We live in remarkable times. We live in an age where it is increasingly possible for more people to be more of who they really are in their work as well as their play.
Disagree? Curious? Read on.
We all probably have some experience of needing to contort ourselves to fit in with a boss’ expectations or the way ‘things are done’ at a company. It doesn’t feel good. In fact it can feel pretty negative. It seems like we have to leave part of ourselves at the company door in order to be compliant, to be a good employee or director, to ‘toe the line’. That was the old way of doing business – fit in, don’t stand out, get the job done. The new way of doing business acknowledges more individuality, more personal creativity, more collective responsibility in the company’s direction or outcomes. With rights comes responsibilities! If you want to be more of who you are at work, then you can’t afford to just show up – you have to participate, create, bring yourself.
One of the biggest barriers to being our authentic self is our concern that we will be judged. That common fear we all have – that we are not enough, we are not okay, and that we are not loved. And it’s not just an irrational fear! – when you step into more of who you are, you probably will be judged. People typically reward other people for consistency in their personality and behaviour. If you start doing things which you historically haven’t done, then people will notice and – at first – will probably be uncomfortable. So being more of who you are is two things.
One, it’s a long term game.
And two, it’s easier when you have some allies – when you are in company which values being more authentic and colleagues who are sharing that journey.
But what is really being more of who you are?
When are you being who are you and when are you being who you are not? It’s not always obvious, right? A good place to start is in the places where you know you are telling white lies in order to fit in, where you are bending truth or saying things you don’t really believe. We can all make some big wins there. Practise speaking from a more authentic place – generally it comes from deeper within you. More from your heart than your head. Hearts know how to be authentic, real, raw. Of course, this is all a matter of degree – it is not suggested you spend all your time telling people you are only going to speak from your heart. But if you never speak from your heart, you at some level are not being you. And that’s a waste of you being you in the first place!
One of my late mentor’s comments had a profound effect upon me. He said: ‘where you put your heart, you put your life’. That was it – it was the beginning of me leaving the company I had founded. It was no longer in my heart to be there. You may find that to be more of who you really are you need to change company, change department, change career. Or it may be that you just gossip less and tell the truth more – you decide. Whichever way, the journey of being more of who you really are is important and means you can show up with more freedom and joy in what you’re doing because you are spending less energy managing impressions, saying things which don’t matter to you or just conforming and fitting in out of fear. Life, at a certain point, is not about fitting in – it’s about expressing who you are.
As well as unleashing more of who you are truly meant to be there’s also another profound impact that comes from being the real you – the more you are who you really are, the more people around you get to do the same. If you are a mix of clichés and white lies, that is probably what will show up in your colleagues and friends. If you speak the truth, take a stand in the world and show heart and backbone, you will be inviting that in the people around you. It has sometimes surprised me the feedback I have gotten from people when I have spoken from my heart on video. It gives permission. We invite people to be vulnerable, revealed, heartfelt. Said differently, we invite ourselves and others to be more fully human. That’s got to be a good thing, no?
I want to share a distinction with you that I hope will serve you. It’s the difference between a persona and the real you. A persona literally means a mask that theatre characters would put on. It was obvious to the audience that they were NOT the persona – it allowed the same actor to play multiple parts. Do you know which personas you inhabit? Let me throw a few out and see if any resonate.
The helpful one.
The needy one.
The misunderstood one.
The good neighbour.
The difficult one.
None of these is bad – they all have their uses. The difficulty is when we start to identify with that persona to the point where it’s difficult to put it down. We all need heroes at times – but if you are always a hero, it means you can’t be other things. You can’t be needy, you can’t be uncertain, you can’t be challenging. Being the real you is about relaxing the ways you have known yourself so that you can show up with more bandwidth. It means you have more options as to how you express yourself. If I am always optimistic and everyone knows me as that, I allow little room for myself to be sad, disappointed or angry. By limiting myself to a persona others constantly expect to see I am limiting myself as a human being. Someone who is not fully real.
My experience and observations lead me to believe that the authentic business revolution is definitely underway – and it’s here to stay. The potential of this is huge – more people doing more meaningful work, being more of themselves, bringing more of themselves to their work, being more alive, acting from a place of real integrity, being and doing in alignment with their deeper selves. This is a 21st Century privilege! Why not be part of it and claim your privilege?! It won’t be too long before it’s not accepted to be the person who is showing up in a rigid, ‘right’ way whilst everyone else is trying to bring more of themselves. So, get practising, stay open-minded and see for yourself if being more of who you are is a more enjoyable way to live your life. I bet, for most of you, you won’t go back.
Jack Butler is a coach and adviser to busy people. He consults entrepreneurs and business owners on building better workplaces, culture, team dynamics and lifestyles. He coaches individuals who are in life or work transition or wanting to bring more of who they fully are. Find him at www.beingjackbutler.com or www.facebook.com/globaljack