Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we are – Brene Brown
Scenario 1: I had worked for 6 months in this organisation. During one of my casual lunches, a senior leader and I were informally chatting. At the end of the conversation he happened to mention how different I was to his prior perception of me. Curiously, I asked him, what was so different?
This is what he said. “Well you come across as a no-nonsense, serious person on the floor like an ice-queen. You only speak when spoken to and honestly I haven’t really seen you smiling.”
I asked him what he felt post our conversation. According to him, now I came across as warm, with a sarcastic humour, casual and quite friendly.
Cut to a year earlier – in my previous company – I actually had the tag of “Daaku Hasina”. Similar trends right?
I remember speaking to a colleague, who had later become a close friend, on this split personality. I realised I guarded myself with a personality shield, not sure why. Only the people who could break through it could see my “authentic” self. Rest all got the “Daaku”.
Honestly a lot of us do that right? We have different work personas and home personas. And I think it’s not only about work. We have split personalities depending on who is in front of us.
I for one, have always prided myself on being a chameleon. Moulding my personality to the person or situation in front of me. So doing it at work was just an extension.
Now I’m not talking about our conduct at work. Of course, often if we are too authentic or speak in a way that reflects our true feelings it can be misconstrued. Showing up completely unfiltered and trusting can be a big challenge.
But I think even in situations which doesn’t warrant a shift, we tend to do that. And it gets draining, doesn’t it. It’s exhausting to put on a front. Why do we do it?
There are so many limiting beliefs that we carry with us –
- Probably because we believe the real us is not that engaging.
- Or this is what the world wants or deserves.
- Or they will judge us.
- Or hurt us. We don’t like to put our true feelings out – it suddenly makes us vulnerable; while we are always told to be strong.
And it’s weird, but when I see genuine people, I wonder how long will it take for them to feel betrayed or cheated. I feel like protecting them, whereas actually it just might be me who needs protection.
I think the most important reason for authenticity is being able to form meaningful relationships. Because it needs you to be vulnerable.
There is interesting research that shows that people feel most “authentic” when they conform to a set of socially approved qualities like being extroverted, emotionally stable, amicable, smart etc. But that is something I am not delving in, although very interesting to read more on.
But currently, I have realised I don’t have the energy to be any different than what I feel. And to tell you the truth it has been liberating. To just be who you are, at all times.
And when there are fleeting moments I feel like putting up some front, this is what I remind myself:
Be Unapologetically You! Accept yourself wholeheartedly. You are amazing and the world needs to know. You can’t please everyone, so why not please yourself (pun not intended!). Not everyone will get you and that’s all right. Stay true to yourself, it’s the only way to be happy.
Have faith in others: there are people who will subscribe to your style and others who will not. But it’s important to know that being yourself is the baseline to form meaningful relationships. I can understand at work it can be difficult to be vulnerable. Frankly, you are not obligated to build close, meaningful relationships with everyone; but you can always choose those handful number of people to deepen the relationship with. After all, we do spend more than half our time at work, right?
Interestingly, it took Darwin 34yrs to publish his idea that humans evolved from monkeys. Scholars call this “Darwin’s Delay” and many believe it was due to his fear that others would judge him.
So, let’s not be the <name> Delay. Ask yourself – Who are you when no one is looking. What are your thoughts like? Do you regret not saying or feeling something when you should have? That’s who you really are. It’s time to build some amount of fearlessness in ourselves. Little by little and you will realize it gets easier with time.
Be Bold. Be Fearless. Be You!