“Well, I’m really different at work than I am at home.” This is the answer I get more often than not when I ask my executive clients what they are like outside of work. They almost always describe themselves as more open and relaxed, personable, sociable, fun-loving, caring and concerned, and willing to show their emotions when they are at home and with friends.
My usual response is something like, “You are only one person—there aren’t two of you—so what motivates you to want to be a different person at work?” They almost look embarrassed that I don’t know the answer when they reply:
- “Well you have to be more serious at work.”
- Or they say “Work is serious… I can’t be my usual self.”
- Or sometimes “People wouldn’t take me seriously at work if I was the same as I am at home.”
The Fly In The Ointment
Each of these responses are based on a flawed assumption that pretending to be someone you are not is an advantage. They believe that putting on a mask that has them appear in a way that is more acceptable to others—while suppressing many of their natural qualities—will help them be more successful. They think that work should be serious and assume other people expect you to be that way.
Perhaps they are also afraid that being themselves just wouldn’t be enough for other people. They wouldn’t measure up if people knew who they really are. Like all limiting assumptions, these beliefs don’t stand up to to the spotlight of critical thinking. They are proven wrong by solid research and everyday experience.
There are countless fully authentic people who lead successful lives at every level in business.Click to tweet
Entire companies are based on a culture of authenticity. Think Starbucks, Southwest Airlines, Whole Foods, The Container Store…and the list could go on and on.
5 Steps To Be More Authentic
Being more authentic begins with knowing what changes to make, giving yourself permission, and then practicing the changes. Follow these five steps and notice the positive difference it makes in your life.
- Increase your self-awareness. Write down a list of your essential qualities. These are characteristics you have exhibited consistently through your life.
Eliminate any negative adjectives (e.g. selfish, dominating, critical, arrogant, lazy, etc.). These are learned behaviors and not essential qualities.
- Assess how authentic you are being. Review this list and identify any qualities that you avoid or suppress in your work environment. Identify any additional qualities you demonstrate at work that aren’t authentic for you.
- Challenge your limiting assumptions. Identify what you are assuming that has you limit or suppress your essential qualities or to exhibit qualities that really aren’t you.
For each of these assumptions ask yourself “Is it true?” Be deliberate in finding examples that contradict your limiting assumptions.
- Develop new empowering beliefs. Replace your limiting beliefs with more empowering beliefs. For example, shifting from “people won’t respect me if I’m my authentic self” to “people respect those they can trust.”
- Slowly add the new behaviors at work. Start slowly in bringing more of your true self to all the aspects of your life. Set yourself up for success by starting small and building on your successes.
If you want to be more playful, for instance, you might try joking around with someone you are close with. Look for, and build on each success to reveal more and more of yourself until you are living fully authentically.
Share in the Comments below your own tips and techniques for being fully authentic, especially at work. Take a moment to leave an encouraging comment on other people’s shares while you are at it.