10 signs you’re a genuine person, according to psychology

Sometimes the cynic in us can’t help but wonder if there are any truly genuine people left on the planet. 

We live in a world where people tend to be preoccupied with appearances: buying a bigger and better house, having a bigger and better job, going on a bigger and better vacation, and having a bigger and better circle of friends. 

The truth is that behind the “bigger and better” facade, many people are actually living a “double life,” says psychologist Valeria Sabater

“Disappointments, incomprehensible behavior, increasingly fragile relationships. It seems that in recent times, people with double lives have been on the increase,” she says. “They’re the kinds of individuals who appear to be one thing and end up being another. Authentic and genuine character traits seem to be in danger of extinction.”

Sabater stresses that if we don’t show our true genuine nature—something we all have within us—then we’ll never enjoy our authentic selves or achieve full lives. 

So how do you know if you’re a genuine person? Or what characteristics can you foster within yourself to tap more frequently into your authentic nature? 

Here are ten signs, according to psychologists, that you’re a genuine person—and/or that you should be doing more of.

1) You say what you’re thinking 

Genuine people don’t have it in their genetic makeup to be “fake.” They can’t pretend to like something—or someone—if that’s how they feel. 

Some genuine people will be straightforward about it, for example they will decline an invitation from someone they aren’t particularly fond of.

Psychologists say that genuine people tend to trust themselves because their opinions rarely come from a place of impulse. Their perspectives stem from a lot of pondering and are well thought out. 

Once they do make a decision, they stick to their guns and don’t feel compelled to convince others of their reasoning. Their perspective is their own and they feel entitled to it. 

2) Your stay true to yourself 

Being true to yourself doesn’t mean being rigid and refusing to change your personality to fit into different situations, says Wake Forest University professor William Fleeson who did a study back in 2010 that was published in the Journal of Personality. 

Fleeson found that people who see themselves as, say, difficult and disagreeable actually feel more tapped into their authentic nature when they’re amenable and compassionate. Similarly, those who believe themselves as careless feel more genuine when they are conscientious to others’ needs. 

Being flexible with who you are is okay,” he says. “It is not denying or disrespecting who you are. People are often too rigid about how they are and stick with the comfortable and familiar. Adapting to a situation can make you more true to yourself in some circumstances.”

3) You prefer to go your own way 

Psychologist Michael Shreiner says that genuine people have an innate understanding that following their own bliss gives their life not only a sense of purpose and meaning, but doing so will sustain them in a way that nothing else can.

“Human life is oh so short and you only get one crack at it,” he says. 

“Shreiner shares the following story: When an Australian nurse named Bonnie Ware recorded the dying regrets of her patients, the first one on the list said, “I wish I had [had] the courage to live a life true to myself, [and] not the one others expected of me.”

Shreiner says that all of the people who try to control or manipulate you—this includes people who have the best intentions for you such as family members—well, they aren’t you.

“It’s your life that they are trying to influence, and yours alone,” he emphasizes. “The question is whether you’re going to use your life to follow your own path or to follow one laid out for you by someone else.”

4) You know that “failure” is just redirection 

Genuine people don’t stake all of their self-worth into success. 

That’s because they know that failure and rejection are the only two constants when it comes to evolving, both personally and professionally. The point is to learn from these seeming “setbacks” so that you can level up to the next step in your life. 

“Failure is seen as an opportunity to learn and grow,” says Los Angeles-based psychologist Crystal I. Lee. “Failure is an opportunity to be embraced, analyzed, and picked apart, rather than something to run away from.” 

Louai Rahal, whose own work is based on that of psychologist Carol Dweck illuminates the importance of having a growth mindset. “When we believe that abilities can be stretched with learning (growth mindset), we perceive failures as opportunities for learning and we reflect on failures in order to stretch our abilities,” he says. 

Genuine people usually have a lot of grit, which means they don’t give up easily. They pursue personal and professional goals understanding that setbacks are just part of the process, and part of the big picture. 

5) You don’t like to judge others

Even though passing judgment might be a natural inclination, it’s also a waste of time, and genuine people know this. 

We’re all going to make mistakes and we’re all going to make choices that a lot of people don’t agree with. Does that mean that what we’re doing is wrong and the rest of them are right? Does it mean that we’re the ones in the right and the rest of them are off their rockers, so to speak?

Genuine people know that it’s all about perspective. What’s good for one person can be completely off for someone else. 

Life is also too short to judge people. Genuine people don’t bother getting into that headspace because they’d rather be doing things more authentic to them. 

Genuine people also don’t get a “high” out of someone else’s suffering. Those who feel good about themselves tend not to judge others. 

6) You own up to your mistakes

This doesn’t mean that genuine people are always right. They know that they can be wrong. But they have no problem admitting that and redirecting. 

Genuine people are flexible in that they can bend to a new way of thinking. They allow themselves to evolve instead of harboring and holding onto an idea that doesn’t suit them.  

Psychologists say they understand that admitting to our mistakes can be very difficult for our ego self. Our self image also takes a hit. Refusing to own up to our guilt gives the ego a rush of sorts and it can feel very satisfying. 

But “not acknowledging you are wrong can lead to psychological issues and ruined relationships,” informs educator Paul Ratner. Genuine people seem to understand this concept on a deeper level. 

7) You feel a sense of empathy 

psychological effects of changing your name 10 signs you’re a genuine person, according to psychology

Genuine people are deeply insightful in that they can put themselves in other people’s shoes. They have either gone through something similar, or they can be very compassionate to the situation. 

For this reason, genuine people make the best best of friends. They’re also the family member that everyone tends to turn to for advice in times of stress, crisis, and need. 

You can cry on their shoulder, trust them to check in on you to make sure you’re doing okay, and help you feel better when life is especially complicated and challenging. 

8) You can sometimes (or oftentimes) absorb other people’s emotions 

Similar to the above, genuine people can actually take on the energy of other people’s emotions. 

They’re the ones who will feel frustrated for you because they felt you truly deserved that job you didn’t get. 

They will cry with you when you’ve lost a beloved family member and make sure you’ve eaten something. Genuine people are nurturers and they make the best caregivers. 

They will also be your number one champion when you come in 10th place in a marathon or pass the bar exam. 

9) You tend to feel your own emotions quite deeply

It’s no secret that deep people have deep souls. When you’re sad, you’re really sad and sometimes need the day (or week) devoted to self-care. 

When you’re happy, you’re over the moon. 

You allow whatever emotions you’re experiencing to pass over and through you like a round of ocean waves. 

You don’t try to bury your feelings and pretend they don’t exist. You know that denial is pointless. And you know that this too shall pass and that it’s part of life. 

10) You’re okay with being vulnerable 

Genuine people are able to take criticism without it taking a hit to their self esteem, according to clinical psychologist Guy Winch

“The stronger your self-esteem, the more able you are to admit that you’re failing, to receive criticism, to be able to receive negative feedback without it making you crumble.”

Winch says that genuine people are able to take on that negative feedback—it could be something you don’t love about yourself—and it doesn’t devastate you. “It’s something you can admit, you can hope to work on or just take in, but it doesn’t affect your whole way of thinking about yourself.”

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Wendy Kaur

Wendy Kaur is a Toronto-based journalist whose work has been published by The Globe & Mail, ELLE USA, ELLE Canada, British Vogue, Town & Country, and others.

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