Authenticity: Isn’t that something we all strive for? To be true to ourselves? To be honest and open with others? And yet, isn’t it where we often fall short, trying to please too many people, making decisions based on how others might feel and not on how we feel? How can we make better, more authentic choices for ourselves? It begins with acknowledging who you are, followed by acting on those beliefs and values.
In 1991, The Walt Disney Company released its animated movie musical Beauty and the Beast. It was an immediate hit. The success of the film inspired Disney to pursue a unique venture, one that would take them into a whole new world of entertainment; Broadway. The decision to pursue this idea of a live stage production raised several questions within the company. One was the simple fact of would it be possible to put this fantasy world of talking furniture and dancing dishes onto a stage. (As we all know now, it was.) Another question, and perhaps a more significant one, was how would Disney be treated by the New York critics? Would Disney need to change—become edgier—to capture the hearts of the critics and the wallets of the audience? After all, the world of Disney was quite different from the world of Broadway. After many hours of discussion, there still was no clear resolution. That’s when Michael Eisner, Disney’s CEO at the time, stepped in. He firmly believed that it would not work to be what they were not. “We are not Stephen Sondheim, or Cameron Mackintosh, or Rodgers and Hammerstein. If we try to be, we will be second rate and we will fail. We are Disney!” So that’s what they brought to Broadway, a Disney spectacular. It opened on November 28, 1993 and was an instant smash, loved by critics and audiences alike. Disney had remained true to who they were: the show was authentically Disney.
Here are four actions that you can take to help you define your authentic self:
- Accept yourself for who you are. Be proud of your uniqueness. As actor Ben Platt said when accepting his 2017 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for Dear Evan Hansen; “Don’t waste any time trying to be like anyone else, because the things that make you strange are the things that make you powerful.”
- Act on your beliefs and values. Just because something is popular, just because a lot of people are doing it, doesn’t make it right for you. Over the years, I have been offered numerous directing opportunities. Most I took, but some—because I felt they weren’t me—I respectfully declined.
- Trust your gut. Your gut is filled with wisdom, wisdom gained by combining your abundant personal experiences with your years of reflection. Let that gut guide you and keep you on your path.
- Be present. The best place to be is in the moment. Don’t live in your past and don’t project into the future. Commit yourself to the moment you are in.
Stand firm on the principle that:
The most important thing you can do with your life is to live it with integrity.