Who are you really?
Every social media pundit says “authenticity is the key” to being a successful marketer. But they completely ignore how hard it is for people to be themselves. We spend most of our childhood playing dress-up or make-believe. Almost everything a teenager does is to either impress someone, escape some personal pain or fit in. Why would that behavior suddenly go away once we graduate school and enter the workplace?
The truth is that it doesn’t. It never has. Some of your coworkers are probably scared to death that you’ll discover something about them that might make you think less of them. Everyone, at some point in their life, has been discouraged from being who they really are. Being open in the workplace is a risky endeavor because it makes you vulnerable.
The art of being non-committal
Perhaps that’s why corporate buzzwords are so popular. They allow you to talk in shorthand with people in a way that reveals absolutely nothing but allows you to feel like you fit in.
But there is strength in vulnerability
Being vulnerable is the secret to mastering all the “soft skills” experts say you need to succeed in the “New Economy” (whatever that is).
Jeff Hurt recently published this article that references what CEOs say they want to see in their employees. Being open and willing to collaborate tops the list.
That’s great to say, but in order to be open, you need to be comfortable with who you are. You need to know what your strengths are and be honest about your weaknesses before you can be of value to a team. You need to be secure enough to take criticism and wise enough to know how to give it judiciously. You have to be humble enough to know when someone else has a better solution so you can let go of your personal agenda.
Then you have to be in an environment where you feel like your input is important. Where you are free to voice your opinions without censure. Where your contributions are acknowledged and valued.
Which brings me back to my initial point
Do you know who you are? Are you in a place where it’s safe for you to be authentic?
If not, do you know how to change yourself or your environment?