The motto of my alma mater is Defy Convention. I always thought it was a daring statement. There is a challenge there. Be different. Be…disruptive. Go the road less traveled, which I have adopted as one of my philosophies. I thought that it meant you have to seek and find ways to actively go against the grain. But lately, I’ve come to have a different perspective. The best way to defy convention is to be wholly, genuinely and unapologetically be yourself.
This is by no means a new concept. It’s one of the new buzzwords that have been making the rounds in the last few years. It’s come up in branding, diversity and personal development. Like all new and emerging concepts being ‘authentic’ is nuanced and varies from one individual to the next.
Telling you what to do to be ‘authentic’ is counterproductive since only you can decide that. However, discussing the impact of bringing your full self to your work can be the jumpstart needed to let your full self shine through. So, let’s take a look at the impact of being your most authentic self at work.
Finding Unique Solutions
We don’t have split personalities and we aren’t compartmentalized people. However, we often have a work personality that’s different from how we behave in our personal lives. This is not to be confused with being professional. There is etiquette, although even those walls are breaking down, which governs behavior in a professional environment. What we need to maintain are our interests, perspectives, and experience.
I’m a huge fan of movies, music, science, growth, and development, and I bring all of these interests with me while I work. Whether that’s using concepts from any of these areas to break down complex concepts into more bite-sized and relatable chunks information. Or, communicating emotions based on media that is a common ground for everyone in the room. Stories drive connection. And, our best stories come from where our passions live.
Carve Out Your Voice, Expertise
In my office, I know who’s the movie guy, the foodie, the dad, and world traveler. What does this have to do with the work we execute on a day to day basis? Quite a bit, because these folks carve out perspectives as their expertise. The more you share your experience and your thought process, the more influence you will have about those topics, when they add value.
It doesn’t matter what degree you have or what your immediate job function entails. If you deliver value - a perspective that drives decisions and how work is executed - you will carve out your expertise in that area. You can establish yourself as a subject matter expert, based on your interests if -
1. You share your perspectives as they pertain to business needs
2. Those perspectives and experiences provide value to your team’s work
Synergize Your Priorities (Work + Home)
Showing up as your most authentic self at work makes prioritizing much more streamline. Discussing your values and responsibilities outside of work helps to create a more complete image of who you are. Parents who discuss childcare, children who are primary caregivers for parents, pet owners, student mentors, community service volunteers, all have priorities that call for flexibility with their daily work.
Unfortunately, there can still be some discomfort when non-work related priorities occurring during business hours. However, when these priorities are normalized - discussed openly and regularly - they become a part of who we are as employees and colleagues. Also, demonstrating that more often than not, our work priorities are executed well, further solidifies that non-work priorities enhance the work we do daily because they are apart of who we are.
Find Balance | Reduce Stress
One of the fastest ways to create stress and anxiety in your work (and personal) life is to pretend to be someone you're not and have it catch up with you. Fake it ‘till you make it right? We’ve all heard it’s a great way to demonstrate confidence and capability. The problem with that approach is that it’s massively stressful because there is always that concern that you’re going to be caught or found out.
So, what’s the alternative to faking it until you make it? Give yourself permission to take opportunities, not by putting up a front or a facade, but by expressing excitement and showing initiative. When you get a 'no', do the work (or a version of it) and show what you’re capable of. Taking action, in a way that is reflective of both your attitude and capability, will give you the balance of an authentic perception without needless increasing your stress.
Like I mentioned in the beginning, I can’t tell you how to be authentic. That’s going to come from your self-awareness and desire to show up every day the same way how you feel inside. For some of us, it’s going to be easier than others. And, there is always some amount of ourselves that we want to remain private. That’s ok. I hope that you’ll see that there is more than enough space to be yourself as well as pursue and accomplish your career needs!