Embrace the significant power in being yourself in the workplace

October 12. 2012 3:00AM

Joe Bertotto

At times our greatest temptation can be to live the life of someone else. We see another person's success or happiness and wish it for ourselves. We think we need to be more like that person to improve our standing at work or in life. So we set about copying that person, ever so subtly perhaps, in an effort to get whatever it is that we perceive we don't have.

Don't do it — it's a mistake. Happiness and success are neither elusive nor exclusive. The reality is you have everything within you that you need to be happy and successful in life. It's already there, like the prize in a box of Cracker Jack. You hold the key to unlock the treasure chest.

The key is having the courage to be yourself. You have a unique perspective on life, a rare set of gifts that are of great benefit to you and of significant worth to those around you.

Sadly, at work we might walk the halls like the Lone Ranger, wearing a mask to hide our true identity. In an effort to belong, we pretend to be someone we are not. It might be something small, unnoticeable to everyone else. Not being ourselves can take many forms.

As an example, how many times during the workday do you think of something you never say? I'll give you a personal illustration of this hidden identity approach at work.

Since I've begun my consulting practice, I've had to sell my services. I'd actually do the work for free if I could afford to, but I can't, so I have to show business owners my cost/value proposition.

Personal selling was new to me. At first, I was very careful with my language, how I behaved and how frequently I contacted people. I would agonize over words in emails and be fairly cautious at meetings. I was conservative and wanted to be seen as a formal professional.

That was a bad move and a big mistake. That's not really who I am. I'm very informal, friendly, positive and determined. I'm passionate and knowledgeable about the work I do. When I am on site working with clients, that's how I behave, but I began to notice after sales calls I felt like a maraschino cherry — an altered version that only slightly resembles the real thing.

So I vowed to be me, irrespective of whom I was talking to. I shed the mask. I felt natural. My sales results were better.

If you're wearing a mask in any phase of your work, ditch it. It's liberating to come clean about your identity. Trust yourself. Focus on the matchless contribution only you can make. Don't envy. Don't doubt.

Learn from others, certainly, but don't try to be them.

The only person you'll spend your whole life with is you. Yet most people are strangers in their own lives. We try to get to know others without ever getting to know ourselves. We don't give much thought to the gifts we possess.

Life should be more about depth and less about speed. We rush through life without a lot of self-reflection and, when we do reflect, we can spend way too much time on the qualities we're missing. It seems that thinking badly about ourselves can override thinking highly of ourselves.

With that in mind, here's an easy way to fit positive self-reflection into your day. Turn off your cellphone and your radio the next time you drive home from work. If something did not go well, replay it in your mind.

What could you have done differently? How will you handle a similar situation the next time? How will you be sure to use words that are kind, truthful, useful and unifying? Work through that in five minutes, then get it out of your mind.

Now focus on the five things that went right at work. What natural gifts were at play? Were you genuinely you in the way you handled the situation? How can you dial up those natural gifts in other aspects of your work? At home? Build tomorrow on those answers.

Be yourself — no one else can.

Joe Bertotto is principal of the Strengths*Life Project, a consultancy dedicated to helping individuals realize their best self, to the advancement of servant leadership and to creating great workplaces built on high care, high performance and high accountability. Contact him at joebertotto@gmail.com.


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