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When my sisters and I were young we would look at magazines like Seventeen or at mail order catalog pages and vote for our favorite model, outfit or hair-do. We’d turn the pages, announce the category, then count to three and point. “Prettiest! One, two, three!” Then we’d compare choices, elaborate on our opinions–“I would have voted for her but that outfit! Ugh!” or “You always pick Cheryl Tiegs!” We learned discernment at an early age.

We’re at the Jersey Shore this week celebrating my sister-in-law’s 50th birthday. Carolyn’s family has come to Ocean City, NJ forever, which is where the party took place last night. Yesterday morning my daughter Laura and I were strolling the boardwalk and came across a large display of head shots for the upcoming Miss Ocean City competition. Since there were three rows of photographs to choose from, Laura and I recreated this voting ritual of my youth.

We stared at the top row of smiling faces, didn’t discuss the pros and cons, but got right down to it. “Choose your favorite. One, two, three, point!” Surprisingly, our forefingers both shot in the same direction. Ha! Coincidence! We moved our gazes to the next row. Same rules. Same result. Onto the third row of attractive teens, and we got the exact same outcome. Laura and I were laughing out loud. What was it that got our vote?

In each case our eyes were attracted not to the prettiest girl but to the one whose eyes made a real connection to us. It wasn’t even close. There was something authentic about the way each of our three choices looked back at us that was instinctively appealing, beyond physical beauty. Laura asked me if I was going to blog about it. I immediately saw the value in relating this experience because it says everything about authenticity I feel.

When you are being your authentic self, whether posing for a head shot, being transparent about how a business transaction is impacting you or letting out a real belly-laugh when tickled, there is nothing more compelling than the real thing. You carry that ability wherever you go. And, as witness to Laura’s and my boardwalk game, we’re susceptible to the powers of authenticity at work and play.

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