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The Privilege of Authenticity

Updated: Sep 29, 2022

Written by: Anne Bono

Being able to show up authentically is a privilege.

Personally, my journey to authenticity has been a long one.

I used to hide my tattoos under long sleeves in 100F weather, part my hair down the middle to cover the shaved sides, mask away the signs of my neurodivergence (who else talks to themselves in a steady stream of personal narration while they work?)—all under the guise of making myself palatable for “professional” spaces (and yes, I’m using those quotation marks ironically and intentionally).

My decision to show up authentically was made in small increments, each of them imbued with deep fear—was this the time I got pulled into an office and told to hide my tattoos? Was this the time I was told my hair was inappropriate? Was this the time I got fired for being too loud, too smart, too brown, too queer?

Each time, I sat with my fear, weighed out the consequences, and had to actively decide that I was okay with being fired because I would rather be fired than hide who I was…that knowing I wasn’t welcome was a red flag I WANTED to see so I could make the informed choice to be safe.

Often, I was making that choice in a vacuum. I could not see anyone around me who looked like me, acted like me, was like me. I was standing on the edge of authenticity, wondering if this was the time I fell into a precipice.

It was exhausting.

Eventually, I was able to let go of all the ways in which I was hiding and masking who I was—not because I felt safe doing so, but because I realized I couldn’t feel safe if I DIDN’T do it. I would choose safety and unemployment over not being able to show up as me.

But being able to make that choice—to be in a mental and emotional place to be able to make that choice, even in small increments over time—is a privilege.

Actively choosing to say “hell naw, goodbye, thank u next” to code-switching—and doing so without fear of consequence—is a privilege.

And if you have that privilege, I believe you have a responsibility to create spaces that allow others to have that privilege, too.

So now, I show up as loudly and authentically as I can every single damn time, in every single damn way, because with my privilege of authenticity comes the responsibility of agency. I HAVE to be an agent of authenticity for those around me—to show that you CAN be queer, brown, tattooed, female; you can exist safely in those spaces, and I am your steward.

That is the personal responsibility of every leader who breaks the mold, exists outside of the norm, shows up in less-common ways: if we are safe to be authentic, it is our duty to be agents of that authenticity, and create the spaces and safety for others.

Show up.

Make space.

Create safety.

Be an agent of authenticity.


About the Author

helping folks be better humans⚡️VP, Growth Marketing @ Penguin Random House⚡️#peoplefirst leadership coach + speaker⚡️tiktok/IG: @leadershipcoachanne⚡️storyteller • multipotentialite • candid af • violently happy • nsfw


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