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The 2023 word of the year is ‘authentic,’ but what does it mean?

November 29, 2023 | Inman

Leading with authenticity is practically a cliche for real estate professionals and entrepreneurs of all stripes. EXp’s Troy Palmquist looks at what it means and how you can put it to work in your life


Photo courtesy of Canva

Leading with authenticity is practically a cliche for real estate professionals and entrepreneurs of all stripes. EXp’s Troy Palmquist looks at what it means to be authentic and how you can put it to work in your life.

You might have expected this year’s word of the year to have something to do with technology, politics or the economy. But with questions around AI, celebrities, identity and social media prompting a substantial increase in searches, Merriam-Webster chose “authentic” as its word of the year for 2023.

We’re not talking here about “authenticating” your baseball or Pokemon card collection, and we can already tell apart the faux versus the authentic Louis Vuitton, the real versus the knockoff.

We’re talking about personal authenticity, the quality of being real without being too brassy, being honest without being rude, and staying true to your values and beliefs, even when everyone around you is throwing them away.

I checked in with a number of colleagues to find out what being authentic meant to them — and how to cultivate authenticity in your personal and professional life.

1. Authenticity is about being your best you

Russ Laggan

Russ Laggan

“Authentic to me is about having your own ‘flavor,’ your own way,” said growth expert, speaker and trainer Russ Laggan. “It’s about being your best you — not mirroring or mimicking others but being the best you you can be.”

Authenticity isn’t about showing all of your flaws and saying, “Oh well, that’s just me.” It’s not a way to make excuses for behaviors or attitudes or shortcomings. It’s often about working harder on yourself than on judging others.

One of the things that I struggle with personally is seeking approval from others. While authenticity requires me to be honest with myself about my struggles, it also requires me to seek out self-improvement wherever possible, even if it’s difficult and even when the steps I’m taking are small.

While authenticity doesn’t seek to people-please, it does seek to relate positively to others. According to Mark Rittenberg, Distinguished Teaching Fellow, Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, when you’re acting with authenticity, you are able to instill a sense of trust in others, enrich relationships, and improve your own mental and emotional health.

2. Authenticity is about knowing who you really are

“When you get to the point that you know who you really are — and that how you roll is best for you and for everyone around you to be the best you — that’s when you can release worry over what others think about you,” Laggan said.

Amy Weaver

EXp VP of Growth Amy Weaver said, “Authenticity is staying true to your moral and ethical principles, consistently being the same person whether behind closed doors or in public. It’s presenting as yourself without pretense or conformity to seek approval from others.”

Developing this type of self-awareness can be incredibly difficult, but it can be done. Researchers have developed a three-part model to help make it possible:

  • Self-check: When you’ve had a strong reaction to something or made a big decision, slow down and analyze your words and behaviors to see if they still seem correct and reasonable.
  • Self-talk: Use positive words and thoughts to ensure you’re acting from your highest self, not from fearful or disordered thought patterns.
  • Self-journaling: Consider journaling to externalize your thoughts and get them out so that you can examine them and process them.

3. Authenticity is about knowing and owning your own history, even amid change

Diem Tryon

Diem Tryon

Growth Operations Administrator Diem Tryon said authenticity has “a history, a legacy, something handed down from generation to generation.” That creates a foundation for comfort, trust and safety.

This can apply to an individual, team, brand or brokerage. The foundation and core values of an organization, and the way these are perpetuated through the staff, agents and leadership, underline the authenticity of the brokerage or company, she said.

“When I think of authentic, my mind often goes to food or experience,” Tryon said. “How many times have you gone to your favorite ‘authentic’ restaurant to find out that it has changed due to a new owner or the next generation taking over?”

Although that might initially make you apprehensive, “change can be good if the foundation is still there but improvement is the intent,” Tryon said.

For growth expert and industry leader Tony King, “Your authenticity is not only how you find your tribe of clients or customers but, most importantly, it’s how they find and resonate with you.” It’s also the key to consistent branding and marketing, he said.

Tony King

Tony King

“Sadly, many agents fail in their long-term endeavors because one can only ‘pretend’ for a short period of time,” King said.

If you’ve lost touch with yourself, your history and your goals, I encourage you to take inspiration from the Word of the Year and put some effort into getting back in touch with your authentic self to propel your growth in 2024.

Troy Palmquist is the founder of DOORA Properties in Southern California and director of growth for eXp California. Follow him on Instagram or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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