Jay Rifenbary

Jay Rifenbary's Blog

Authenticity - Celebrate Being You


What does it mean to be authentic? Although I believe we as humans have more in common then we do different, our differences create our individual authenticity. We are all unique, but it is our uniqueness in conjunction to living an honest life that creates personal authenticity. Authentic is defined as, “of undisputed origin; genuine”, “relating to or denoting an emotionally appropriate, significant, purposive, and responsible mode of human life.” Each of us is genuine when the behaviors that reflect our personality are honest, and each of us has the opportunity to create a responsible mode of human life. What makes you authentic? Your talents, skills and personality create the substance of your uniqueness, and when applied honestly you develop your authenticity. We all have the potential to be individually authentic, and it is uplifting to think of ourselves as one who is authentic based on the structure of our character and personality. Personality is defined as “the combination of characteristics that form and individual’s distinctive character”, “qualities that make someone interesting or popular”.

Being authentic is not creating behavioral characteristics to please others for acceptance, when those characteristics are not truly reflective of the person you are. Authenticity is not covering up your own weaknesses by pretending to be someone you are not. One who is authentic is true to his or her values, and will develop a substance of character and behavior that reflects those values. What are the factors that challenge our ability to be authentic? Each day there are external societal pressures and influences that challenge our ability to maintain our authenticity. The need for advancement, the desire for money and power, immediate gratification and material abundance are all factors that have the potential to compromise our ability to maintain authenticity. When we succumb to needs not in alignment with our values we are violating what it means to be authentic. “Authenticity in psychology refers to the attempt to live one’s life according to the needs of one’s inner being, rather than the demands of society or one’s early conditioning.” Does your personal definition of success compliment your authenticity, or have the demands of society deterred you away from a genuine sense of self?

Personally, I believe a genuinely authentic person is never dishonest. To be disingenuous is the antithesis of being authentic. The key to embracing your authenticity is behaving in a way that reflects the trueness of who you are rather then displaying what you want others to perceive you as being. Authenticity is honesty with self, and honesty with self is acceptance of self. Taking ownership for the wonderment of you, and knowing that it is never at the expense of others is an authentic spirit of ones character and identity. Outward identity is established from the adaptation of ones values to their personality for the benefit of those around them. Think about what makes you wonderful and celebrate the authenticity that you possess. Your authenticity is most readily revealed in the company of family and friends. They know when you are disingenuous and violating the trueness of your character. They have been there in good times and bad and have witnessed what it is that makes you, you. To betray family and friends is the ultimate betrayal of oneself.

A key to fulfillment is to acknowledge and be accountable for the times we violate our authenticity. It allows us to maintain a path that is in alignment with what makes us authentic. How many of us are living a life that is a true reflection of what we honestly believe about ourselves? If we are not, there is little capability to be authentic. Embrace the beauty of who you are. I believe each of us has an authentic purpose in life, and each of us matters. The revelation in discovering your own authenticity is when your behaviors are consistent with your values, your personality is mutually respectful of others yet unique to yourself, and honesty is present in all that you do. You do matter, and to utilize your authenticity to enhance the lives of those around you only exemplifies the value of you, and your greatness in being authentic.

Aloofness - Misguided Self-Confidence


Over the years I have come to chuckle rather than be annoyed when the aura of aloofness passes me by. The individual who by their own sense of importance looks over or down upon others is aloof. How important can one be where one outwardly discards another human being? Individuals of true importance are those whose character includes selflessness and humility, not arrogance and egotism. I am not referring to shyness as it may relate to being aloof, but aloofness as it pertains to the attitude of elitism. Aloof is defined as, “not friendly or forthcoming; cool and distant, conspicuously uninvolved and uninterested, typically through distaste.” Have you ever asked yourself, “What did I ever do to them?”, as a person you know, made eye contact with, walks by with that look of disdain without even acknowledging you? Did you appear distasteful to them? Trust me, if a person has an attitude that others are less important and less human based on outside appearance it says more about themselves then the person they are disdaining.

Do the clothes we wear, cars we drive, and amount we own justify an attitude of self-importance over those who have less? Personally, I would rather enjoy the company of one who may have less and genuinely cares for others, then one who has more and in their mind the world revolves around them. Glitz and glamour may be fun to enjoy, participate in, read about, and observe, but when the glitz and glamour subside and the outside is no longer looking the inside takes over. Am I more important because I have a nicer dress or suit then someone else? Am I more important because I can eat at a fancier restaurant then those whose joy of dining out is fast food? Am I more important then a mother who can barely put food on the table, because I can afford to attend a gala? I hope anyone reading this would say, of course not. Yet, there are those who feel superior to others because of what they have, rather then understanding an importance of self is reflective in the positive difference made in the lives of others. The German philosopher Theodor Adorno, stated, “He who stands aloof runs the risk of believing himself better than others and misusing his critique of society as an ideology for his private interest.”

Genuine self-confidence is generated based on behaviors that reflect the values that form the substance of your character. Character is defined as, “ the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual” i.e. your values. Our individual values are validated by the accomplishments we have earned, not been given. For example, if you achieve success by following the values you adhere to, and have earned that success though hard work and diligence how could you not be self-confident? An appreciation for life, the things we have, and the ability to be empathetic toward others are attributes earned not provided. Each day these attributes are undermined by a growing sense of entitlement and dependency our society is progressing toward. It deteriorates an understanding of what diligence and perseverance mean in regard to generating success, and ultimately a greater sense of personal confidence and happiness. Our children are inundated by the pseudo importance of glamour and glitz rather then understanding what principles are needed to create their own uniquely successful lives.

Behind the aloofness of many is an undercurrent of insecurity and a genuine lack of self-respect. Anyone who sincerely respects themselves would be respectful and friendly to others. Healthy self-respect negates any need to be aloof, nor having to use possessions to justify ones own self-importance. Mark Twain stated, “a man must not hold himself aloof from the things which his friends and his community have at heart if he would be liked.” Finally, aloofness stifles personal growth and breeds personal complacency. If I believe I am better than those around me, there is less reason to take the initiative to change and improve. Charles G. Dawes, the 30th Vice President of the United States under Calvin Coolidge stated it best, “Mediocrity requires aloofness to preserve its dignity.” Personal importance is an extension of how we generate a sense of importance in others. To be aloof is to hide behind a curtain of stuff rather than substance of character. Enjoy drawing back the curtain.

If You Were to Die Tomorrow - A Lesson in Leadership


This past Saturday I attended a funeral for a high school classmate of mine who succumbed to her courageous five-year battle with cancer. The church was filled to capacity as the mourners reflected on this young life of 53 years. The service concluded with a eulogy by her husband and father of their two children. I listened intently and compassionately to the words as he reflected on the person, wife and mother she was. As he shared the many characteristics of a beautiful human being I was glad to have known her. The words also triggered a further understanding of the expansive breath of what it means to be a leader. Leadership comes in all human shapes and sizes, as do moms and dads. Yet there are common threads that create the very fabric of effective leadership.

Although title, power, fame and wealth may indicate a person in a position of leadership, that alone does not give credence to being an effective leader. This is illustrated everyday in the failures and incompetence of many of those in positions of power as they fail to understand that genuine leadership is more about the responsibilities to others rather than oneself. Any person who impacts another is a leader. There are many who believe in you, count on you and love you. If you were to die tomorrow what would those you love and those you impacted say about you? Would you even know what you would want them to say? Are you aware of the positive leadership characteristics that are most reflective of you? These are significant questions to ponder since they relate to personal accountability, and taking ownership for the path and direction your life is traveling. In other words, taking ownership for what you want to be remembered for is the key to living a life that is an honest reflection of who you are.

This task of living honorably is undermined consistently as a result of a continued social trend towards excuse making and blaming rather than taking personal responsibility for ones own actions. Where do we find direction in how to effectively lead when there are those who are titled as leaders and yet violate the very foundation of effective leadership? Regardless of political, or corporate affiliation it is abhorrent to witness the true lack of citizen concern and irrational decision making by so many of those who are in positions responsible for the future direction of our society. I would enjoy some day witnessing the words “special interest” not being associated with the meaning of public service. Of course, that will never happen. Personally, I believe this route of economic irresponsibility, decline in moral objectivity and the rupture of core-valued leadership is the result of a lack of personal ownership to the values that are most important to adhere to. Anyone reading this can ascertain his or her own interpretation of my words, but the most important examination is of our own personal leadership. What are the principles that form your decision-making and interaction with others? What are the values that define what it is you stand for and believe in, and are those values projected in your actions? In the throes of being a minor pubic servant I have always known you cannot please everyone, but I do believe you can generate respect and set a positive example by being consistent in your beliefs, open-minded to others’ beliefs, and treating others as you want to be treated, that being with dignity and respect.

Through the years I have experienced a consistent number of character traits that universally translate to being an effective leader whether it be in the office, at home or on the battlefield. Discipline, integrity, commitment, loyalty, perseverance, honor, respect and humility are just some that come to mind. The most important is one of selflessness, and the constant reminder to oneself that the end result of our actions is to benefit and inspire those around us. Returning to the eulogy, it was never mentioned what she had taken during the course of her life, but rather what she had given, and therefore what she will be remembered for. Are those you love and lead better people and leaders themselves for having followed you? When the mirror reflects what you see, is that truly who you are?

Friday, August 14, 2020

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