by M. Kendall Ludwig, president and principal designer of CurlyRed
I'm a big fan of the Enneagram, an ancient personality tool that's helped me better understand myself and how I relate to those around me. I am a type 4, and one of 4's top values is authenticity (and so I made it the word of the month for April!). I found this helpful description:
Fours struggle with being authentic, their true selves. Authenticity is one of their highest and deepest values, and they are constantly striving to express and be their authentic selves. They also strive for authentic relationships with others, becoming disheartened when/if these do not occur.
I think this is why I struggle at times with being in situations where small-talk is required. It often feels fake and forced. When I ask how you are—guess what? I want the real answer! Even if that means our conversation might turn somewhere unpleasant, I'd much rather talk about something sad or upsetting then gloss over someone's true state of being in that moment.
This striving for authenticity has its downsides—I'm not good at "pretending everything's fine." If anything, most people can read how I'm feeling on my face at any given time, and that can be terribly inconvenient. For example: this can be problematic when I'm interacting with my children. For me, 2022 brought with it a lot of challenges and increased stress, and my body responded to those circumstances with sometimes debilitating anxiety and insomnia. I was honest with my children that I was going though a difficult time, but often is just wasn't appropriate to burden them with all of the specifics. I was happy to report back to them as things began to improve, but I felt it was important for our girls to not only witness my struggles, but to also witness the steps I was taking to improve my mental health.
All that being said, being authentic in business or when building your brand is incredibly important. We're living in an age where things like AI and Photoshop are getting more sophisticated, and it's becoming increasingly more difficult to discern what's real. There's been dozen of articles written about "brand authenticity," but what it basically boils down to is this: as a business or organization, it's imperative to be real, direct and consistent in all communications, both internally and externally. Your audience, clients and employees will see-though anything less than that.
How are you authentic in your work?
Custom letter illustration by CurlyRed junior designer Olivia Weeks