How often do you hold back or not say or do something because you’re worried about how it will be perceived? If the frequency is higher than you’d like then take comfort, you’re not alone, most of us do this far more than we’d be comfortable to admit.
Blending in or holding back are our tell-tale signs that we’re being less than authentic. What’s worse when we do it -usually in order to feel safe – we end up selling out on our self. Over time this repeated sell out leads our ‘self’ to feel under valued, unwanted, and wrong. And so begins a long spiral downwards, where we put more and more of our self in a box. Think of this as a long slow death before the ultimate box marked coffin. Yet it’s not irreversible, at any we time can stop boxing ourselves up.
Embrace Diversity, Feel Included, I Belong
What we’d all like is to have the freedom of self-expression. To be who we were born to be, loud and proud. Not looking over our shoulder and second-guessing people’s reactions and responses. Not reacting to a look that we’ve interpreted as disapproval of us as a person.
Here’s the rub though, we’ve had years of practice, feedback and learning to hold back, to second guess, to judge and silently ask another to be a little less of themselves and fit in more. We probably became masters of this in the school playground, learning it’s more important to be ‘liked’ and fit in than to express yourself, follow your passion and go for your dreams.
Human beings need positive social interaction, the sort in which we feel included and have a sense of belonging. We also need to be authentic. And therein lies one of the biggest ongoing challenges of life. To be able to have it all, rather than it being an either / or choice.
We all want to be our true selves and know we’re valued and have a place in the world. As leaders we talk about being a role model and the above-mentioned challenge is possibly the hardest of all. Can I still be true to myself or am I now feeling like I should be someone else?
Learning to delegate and not micromanage might seem tough but it’s nothing compared to this challenge. Building high performing teams, coaching your staff or getting commitment to a vision are all learn-able – and the secret sauce that differentiates the good from the great is the leaders ability to be themselves, to allow others to be themselves and for all to feel included and belong. In short, I call it Authentic Success.
4 Ways to be more authentic?
Self-Awareness – know who you really are.
Make a commitment to your own personal growth. This is one investment that lasts a life time. Where ever you go, there you are. Your skills, talents, personality, values, identity – all of that goes with you. It doesn’t belong to anyone else. You may share these gifts (possibly in return for money) but the other person doesn’t own them.
What self-awareness and personal growth have you done in the last 12 months? (This could be books you’ve read, courses you’ve attended, goals you’ve completed or are in the pursuit of etc.)
As leaders we can fall foul of thinking personal development is a luxury, something we will fit in when we have the time. Now Professional Development that’s more important. If you’re in IT and you program, then keeping up to date on coding for example is important. In leadership your value is in balancing people, task and system. Therefore, developing your people skills is crucial and that can often look like personal development and so we mistakenly de-prioritise.
I’ve met leaders on a course who learn everything from the perspective of their team, others, out there. You also need to look within, at you. Otherwise taken to the extreme you become a leader who thinks everyone else is the problem and everybody else needs to change. If your people skills aren’t delivering what you want, then chances are it’s your level of self-awareness that needs focus.
- Where is the next phase of growth for you this year?
- What’s the role asking you to develop (more of) to add even more value to those you lead and to the business?
We all get scared, it’s what we do with it that matters. Do you let it stop you from having what you want? Or do you acknowledge it and move through? The latter requires courage. I know courage is a quality and not a skill and it can be developed.
One way of doing this is to look around at others who you would say are courageous and then notice what is it they do, how are they being?
The other way is to allow yourself time for personal reflection, every time you acknowledge a fear and then take action to move through, that’s courage. We often get stuck in deciding if something worked by the outcome. You can move through a fear and not get the desired outcome, so technically that looks like a mistake or failure. And the moving through, took courage, recognise it, own it. That way your courage muscle gets stronger.
Celebrate your successes – This can be your achievements this week. It can be that you pushed yourself through fear and did something you’d otherwise have backed off from.
Celebrate yourself – you don’t need to shout about it to others but do acknowledge yourself. We’re often far better at acknowledging other people, than ourselves. We often encourage others more than we do ourselves. From now on do both of these on a regular basis and your confidence and self-esteem will increase dramatically. There are other knock on positives too, but I’ll let you find those out for yourself 🙂
What are you doing as habits would be the surface way to look at it. The deeper way is to become aware of who am I being consistently.
Start with your habits, what behaviours do you do regularly? What actions do you take, usually without thinking?
Which ones still serve and which ones are out of date or the tiny you in action?
Then look deeper, what feelings or emotions do you experience regularly? What thoughts do you frequently entertain? What qualities do you draw upon?
I remember years ago my mentor asked me the question “Ruth, what are you apprenticing yourself to? And is it worth your life energy?” It was one of those questions I couldn’t instantly answer. I lived with it and as my awareness increased there were elements for which the answer was no. There were also elements for which the answer was a exhilarating yes. And this insight helped me course correct. It’s a question I reflect upon at least once a year.
If you do only one thing, then answer the last question I posed. Ideally you’ll take the time to answer all the questions. And should you want to fast track your results and leadership to experience Authentic Success then 1:1 coaching will help you.