Authenticity: A Balance Between Ego and Essence

Career satisfaction is enhanced when one is able to hold a vision for what is possible while mindfully staying present to how a job feels right now. This is a matter of being conscious of what is, while delighting in what is still to come.

Authenticity: A Balance Between Ego and Essence

Authenticity is a term used often these days, though it is frequently presented in a context that suggests it is something easily attainable, perhaps even widespread.

On the contrary, authenticity is a way of being that requires profound self-awareness, considerable effort, and continuous intention.

From a career perspective, being authentic creates a wonderful opportunity to experience greater meaning from one's work, resulting in a deeper sense of joy and satisfaction.

In the career development field, we often hear such phrases as "Follow your bliss," "Find your dream job," "Fall in love with your work," "Do what you love and the money will follow"- each a worthy end and each considered a demonstration of authenticity. The fact is that many people haven't the first idea of how to make that happen.

In a world that measures success mostly by the dollar figure earned or the status achieved, the search for authentic work can appear to be a foolhardy, hopeless venture. Not so! Consider Mark Twain's quote, "the secret of success is making your vocation your vacation."

Vocation may not be something that the average person considers when they think of their job or occupation, but it's the place to begin to contemplate how to go about establishing authentic work.

The concept of an Authentic Vocation was coined by Marcia Bench, an important innovator in today's career development field. The first or preliminary step outlined in her Authentic Vocation Model is to examine your life purpose by exploring the Essence of who you are, and then combining that with understanding how to express that essence through meaningful work.

This can be a difficult process simply because when we think of work, we tend to think first about doing, not being. Marcia Bench suggests it's fascinating that the question often asked of children, "What are you going to be when you grow up?" suggests an integration of the real self, or the essence, expressed through vocation. But this seems to be somehow neglected or forgotten in the doing nature of our fast-paced and competitive world of work. As a result, our focus on doing rather than being may become driven by the needs of the Ego.

The ego is the seat of intelligence and rationality within the psyche of the individual. It is the I, the self of any person, the part that is in contact with the external world. The functions of the ego include recognizing what's taking place outside of ourselves, setting boundaries, differentiating, and developing self-esteem and self-worth. These functions take place through reality testing, impulse-control, judgment, and developing defense mechanisms.

Developing a healthy ego from early childhood on is a prerequisite for producing a psychologically mature, healthy adult. The person whose ego is underdeveloped or weak will find it very difficult to cope with life, not to mention master it.

The person whose ego is inflated or overgrown will also experience difficulty. Both extremes - the ego's weakness and its inflation, may hinder the presentation of the real self, or essence, to the outer world. In an underdeveloped ego, there is a gap between the ideal and the real self. This results in ego's need to defend itself, demonstrated through projected behaviors, including, but not limited to, the following:

* presenting a false image of self to the world

* seeking the approval of others

* enduring worry about how things will turn out

* undermining our own sense of achievement and/or satisfaction

* increasing need for external validation

* over-functioning in an attempt to control outcomes

* continuing comparison of self to others

Healthy ego development can be achieved by taking the time for personal growth and development-a process that nurtures the inner self even as we learn to understand and to love and honour all of our aspects.

The individual with a mature ego has a stong inner sense of identity and purpose. Living from one's essence involves living each day guided by your inner core and by Spirit, however spirit is defined.

Authenticity, including the creation of one's Authentic Vocation, involves examining your Life Purpose and understanding yourself at your core through asking questions like, "What is my fundamental nature?", "What brings meaning to my life?", and "What is it I want to contribute through my work?"

My wish for you is the joy of living authentically by balancing ego and essence.

Take good care of yourself,

                 Kathleen Johnston