11 Aug Authenticity is the new black
We’ve all experienced the “star”. Things are just brighter when they’re around. They can do no wrong, They get all the good projects, hob nob with the big wigs and get promotion after promotion.
Then one day, it happens……after a command performance, they leave the room to virtual applause, smiling brightly with the world at their feet. A few steps out the door, they think they’re alone so they drop the act. They wipe their hand on their jacket, roll their eyes and think in swear words.
But the group standing by the window, watching in awe as the star walks away, witnesses this transformation. And of course, being good corporate citiziens, they share it with the ENTIRE office.
So in a fraction of a second the star becomes the dunce and when they get their first (but not only) frosty reception they don’t even know why.
It happens in a second.
And you may feel sorry for this person – I’ve seen a star unmasked a few times and I feel genuine empathy. This could all have been avoided if that person was just themselves – authentically themselves.
But being authentic is very difficult
I know the feeling. I spent years and years trying to be other people to be successful. I studied them, copied them and spouted their views whilst burying my own. I thought I needed to be them to be successful.
I worked very hard and it helped me be very successful.
But it came at a cost – I didn’t know who I was anymore or what I stood for. I was trapped in a vice of my own making. I questioned everything and started losing my confidence. I was constantly thinking “Is this right, or was I so conditioned to follow someone else’s path?”
I stopped fighting for what I thought I believed in and I let things slide, because I lost my way
The greatest tragedy was that I became exhausted, dead, empty. Both inside and outside work. It’s hard to be successful if you’re a robot, channelling someone else. I was powerless and constantly judging myself.
It’s hard to maintain relationships if you don’t feel anything other than inadequate or insignificant OR you spend so much energy trying to out-manoeuvre others to get ahead.
Luckily, there is no tragic ending to this story for me. I realised the error of my ways and fixed things. It wasn’t easy as I’d been doing this for YEARS.
Life provided me with three extraordinary teachers all at the same time saying the same thing, so I didn’t have to make this transformation alone. If you believe in 3’s like I do, then you listen, learn and heal. And I did.
Years (and much healing) later I can now look back on that time with a mix fondness, amusement and compassion.
If I was to talk to my younger self, I’d tell them three things:
- Figure out who you are and what you stand for
Life experiences teach you who you are and what you stand for. Look out for these. If someone is being hurt, do you help or run? Are you better in teams or working individually? Do you want to make money above all or would you sacrifice the money to support those in need? There is no right or wrong, it’s what you believe. But find it and use it.
You’ll experience incredible freedom and remove any limits you’ve put on yourself or others have put on you
I found out that I am a creator and boundary pusher. I will fight hard to create a better future and bring people with me. But I can be too direct and I’ll work myself into the ground and take on way too much in the quest to be successful. And sometimes it’s not just about success……I am a self-confessed over achiever to be liked by others (luckily, I’m over that too – or mostly!!).
- Be yourself consistently
Once you know who you are, then be that CONSISTENTLY! People need you to turn up the same way every day so they can trust you. If you’re unpredictable they’ll feel unsafe and not want to work with you. That doesn’t mean you have to be a robot – consistent can be delivered differently. If you’re working with a group of finance people, how you demonstrate care for others might be different to how you’d show care for sales people. And once you know what you stand for, this should just happen naturally.
- Trust yourself
Trust that you have something valuable to give to the world. You don’t need to be someone else – everyone else is taken! Be yourself and you’ll be appreciated for that.
If you don’t know how to trust yourself, then start small. Find examples of when you’ve listened to yourself and its worked out. Then find bigger and bigger examples. Trust is like anything you’re trying to build – find the evidence, figure out how it works and then practice – you’ll grow you’re ability to trust yourself pretty quickly.
I struggled with this one, as I realised I didn’t trust myself at all. But the benefit of being exhausted is that I didn’t have the energy to second guess myself or think about what others would do. I was on autopilot. And mostly I was successful. So that was my evidence. As I focused on why I did what I did, I found my trust and it grew more and more.
I would tell my younger self, that regardless of fads coming and going, Authenticity is the new black – find yours, live by it and enjoy the benefits. And that is success with soul.
It took me nearly 20 years to discover that – hopefully my learnings will help you get there much faster!!
Yours with soul,