We hear it all the time: to accelerate in our careers, we need to fit within a certain mold. We need to play the role — to dress and talk and behave a certain way. Once we’re back home, we can switch into an entirely different person and be “ourselves.”
We’re challenged to play so many different roles in our everyday life. We have to be smart, intelligent, and on our A game at work. Then we have to be patient, understanding, and the ideal role model in front of our kids, along with our fun, kind, and present self with our friends. We’re a different person behind closed doors, a different person at work, and a different person with friends, family, kids, parents, etc. In playing all those roles, how do we truly know who we are as a person?
This is the reality of most people. Why? Because for so long the notion that behaving in different ways around different people has been ingrained in our minds as traditional practice. In fact, being able to be all these different personalities is viewed as an admirable “skill.”
I don’t know about you, but for me, this traditional practice is exhausting! It’s not admirable. In fact, it’s completely inauthentic. Further, doing it takes no courage. None. All you have to do is conform to a system that’s already in place, formed by societal, familial, or cultural norms. You’re only playing your role. That’s easy. There’s nothing admirable or special about it.
By comparison, going against the norm, being one person at all times regardless of the situation or the people you’re around, takes courage. It requires you to regularly break norms and be completely confident, secure, and free in how you act. Oftentimes, you may find yourself on an island, but guess what? It’s your island. You own it. You own your true self.
The real you probably exists somewhere in the center of all the different personas you take on every day. But there’s only one true you. And that means the things you struggle with or that trigger a certain reaction in your personal life are also going to provoke a similar reaction in your professional life. If there’s an attitude that irks you at home, it’s likely to have the same effect in the workplace no matter how hard you try to hide beneath layers of professionalism and diplomacy.
“When you are authentic, you create a certain energy, people want to be around you because you are unique.” – Andie MacDowell
We try to keep our “professional” self and “home” self in two separate drawers where they can’t possibly blend. Even through COVID, when our “home” was also our principal place of business, we still tried to keep the personal and professional neatly separate. It was a near impossible endeavor when our work was our home and our home was also where we worked.
Part of this struggle for both employers and employees is how do we incorporate both. How, as an employer, do we create an atmosphere that encourages authenticity? How, as an employee, can we align these two parts of our lives together? Part of the answer lies in a mindset shift. This means breaking away from the traditional thinking that our personal and professional personas are separate. We must begin to acknowledge that satisfaction is derived from within. We need to connect with our authentic selves and strive to be the best version of ourselves each and every day.
It’s possible to accept and respect each individual exactly as he or she is — whether as Jane the employee/employer or as Jane the parent, spouse, sibling, or friend. Embracing team members for who they are without expecting them to smother their inner selves should be an organic part of your company culture.
The beauty of this mindset shift isn’t that it only happens at one level of the organization. To be truly effective, it must be embraced at both the individual level and the organizational level.
Work to shift your mindset through these approaches:
- Realize that authenticity starts with you. Understand that it’s okay to be different. Arrive at work unapologetic, unafraid, and unencumbered by who you think you’re expected to be. Understand that it’s okay to be your authentic self.
- Shed the facades. You cannot be two different people personally and professionally and still understand who you are. Develop an awareness of when you’re not saying or doing something that you truly believe. Ask yourself whether you’re trying hard to appease someone else or to fit a norm.
- Embrace your uniqueness. There isn’t, nor should there be, a cookie-cutter employee. Each person is unique and comes with their own talents, idiosyncrasies, and flaws. Your differences contribute to the company’s diverse whole.
When your external you reflects your internal you, and vice versa, you find true success, happiness, satisfaction, and contentment. The magnetism within your truthfulness and authenticity will pull the best out of you — and the best to you.
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