I guarantee that everyone struggles with being authentic.

Last month I was fortunate enough to host a keynote seminar with the Women in Fortune network in Lviv, Ukraine. The evening session took place in a fabulous co-working space not far from the city, in iHub. It was nothing less than motivational, inspirational and forward-thinking allowing for a small cohort of women in a variety of industries to engage with the topic of authenticity in an informal and relaxed atmosphere.

I approached this session utilising the values I had previously identified that were important to me. The core value for me has always been to make more meaningful connections with people who work in the fields of my interest – so this includes public affairs, culture, tech and digital for the most part. The second value that I identified was to better empower others if I possibly can.

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What do we mean by authentic?

The session was titled “The Power of Authenticity” and was met met with energy and lots of questions. I sought to align my interest in women’s empowerment with my passion for region of South Eastern Europe to ensure I covered content which would be of interest. Through steering the content through this lens, I was able to understand more the challenges that women in Ukraine may face doing business.

“Authenticity is what gives us the freedom to be ourselves and be comfortable with who we are, and it’s also what gives us access to connecting with other people in a meaningful and genuine way.” – Mike Robbins, Author of Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken

A lot of the women who attended the session – mostly businesses they ran, perhaps in tech and digital – had lots of successes. I had a gut feeling that engaging with the notion of ‘authenticity‘ within a global context and noting the language challenges too would be well received. I was happy to learn and support the participants in the differences between business etiquette as well as being authentic in a cosmopolitan context. One of my biggest take aways, for example, the fact that a lot of Ukrainians use Facebook to conduct business, compared to more Western countries using LinkedIn.

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Being authentic, is about retaining your sense of self.

Having hosted the session, I was approached by women to discuss the best way to be authentic, how are you able to engage with others whilst remaining yourself. For me authenticity, it is the concept of being your best self unapologetically and always seeking to improve yourself. I think the latter part of this is quite important, as we are always learning so it is core to keep being open to new things. In addition, being authentic has various layers and I do believe we flex different levels of authenticity depending on the need.

“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” – Henry Ford

Drawing on these conversations and being consistent, Roksana (the co-founder of Women of Fortune) and I decided to co-host a Female Founders Coffee in central London some weeks later. The aim was to draw on the ever growing partnership between our networks, the importance of the concept of being authentic as well as other topics which were of interest. A core part of this was to support others and engage with meaning. We sought to come together to support women globally, from what all began with a simple email I found the courage to send to the Women of Fortune.

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The power of being a part of a sisterhood and network to empower one another.

As a founder of a female networking group in London (but operating globally), the Growth & Grace Collective, my core passion is to connect, inspire and empower people. I strive to lift others by assisting in building their confidence, providing them with a platform for them to share their opinions/stories/passions. Hence, having confidence in being “authentically” myself in everything I do.

As my objective for this is clear, I am lucky to be able to answer key questions others may not be able to. I can support others through my trial and errors, as well as pass on the knowledge that might be useful in situations where they begin to feel like they’re doing it all wrong.

6-tips to being more authentic:

  1. Choose your values – These are ultimately the cornerstones of how you engage with others, really what makes you excited and gets you up in the morning. Your values are the things that you believe are important in the way you live and work. These in turn (should ideally) determine your priorities going forward.
  2. Align yourself with your interests and passions – Leaning into your interests and passions (with your values in mind too) will allow you to engage with subjects matter and people in which you already have a commonality with. This new steer will enable you to engage genuinely in both the local and global context.
  3. Follow your intuition and your intellect – You have gained immense expertise and intellect of being you (as there is only one of you!). If your gut says something isn’t right, then it is probably not, so follow that feeling if something is stressing you out or doesn’t feel like the right fit.
  4. Learn from everything – It is key to being authentic, to be actively open and engaged. This can come from being engaged in a variety of means of educating yourself, especially in areas where you don’t feel so comfortable or confident.
  5. Reach out without fear – LinkedIn or other social channels are great resources to meet other likeminded people, but they also offer an unprecedented opportunity to communicate in an authentic manner.
  6. Engage with meaning & be consistent – There are a variety of new directions, places and people in which you can engage with that you have yet to. In all of these situations, a good rule of thumb is to look for ways to add value and help others.

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The Growth & Grace Collective (G&G) is a non-industry specific community seeking to connect, inspire and empower women globally. Jess Gosling set this initiative up in June 2019, and has worked with a variety of organisations both within the UK and abroad.

G&G seeks to empower women both offline and online, via offering content, events and workshops in both mechanisms. If interested, feel free to join their 200+ member networking community here (& connect via LinkedIn); engage via Instagram (& the hashtag #growthandgrace); sign-up to the monthly newsletter (for two monthly emails focusing on events, professional development etc); engage on Facebook (& the Facebook community and finally their website.