fall apart or become a drag in our life. It is painful to live with inauthenticity and it is painful to shed the mask of deception. In my experience, it takes more courage to live with deception day in day out, than it does to shed that falsehood.

Every choice has consequences. Living with authenticity opens the doors to trust and self-confidence that allows us to climb greater heights, meet new challenges with ease, be creative and successful. When there is clarity of thought and there is no conflict between values and we have the conviction to act, the mind is able to create miracles effortlessly. When we work in the ‘zone’, we are efficient, productive, effective and above all, happy. Happiness is not a thing to get, but something that needs to be worked on, every living moment.

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony - Mahatma Gandhi


Ashu as my executive coach has had a profound impact on my Professional & Personal life. Ashu's tools are simple conversations & powerful questioning, which makes you dig deep and reflect about ourselves in the context of the ecosystem we all exist. I have a lot to thank Ashu for helping me in my journey to be a better "me" & look forward to my continued association with her.

Vivek Venkatachalam

MD, IOT Infrastructure & Energy Services Ltd

...having Ashu as your coach is a God send. Because, Ashu's primary focus is not limited to addressing the immediate areas of concern but to transform you inside out. She helps you (if you let her) discover and reinforce your own core beliefs, values and approaches. Her approach is to focus on you such that you can grow across all dimensions, making you capable of reaching the "here" seamlessly… and empowering you to reach the future "theres" as well!

Rajeev Ved

VP & Country Head Ansaldo STS

Knowing and working with Ashu has been a personally and professionally enriching experience. Her worldview has a deep philosophical underpinning and is informed by clarity of thought and tempered by strong sense of honesty, compassion and generosity. Ashu has the desire and the ability to make a difference.

Mr. Jaideep Khanna

CEO & Country Head India, Investment & Corporate Bank, Barclays Capital India

Ashu has worked as a coach with my team on a few occasions to help improve teamwork and team dynamics. Working with a group of type A investment bankers can be pretty tough. Ashu was able to draw out the team to share their views openly in a constructive manner.

Mr. V Anantharaman

MD & Regional Head - Origination and Client Coverage & Co-Head - Wholesale Banking, South Asia, Standard Chartered Bank

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