Can You Truly Be Yourself At Work?

If you are like most people, you have encountered at least one situation at work in which you have wondered. “How should I behave?” “Can I be myself in this situation or do I need to act a certain way?” These situations can be challenging to navigate and can make an already stressful job experience harder than it is – or needs to be.

Many professionals feel like they have a split personality. There’s the side who wears that suit or uniform each morning to sit through meetings, field questions, and smile nicely while jumping through hoops. Then, there’s the other side who you dust off for family, friends and weekends. 

It’s an unfortunate habit we have all gotten into bringing just a part of ourselves to work. The only problem with this is that you are shortchanging not only yourself but your career.

Projecting an image that doesn’t keep true to your real self can eventually damage your well being. And if you are not happy at work, you are probably not as productive as you could be – not the best way to find success.

You Have To Be Willing To Be Rejected

You will never be able to show the real you anywhere, if you are not willing to risk rejections. If you are afraid of rejection and putting on a mask at work as a protective mechanism, you have to be willing to take it off, at least a bit.

We can put on a mask or send our representatives – not the real us – to work, because then if you experience criticism, (s)he is the one that gets criticized. But as long as we are sending our representative to work or wearing a mask we will always feel like we can’t be ourselves. The willingness to be seen is required. I understand fear and you may need to find some courage at first, but it will be worth it for your career. People will most likely like the real you.

Be Situation Smart

Truly successful employees make it a point to learn the unique “ins and outs” of their specific work environments. Once you get a good handle on your work environment, you can best understand when and where you can be your true self. Are you a lightened employee who prefers face-to-face conversations and a casual tone when discussing work-related issues?

If so, be sure to figure out which of your colleagues this style works best with and feel confident that you can be your “true self” when dealing with them.

Consider The Purpose Of Disclosure

Before sharing any personal information, weigh the reasons you are choosing to disclose it. Does it relate to the task at hand? Will it help further the progress of that task? Are you trying to establish trust or encourage better collaboration?

Revealing personal stories about yourself should serve a purpose other than making friends at work. That’s often the byproduct of getting to know coworkers.

Question Yourself – Who You Are Supposed To Be?

How we think we are supposed to be, could largely be a story we are telling ourselves, not reality. We have locked ourselves in a box without anyone forcing us in. There just might be a lot more space to show up as you – with your thoughts, opinions, needs, work style, etc – than you think.

Look closer and ask yourself “is it really true I have to be/do it this way? Is there some flexibility for me to try things differently?” For some things the answer may be no, and for where the answer is yes it may feel scary at first to actually make the change, but it is worth reflecting on and feeling out your options.

Respect Boundaries

Just because a topic isn’t off limits with friends doesn’t mean the same rules apply in the workplace. Even if you are feeling friendly with colleagues, steer clear of both politics and religion. You may also want to avoid topics related to your health or certain off-hours pursuits depending on the colleague.

When you don’t bring more of yourself to the workplace, you could be missing out on some important opportunities. Clients, for example, aren’t always able to connect with you if you hold too much back. You also risk coming off as fake or trying to hide something, which can lead to missed sales or production goals and a loss in revenue.

Once you bring more to yourself into the workplace, it becomes difficult to not shine. Being true to one’s self is often the reason certain careers take off while others struggle.

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