The Hawthorne Effect and Your Authenticity

by Dian Reid-Jancic· Follow Dian on

I read an article this morning by Trent Hamm over at The Simple Dollar, and it got me thinking about being authentic.

The Hawthorne effect is a form of reactivity whereby subjects improve an aspect of their behavior being experimentally measured simply in response to the fact that they are being studied, not in response to any particular experimental manipulation.

~ Wikipedia

This effect essentially means that we put our best foot forward when we believe we’re being “watched”. Ever have this experience at work when your boss walks in the room? When your kids are around? When you hang out with your health-nut/exercise-guru friend? When we feel like people are paying attention to what we’re doing, we tend to behave in a way that we a) think the person will appreciate and/or b) want the person to perceive us.

How does this apply to Authenticity?

In The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle talks about creating awareness around your actions and behaviors, and your present state of mind. He talks about being present and simply observing your thoughts with your mind’s eye and not your judgement.

What if we apply the Hawthorne Effect to ourselves? What if we behave differently when we know we’re being observed by our own minds? Instead of being on your best behavior because you know someone else is watching you, can you be on your best behavior because you’re aware of yourself?

Can you act out of what you know is right for you and not what you think others expect from you? Can you order food based on loving yourself instead of feeling guilty about how you love yourself? Can you skip a night out with friends and stay home alone because you know that’s the best thing for your sanity to start your week off right?

In my English 101 Class at Pierce College back in 2002, my professor told us a short story that got us thinking about the use of words and the way in which we perceive them. She told of a married couple who went to counseling because the marriage had begun to go sour. The husband shared recent stories about the marriage and concluded that he just didn’t love his wife anymore. The therapist says to him, “Why don’t you love her?” The husband tells the therapist he doesn’t know why. And the therapist clarifies: “No. Why don’t you love her? Why don’t you try loving your wife for a while and see how that goes for you.” The small shift in perspective changes the entire structure of the sentence, even though the words are the same.

In that class she was trying to teach us about the many different ways in which we use our words. In this article, the point I’m making is different.

Can you act out of what you know is right for you and not what you think others expect from you? Can you order food based on loving yourself instead of feeling guilty about how you love yourself? Can you skip a night out with friends and stay home alone because you know that’s the best thing for your sanity to start your week off right?

If the answer to any of those questions above is no, then let me ask you the questions again. This time, think of them more as requests of yourself vs. about yourself. These requests are coming from you, not from me. And if these questions don’t speak to you, what questions do? What can you ask of yourself today that allows you to stretch in loving yourself? That allows you to stretch in believing in yourself? Stretch in being kind and compassionate to yourself? What can you do today that mirrors the part of you deep down inside that’s screaming to get out and be loved?

Honor that piece of yourself today. Don’t worry about tomorrow or the rest of this week, just think about today. Just observe yourself today. Allow your mind’s eye to observe you in action today and make no judgment. If judgment shows up, kindly ask it to go away. If it persists, be more forceful. Just observe, and then have the courage and compassion for yourself that you have for your best friend (or your pet, if you’re a pet lover).

And if the judgments still won’t go away, give me a call…I’ll have a little chat with them.

White Hawthorne Flowers Photo by: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dominicspics/ / CC BY 2.0

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