Authenticity (i.e., being real or genuine) is one of those concepts we don't discuss much in sports. The great part, however, is this is changing. I recently attended the annual conference of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology in sunny Phoenix, AZ. In nearly every session I attended, the presenters mentioned the importance of authenticity.
What strikes me most when it comes to authenticity is how much it impacts the relationships we have with others. I frequently tell my clients that when we are fake and not ourselves, we are forming relationships (including friendships) on false pretenses. People are getting to know a fake version of ourselves. Not only is that not fair to the other person, it's not fair to ourselves. Investing energy in fake relationships also takes away from the energy that we could invest in relationships that could be more enriching and a better match.
This has many applications in the sport world, especially as it pertains to choosing people to be part of your "team." During the recruiting process coaches and prospects are trying to figure out if they're a good match. Maybe you're an endurance athlete on a quest to pick a coach. Regardless of what situation applies to you, it's important you be yourself. Remember, you're making a choice that could last for 4 to 5 years, especially if we're talking college sports. If you form a fake relationship, you're denying yourself the opportunity for something more real that can enhance your life.
The journey to be one's authentic self is truly a journey. I doubt any of us wake up one morning and have that "aha" moment where we understand every aspect of our personality. I know that certainly doesn't happen to me! But if you pay attention and really ask yourself who you are, you'll get there. And it's also important to remember that who we are is going to change. It's supposed to change. That's called growth!
I encourage you to reflect a bit and identify a small way in which you're not being authentic. Then ask yourself what you'd like to do with it. Maybe nothing. Maybe something. At the very least it's important to be curious around why you're not being authentic with yourself. I leave you with one important concept: being authentic will help you have enriching, meaningful relationships with those around you. You may lose some relationships when being authentic, but the ones that stay will be rewarding.
Dr. Erin Haugen is a licensed clinical psychologist and sport/performance psychologist located in Grand Forks, ND. She specializes in helping college student-athletes excel in sports and in life. She is a former basketball player, current triathlete, and LOVES dogs.
Disclaimer: You should consult and appropriate professional for specific advice tailored to your situation. If you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, you should call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.