“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” ~E.E Cummings
I've been writing a lot lately about being the best YOU you can be. There really IS only one YOU. You can't be Tony Robbins. You can't be Bill Gates. You can't be Michael Jordan or Oprah. They were created to be THEM and you were created to be YOU. Our daily lives consist of absorbing unrealistic expectations from media for what we should look like, what kind of parents we should be, and what kind of jobs we should have.
It's overwhelming, isn't it?
So why not stop. Stop trying to be someone else and follow their path and start designing YOU. Every time we make small decisions to fit in, whether as a child or as an adult, we are burying a little part of ourselves down deep. This is really serious business - this denying of who we are.
Here's the tough part: Revealing our true selves can feel like a huge risk now that we live in a world where everyone is presenting themselves as perfect, attractive, and happy, right. What if we don’t feel like we are any of these things? Will being who we REALLY are scare people away? Will everyone just suddenly abandon us? Will we still be acknowledged at work because we are seen as different?
Here are some simple tips to start designing the BEST YOU in your career:
1. Accept who YOU are
Media these days tends to set unrealistic standards-trying to tell us to be certain types of people in order to succeed. You're an introvert, yet every where you look, people are telling you to network as much as possible. You have strong family values, yet corporate is telling you to work 12 hours a day and travel 3 weeks a month to make yourself visible and climb the corporate ladder. Maybe you are high-strung extrovert who is being forced to sit in meetings all day and told to "quiet down". This nonsense needs to STOP.
If you are an introvert, there ARE ways to find a job that don't wear you out or make you sick to your stomach. If you have strong family values and believe that being at your children's games and music lessons trump working, STAND that ground because that's important and part of who you are. Being full of energy is NEEDED in boring work environments! - as long as you know how to control that trait and not go overboard.
We see it on social media and we are told it over and over in the workplace. The bar can be set impossibly high, so no matter how hard we try to improve ourselves, we always feel like we're falling short.
2. Identify and shut out any negative self-talk
One way we can figure out how to better accept ourselves is to identify and then challenge the negative self-talk. Come on. We all have those inner monologues squawking at us, interpreting all the situations around us.
We think "ugh my life stinks" or "I'll never perform as good as Billy and get that raise" or "look at her! She seems to be doing so well!" or even, "they all thought my presentation was bad - no one asked questions and now I'll never be asked to present on behalf of the team again." I know it's hard some days when we feel like we can't get through another day at work. But let's start by limiting our media time and find activities that don't allow our minds to wander into that hole of negative thinking.
One thing you can do is to write positive affirmations on note cards and put them in your car, on your bathroom mirror and on your desk at work. There's no shame. When we have those positive reminders of how good we are and the opportunities we have, our self-talk changes for the better.
3. Celebrate your strengths!
Too many of us slide into focusing on our weaknesses instead of celebrating our strengths. Think about common interview questions - "what are your top strengths and weaknesses?" What kind of question is that?
We ALL have strengths and TONS of weaknesses. What does that matter in getting a job? NOTHING. What matters is that you learn to celebrate your strengths....the gifts you've been given to help propel lives around you forward.
And those strengths you have? Even if they seem small and insignificant, by identifying them we realize, hey, our weird, one-of-a-kind self is pretty awesome after all.
4. Express yourself
What else stops us from being ourselves? Most of the time it's our fear of what other people might think. Think about a toddler. They dress how they want. They act how they want. They don't care what ANYONE thinks because they are just being themselves.
And what do us adults do? For example, maybe our friends all have the same opinion about a political topic, so we decide not to share our different point of view. Maybe our friends like a particular genre of music, and so we decide not to talk about the kinds of music we like. Or maybe our co-workers all agree on an idea in a meeting at work, and we decide it's better not to rock the boat in fear of being shunned or worse, fired. We hold back, because we are afraid of the possible consequences — consequences like them thinking we're weird or the crazy one.
Think of all the "weird" successful people and how they expressed themselves:
Albert Einstein used to pick used cigarette butts off the street to get tobacco for his pipe.
Ben Franklin had a routine named ‘the air bath’ where he just sat naked in front of a window.
Bill Gates sits in a rocking chair in meetings because the motion helps him think.
Mark Zuckerberg wears the same outfit every day because it helps him take attention away from frivolous details.
Nikola Tesla felt that he received electromagnet signals from aliens and his biggest phobia was germs and was determined to create a germ-free society with free electricity.
Unfortunately, all too often we're told to hide our weirdness and conform to society's expectation of what's normal. Now I'm not saying go do these quirky things just to be noticed. I'm saying don't hide behind the fear of what others think of you. That's what makes people like David Rendall so inspiring,
"what makes you weird also makes you wonderful".
5. Focus on the work at hand
Why should it matter what others think of you? Why be like everyone else? I mean, your company hired YOU. And YOU to do a specific job, right?
If you are effective at your job that’s all that really matters. Just do YOU. Just like the first point, it comes down to having a willingness to be yourself. You got this!