It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. (E.E. Cummings)
The dictionary defines authentic as “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character” – why is this important?
This might be one of the hardest skills to master. It’s a lifelong process that you will always have to continue to cultivate.
What are you afraid of?
- People might not like you… guess what… no matter what you do there will be people who don’t like you!
- People might disagree with you…guess what… they will anyways!
Think about this.
If you put 10 people in a room and every person is just trying to do what they think is going to please everyone in the group – where would you end up? You end up in a pretty gosh darn boring place. Now… put the same 10 people in a room when every one of them speaks their mind, trusts their instinct, and listens to everyone’s opinion but stays true to what they believe is right? I bet the outcome is a lot more exciting and empowering.
Everyone is passionate about something and it’s so important to maintain passion in the workplace. Employers are looking for authentic people to drive their companies to new places.
I implore you to take a few minutes after every meeting along with a few minutes at the end of the day to think about times when you let other people’s opinions guide you. Where would you have ended up if you had trusted your gut? Do you think the overall discussion or direction would have been different? Would the outcome have been totally different? Your thoughts and opinions matter and you should voice them. Not in the middle of a meeting with all of the main stakeholders at the company but in the right setting in an honest and respectful manner.
Stop seeking approval on every thought that runs through your head. Your brain is wired differently than everyone else’s for a reason. It’s okay to not agree with others and have your own opinions. They might be wrong, heck they might even be right – what matters is that they are yours. You won’t please everyone and that’s okay.
Get comfortable with making mistakes. It happens. Life is about trial and error.
You know that feeling when you know something feels wrong or maybe it’s the opposite, you know when something feels so right. Trust it. Trust your gut. Trust that feeling with your whole heart. Speak it like a truth. Your mind doesn’t usually play tricks on you. Even if you can’t articulate exactly why you don’t agree, or something is out of line with what you expected – at least give it a shot. Sometimes this can open a discussion that can lead to something much deeper and uncover other issues or the root of the issue that can be addressed. There have been so many times where I have said “I don’t know why but something about this just doesn’t feel right to me and here’s why”. Once we addressed my concerns the entire project changed course and then I knew in my heart of hearts that we were onto something big.
There will be times however that your personal opinions might derail the train. In these instances, it’s best to respectfully take a step back. If you feel like you still need to address the situation do it in a personal and private manner with a manager or your boss. There will be times that you will be right but you won’t be the right person to speak up about it.
In my career, I have also seen the flip side where people live their lives through the opinions and thoughts of others and get very wound up because they feel like they aren’t being heard. In these situations, it’s good to continue to include them in meetings and give them time to address their concerns – you never know if they were raised with parents that didn’t want to hear what they had to say or were just shy.
Someone told me that the most important issues that people bring up to their doctor are usually the questions they ask in the last 2-3 minutes at their appointment. Think about that. These people are going in to get medical advice and discuss everything else under the sun just to sneak in a quick question like “it might not be a big deal, but the entire left side of my body is numb and my heart hurts”. It’s a big deal. You probably should have brought it up at the beginning of the visit. This is the way humans operate. We hold back and aren’t open about the big things that bother us. We can spend hours discussing bullshit but when it comes to our gut feelings and instincts we hold back.
For this reason, I believe it’s always good to go around the room (assuming it’s a smaller room) at the end of the meeting and ask each person if they have anything to add any thoughts or opinions and to ensure everyone is aligned. It can be awkward to put everyone on the spot individually, but I have seen this push a lot of hot topics to the forefront.