How many times in your life have you been told to “just be yourself”? This can feel especially tricky when you are facing challenges while others seem to be passing you by with their successes. You may think, “Life would be easier, if I were like ______.” (Fill in the blank with whomever seems to have the most attractive life at that moment.) The truth is, the most common desire I hear from women in business is to be treated authentically by the people they work and play with.
Why are we not always comfortable in our own skin? For starters, there is no shortage of negative, critical, and judgmental messages aimed at women. When we turn on the television, read newspapers or magazines, or surf the Internet, we are bombarded with conflicting images and messages about our roles and values as women. Beginning as young girls, many of us create false, limiting beliefs about ourselves, which only become more complicated as we age.
To muddy these waters further, the people who know and love us may also encourage us to develop limiting beliefs. Not because they want us to be or have “less than,” but because they may truly believe that by lowering our expectations or shrinking ourselves, we will be rewarded.
How might you become more comfortable in your own skin? Here are a few ways:
Get in touch with your inner child. Most children do not care what other people think about them. They are generally happy and live in the present moment … at least until they are taught to conform to the mold of familial or societal expectations. Challenge yourself to shed the mold. Rediscover what makes you happy and do it.
Let go of limiting beliefs. Train yourself to become aware of negative thoughts that stream through your mind. Even those as seemingly harmless as “I’m tired” or “It’s too cold to go outside today” or worse “I’m not successful enough to do that.”
Follow your intuition. While life is not always a smooth ride, your intuition will help steer you in the direction that is best for you.
Relax. What’s the worst that can happen? If you can, bring in some humor to take the edge off stressful situations. Let people see that you are human. Sometimes you can turn strained situations into something funny. It feels great to share a chuckle with others. Try taking yourself less seriously.
By being you, you become a better listener. Instead of worrying about who you should be or what you should be doing, you can focus more on the present moment and the person speaking to you. You will be appreciated more because you are not trying to get someone to see you in a different light. When you are being you, the other person sees the real you and doesn’t worry that you are putting on an act. And…you will be more relaxed. Trying to be someone you are not is exhausting. Being yourself takes no extra effort at all. Everything you do is real, and you cannot fake real. You are genuinely comfortable in your own skin, and it shows.
What about being authentic in the workplace?
It really isn’t that different…you still need to be yourself. Let’s go over a few of the guidelines:
Who am I? This is where you want others to know who you are…not who you want to be or are pretending to be. You have to be yourself and share your brand story. This is how others will understand what makes you different than your competitors. Share your values as a company and what your mission statement is.
What’s your story? Why do you do the things you are doing? Remember your “why” and share it. This is the time to share your struggles, your triumphs and lessons learned. If everything you share is perfect and rainbows and puppy dogs, how authentic is that? People gravitate towards those that they can relate to. How well do you relate to those that have a seemingly perfect life? If you have a team that you work with, they too should share the story as well.
Even if it doesn’t feel great, share the story. When you aren’t feeling “enough” or you feel the imposter syndrome start to enter into your story line, stay true to yourself and your business. People want to do business with those they like and trust and they want authenticity. If you are promoting something that doesn’t look or feel like you, people will see right through you. Want to take a guess how long your customers will be your customers if that happens?
Knowing who you are, what your business stands for and how to share that is the basis for a successful and authentic business. Having your team share the company’s values will give you a culture of authenticity that will continue to grow and prosper. Compromising your values is the easiest way to step out of your authentic self so make sure you are firm in your beliefs. You will create long-term relationships with clients and partners and your reputation will be one that others will continue doing business with.