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The power of YOU: bring your authentic self to work


There was a time when the worlds of our personal lives and our professional roles were kept distinct and separate. The notion of the “business-self” and the “real-self” were considered two sides of a coin, never to meet. The traditional “mask” of professionalism was deemed necessary to protect our vulnerabilities. When I entered the workplace, 16 years of age, I was taught to have a friendly smile on at all times, cover up my tattoos, I was asked to change clothes as my style was not deemed elegant enough and I even was asked to put more make-up on. So for me, it felt as if I was putting on the “work costume” or camouflaging myself to fit a certain picture. At the time, whilst not being a fan of this, it made sense as we have all grown up with this belief of visualised professionalism, that had to fit a mould.

Today, however, the evolving dynamics of the modern workplace challenge this antiquated belief. We’re beginning to understand that our authentic selves — embodying the same values and personality traits in all aspects of our lives — are not only enriching the diversity at the workplace but can create very powerful benefits in the professional sphere.

certified, genuine, authentic

These benefits are internal as well as external. One of the most potent internal advantages of being authentic in the workplace is its profound impact on mental well-being. Many employees experience stress and exhaustion from the ceaseless effort to maintain a façade, which can diminish productivity and lead to burnout. When we allow our true selves to take the lead, we eliminate this additional strain and foster a healthier, more balanced work-life scenario. We show up with all of our true strengths, values and skills, but also with our vulnerabilities. Hence, our authenticity helps us excel in our roles. The strengths and values that make us unique are often the same qualities that make us outstanding in our jobs. The more authentic we are, the more we lean into these strengths and values, ultimately resulting in enhanced performance and better results. Personally, I have a very high energy level. For years I have heard comments of: “You may want to tune yourself down a bit, you may overwhelm people with your energy, for a woman you surely have a lot of opinions, etc.” It was hard for me to pretend that I don’t have all these ideas to improve things. And whilst I never expect anyone to be the same as me, I also can’t get out of my own skin. So rather than changing who I am, I am choosing my workplace now where these traits are appreciated. And thankfully there are many.

Externally, authenticity is a powerful tool in building trust, a cornerstone in any successful professional relationship. Whether it’s your colleagues or clients, showing up as your authentic self establishes an atmosphere of honesty and transparency. This authenticity fosters a deeper connection, nurtures a culture of trust, and enhances team collaboration and cohesion. Over the years I found myself, that I react quite strongly when I feel someone is putting on a show. One of the situations, where my internal BS radar really goes into high alert, is when someone is faking empathy. They say the words, but you can feel it’s just not authentic. Which in a way makes it worse than not having empathy in the first place, because it has that additional element of manipulation.

I love when I learn personal things about my colleagues and clients, their families, their joys and their lives. At the end of the day, we spend so many hours working, I prefer real connections with a common business goal over some artificial, almost pre-scripted exchange any day.

When we look at leadership through the lens of authenticity, we see a transformative impact. Authentic leaders inspire their teams not with an unattainable illusion of perfection, but through their relatability, their strengths, and even their admitted weaknesses. This candidness makes them approachable and fosters an environment where employees feel understood and empowered. In such an environment, innovation thrives, productivity escalates, and morale skyrockets. Such an environment tends to be also very safe.

Having said all that, there is a differentiation I wish to make: as we embrace authenticity, it’s also crucial to remember the need for professional boundaries. Being authentic should not be an invitation to overshare personal information or transgress professional lines. Being authentic doesn’t mean you have to share every single detail of your personal life with people whom you know from limited work interactions. Striking a balance is key: be true to who you are while maintaining the respect and professionalism necessary in the workplace. Where these boundaries are though, are left to the judgement of every individual. Personally, I was always open if colleagues and team members wanted to share a private issue. Often it was even helpful to understand certain behaviours and moods and for me, it is a sign of trust and I am honoured. With people I would work very close with, I would often share more personal details about my life in return to add context to situations and allow for empathy to go both ways.

Being genuine, showing empathy, and sharing relevant personal experiences can positively contribute to the workplace culture. But it’s also important to remember that every work environment is different and requires its own balance. Your authenticity should enrich and contribute to a positive work culture, not serve as a distraction or a deterrent.

In essence, the once rigid division between the “business-self” and the “real-self” is gradually fading in the contemporary professional landscape. Instead, authenticity, with its positive impact on mental well-being, trust-building, leadership, and job performance, is rising as a potent force. While maintaining professional boundaries to avoid oversharing is crucial, it’s important to understand that being authentic isn’t about exposing every part of us, but about being real and honest. It’s about leveraging our true selves in a way that benefits us and those we work with, leading to a more prosperous, fulfilling professional life.

I hope this has encouraged you to start bringing your authentic self to work more often!

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