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How to Embrace Your Authentic Self at Work
Being our authentic selves at work is a daily struggle for many with Deloitte noting that 61% of employees don’t feel comfortable showing up as they are.
For me, the concept of authenticity in the workplace always seemed absurd and complex, almost unattainable. Then, during a particularly rough period in my life, I was penalized for showing vulnerability at the office—for being my authentic self in the moment. That cemented my view that to be successful, you must separate yourself from work, wear a mask, and put on a front.
I felt a target on my back and that deviating from my work persona would bring more consequences and further tarnish my reputation and career. That fear followed me even after joining evolvedMD, a company that actively encourages its employees to bring their authentic selves to work. It took many months—and many one-on-ones with my manager, Sentari Minor, and other members of leadership and management—to feel comfortable being the real me again.
A 2021 survey from Simmons University reported that over 90% of respondents believe authenticity in the workplace is important. However, as mentioned above, many don’t feel comfortable being their authentic selves. This is not only detrimental to employees but businesses too. With this piece, I want to explore the business case for authenticity and the positive benefits for all parties.
What Does it Mean to Bring Your Authentic Self to Work?
According to a discussion on the Predictive Index website, a tool evolvedMD uses to assess and better understand its employees’ personal and working personas, there are two definitions:
- Definition #1: Being comfortable enough at work to share your personal life, interests, and flaws with coworkers… kind of like John Legend’s song, “All of Me.”
- Definition #2: Bringing your “A-Game” to the job every single day… kind of like something you might hear a football coach say before a big game: “Alright folks, leave it all out there on the field today!”
To me, it’s a combination of the two, but enhanced with acknowledging our authentic selves are fluid and constantly evolving. Feelings, interests, and personalities change as we age and evolve, and it’s important to feel we can share and live out our journeys without penalty. Ultimately, it’s about having a growth mindset. Bearing flaws and all, showing that we’re constantly working to be the best we can be every single day is critical to being your authentic self.
Benefits of Being Your Authentic Self
Based purely on my own observations through personal experience and my coworkers’, being your authentic self brings a wealth of benefits to you, your team, and your organization as a whole:
- Meaningful Relationships – Authentic relationships develop between authentic people. Being the real you will help you build deeper connections with your colleagues, which can enhance collaboration and promote greater feelings of trust. Having an internal sense of belonging will only make you feel even more comfortable being your authentic self at work.
- Increased Happiness – There’s nothing more stressful than hiding what makes you unique. When you bring your whole self to work, you’re more confident in your skills and what you have to offer. You also are more likely to enjoy what you’re doing every day and find genuine satisfaction in your work.
- Enhanced Creativity – Every human has the capacity for creativity. Authenticity allows us to transcend traditional thinking which will empower you to solve and view problems more openly and with innovation.
- Stronger Connection to Your Organization’s Mission – When you can bring your authentic self to work, you are more likely to feel heard and included. In turn, you’ll be more engaged in your daily work to help your organization realize its mission and vision.
- Improved Performance – Combining the four previous benefits, authenticity translates to increased motivation, engagement, and productivity.
If you’re a leader or run your own business and are unsure of authenticity’s impact on business, listen to your employees. According to the same 2021 survey from Simmons University, the 93% of survey respondents who said they were able to be authentic at work highlighted a handful of positive outcomes, including: “I am more able to do my best work” and “I am more likely to go ‘above and beyond’ for my organization.” In combination with the positive benefits I highlighted above, these are exactly the type of people you want working for you. Not to mention, their authenticity in turn translates into increased brand authenticity, which is among the most important factors for people when choosing companies to support.
Tips for Being Your Authentic Self
Now that you understand the benefits of being your authentic self at work, check out a few tips for effectively putting it into practice.
- Reflect on Your Values – Understanding your personal and professional values will help you be more authentic. Start by asking yourself questions like “What is important to me?”, “What do I enjoy doing in my free time and at work?”, and “What factors contribute to my feelings of fulfillment?” Once you have the answers, you can put them into practice and live your truth.
- Create Psychological Safety – This exercise, which we practice often at evolvedMD, is rooted in the belief that you can’t fix what you don’t know. Leaning on each other for support, we also don’t shy away from having difficult conversations, such as sharing potential roadblocks to your success.
- Be Willing to Be Vulnerable – As Brene Brown puts it, “Vulnerability is about having the courage to show up and be seen.” In other words, there is no room to fake it ‘til you make it. Instead, give yourself permission to feel what you’re feeling and to openly express it out loud.
- Focus on Growing – Remember, our authentic selves are fluid and change with time. Even on days when you feel you aren’t bringing your best self, you’re still bringing your authentic self. Focus your energy on what you can learn from being who you are today and apply it the next day. Little by little with consistent actions, you’re on the path to being a better you while still being authentic.
I’ve had a long journey getting to the point where I can feel comfortable bringing my authentic self to work again. The fact that evolvedMD gave me the opportunity to share my perspective on the matter speaks volumes—let alone how they go above and beyond to promote and practice authenticity in the workplace. Not everyone is so lucky, but wherever you work, I hope this article inspires you to embrace who you really are and to be authentic without apologies or fear for repercussions. As for leaders, embracing the aspects that make your employees unique will make your business unique, too. Employees who feel comfortable being their authentic selves at work will create a happier, more engaged workforce with reduced turnover.
Want to bring your authentic self to work and grow as a person? Join evolvedMD.
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