Shedding the Mask

 

Do you wear a mask at work?  No, not a COVID mask, but a persona that is different from your true self?

Now more than ever, when so many are forced to work from home, personal and work lives are merging whether you want them to or not.  Many professionals are faced with the dissonance between their work and personal life.

Why authenticity matters

Whether you call it authenticity, your truest self or highest self, it is about being unapologetically YOU at your core.  Authenticity is boldly living your truest and best self, aligned with, and in full expression of, your core values, unique knowledgebase, passions, and truest essence – in all aspects of life.

Researchers have found that authenticity is the “essence of wellbeing” (Wood et al.,2008) – without authenticity, people feel distressed and unfulfilled (Leary, 2003).  When we are living authentically, we are sharing our gifts freely and are more fulfilled because of it.

How are you showing up at work?

Here are a few tell-tale signs that you may be wearing a mask and not showing up authentically at work:

  1. You don’t think you can show up authentically and be professional at the same time.
  2. You have a work voice. In other words, a family member can tell immediately if you are talking with someone from work by the pitch or tone of your voice.
  3. You feel you have something to prove (e.g. that you are good enough for your position, a raise, an advancement, etc.).
  4. You fear if you showed up as your true persona you would be discovered as a fraud.
  5. There is a marked difference in your mood, personality, and outlook during work hours outside of work hours (e.g. weekends) and/or you are exhausted after work, even when the day wasn’t that busy.
  6. You are anxious when your work and personal life converge.

Do any of these sound like you?  If so, good for you for noticing!

The good news is that most of the time, you can bring your authenticity to your current job or company and see positive change.

Here are a few tips to shed the mask and share your truest self at work:

Let the judgement go

Let’s face it (pun intended): Everyone is inauthentic at one time or another, so if you catch yourself being inauthentic, let the self-judgement go and see this as an opportunity to better align yourself with you.  Ask what it is about this situation that might have led to inauthenticity.  Is there a perceived threat, a fear, or is it simply the habit of wearing a mask?

Embrace your personal experiences

Your life experiences, sex, gender, race, emotional intelligence and upbringing have shaped you into who you are and have given you a unique perspective of the world.  It would be a disservice to yourself, others, and your work to not incorporate your viewpoints into what you do every day.

What do you value?

Do you know what values impact your decision-making and how you react and respond to the world around you?  Do you know if those values are conscious or fear-based?  A good first step is to take inventory of your predominant values.  If you would like to take a values assessment, you can find many online or you can click here and I will send you one.

Bring your style

If you are funny, bring your humor to work.  If you are a social butterfly, get to know your team and be a connector.  If you communicate better over the phone, then make a call when it really matters.  This step is about knowing what works for you (physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually) and folding it into your professional environment.

Let’s talk professionalism

When I think of a professional work environment, I equate it to mutual respect with those around me, whether they are clients, stakeholders, vendors, or coworkers.  It is also about showing respect to the company.  Sure, there are some topics you may not discuss at work, but it doesn’t mean you have to be dry, robotic, and humorless.  Guess what, it is even okay to be quirky if that is your authentic self!

I had a client, let’s call her Sally, who confessed she rarely would fully smile (like with teeth) at work.  By the way, outside of work Sally would smile to people on the street, not just her friends and family – she was naturally a smiler.  When we explored this dichotomy in her behavior, Sally realized she was afraid of coming off too soft or feminine.  At some point in her life, she acquired a limiting belief that feminine expression and friendliness (or soft expression) was not professional.  This revelation was transformational for her and she realized she loved her femininity and craved a more friendly environment.

After a couple of weeks, Sally reported that she was smiling more at work.  She even realized that her choice in clothing at work had been very stiff and dark.  She started to add softer colors (which she already wore outside of work) and even added more playful pieces to her wardrobe.

I asked Sally what it felt like when she made these changes and was more aligned with her natural persona.  She said it was a game changer.  She had more confidence and felt like others were more friendly to her once she relaxed into her natural state.  A coworker even asked Sally if she had changed her hair because something about her looked lighter, but her coworker couldn’t put her finger on what that “something” was.  Sally knew exactly what it was – she was finally living in alignment with her true self.

Vulnerability

Showing up authentically takes vulnerability.  Not the vulnerability you feel when you tell a deep secret to a close friend.  It’s the vulnerability that comes from knowing that you are not for everyone.  And instead of transforming yourself to make others feel more comfortable, you stand in your authenticity.  We all want to be able to work with others who have different workstyles.  You can do this while honoring your true self and respecting others.  If you find you can’t, this may be an indicator to look for other job opportunities.

It takes more energy to restrain yourself from your true self than it does to let your authentic self show, so you might find you are more present and productive at work once you make this change.  It might feel odd or uncomfortable at first.  However, many of my clients experience increased confidence and wellbeing as they share their gifts at work.

Sometimes, there is a direct conflict between your job and your true self and it is not feasible to incorporate them.  If that is the case, it may be time to look for another job in your company or change companies or careers altogether.

 

What’s next?

The steps above are only the beginning.  Many times, there are layers to the masks we wear and a deep dive into your fears, your values, and goals may be warranted.  If you are looking for someone to guide you through that deep dive, or to find out what career is next, drop an email here – I’m happy to help!

Read more about authenticity here in another post I wrote: Authenticity is not Dead

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