Is striving to be perfect in the workplace more important than being authentic? Amy Gallagher from Amy Gallagher Coaching says it’s about fully embracing who we are…
Let’s face it, most of us think we are authentic, right? If we’re not authentic then we are fake, shallow, imperfect… or are we?
The truth is authenticity is a daily practice of learning to accept every part of us – it’s about embracing who we are and letting go of who we think we should be. Let’s look at the qualities of an authentic person in the workplace:
• Leads from the heart
• Open and transparent
• Empathic and compassionate
• Acts on their words
• Has the courage to be vulnerable
• Motivates and inspires
• Has a strong sense of self
• Shares their stories and vision
• Initiates honest and frank conversations
• Is consistent
When I was a senior leader in the corporate world, I believed I was authentic. Yes, I could tick off quite a few of the traits listed above. However, there was a glaring chink in my armour (well, it’s glaring to me now) – I struggled to be vulnerable. I felt the need to always show up as the strong warrior woman.
Being vulnerable just wasn’t in my repertoire. I didn’t know when to ask for help and didn’t want to ask. I soldiered on. I had a limiting belief that I wouldn’t be accepted or respected if I was anything other than strong and unbreakable. I was playing out a persona.
The word ‘persona’ is the Greek term for ‘stage mask’. We all wear masks to protect ourselves, to hide what we perceive as our flaws. My persona was protecting me from showing all of me. The harsh truth is I didn’t believe that all of me was enough.
As Brene Brown, leading researcher and expert on authenticity, says: “Believing you’re enough is what gives you the courage to be authentic.”
I’ve learnt that being authentic is showing and owning our imperfections. It’s about being brave enough to let ourselves be fully seen.
Our reluctance to show our true selves can show up in the following ways:
• We people-please – we say yes when we really mean no. We would rather focus on everyone else and make sure they are okay. We’re seen as the ‘nice’ one because deep down we have a strong need to be externally validated.
• We dim our light to fit in – we play small or don’t speak up because we believe our views or opinions are not worthy. We would rather fit in with the crowd.
• We hide, manipulate or alter parts of our personality to seek approval from others or avoid disapproval.
• We mask our true feelings and don’t speak our truth.
All of these behaviours are rooted in feelings of inadequacy and low self-worth. Our quest to be perfect affects us emotionally, physically and mentally. If we continually people-please, dim our light and shy away from speaking our truth, we can become depleted, anxious, resentful, stressed and angry.
The irony is when we are faced with someone who is wearing a mask or not being themselves, we feel disconnected from them. When we meet someone who is vulnerable and showing up as their real self, we respect them, trust them and connect with them.
The next time you find yourself hiding your true, beautiful self – stop and enquire why. One of the steps to authenticity is having awareness of the behaviours that do and don’t serve you. It’s wanting to change those behaviours that limit you.
It’s time to celebrate ALL of you and let people see the true you. The imperfect you is enough.
Amy Gallagher is an executive coach and healer. She works with executives to transform the way they lead and the way they live.