September 8, 2010

How to Be Your True Self in the Work Place.

Instead of putting on the suit of authenticity in order to sell our products, services and ourselves we would just start to focus on our commitments, communication, relationships, and projects.

Being authentic seems to be bandied about in work blogs all over the web. Be real. Be yourself. Show who you really are. The problem with this advice is that it is all  really based on selling yourself. It isn’t about being really authentic it is about branding yourself as a commodity for purchase.


What if, though, we really did practice being authentic in our lives. Not in a “tell everyone everything that goes through our heads kind of way,” but in a manner that suggests that we are constantly practicing being true to ourselves.

What would that possibly look like?

I know that when I am really being authentic I am coming from a place of kindness and compassion. My ego is left at the door as well as I can and I work to form real relationships with people. As a marketing consultant that means being honest, clear, and not puffing myself up to seem bigger or better than I really am.

In a work environment that seems to be a paradox of “promote yourself” philosophy, but share about other rock stars you know; go after every opportunity, but work well as a team; climb your way to the top, but don’t forget the little guy. Which is it? Are we self-promoting or are we working together?  With all the mixed messages out there it can seem impossible to know the “right” thing to do.

Here is where the opportunity to be awake at work and experience real authenticity comes in. Instead of pushing and climbing our way up some imaginary ladder what if we committed ourselves to doing good work and being present while we do it. It wouldn’t matter if we were cleaning toilets at the local motel, speaking to a sold out crowd, serving at a local bistro, or running a Fortune 500 firm. We could all just commit to doing good work and being mindful.

This is a radical shift from the idea of self-promotion at every turn. Instead of putting on the suit of authenticity in order to sell our products, services and ourselves we would just start to focus on our commitments, communication, relationships, and projects. Our focus would not be multi-tasking and plotting our next move—but instead to be centered on what we are working on right now as an expression of our true authenticity.

Wouldn’t it be great to be known as the person who gets things done, the guy who does really great work or, even, the team player who actually cares that the team is successful? These are radical ideas in an age of over stimulation, fear based work environments, and our constant need to get ahead.

“Don’t seek, don’t search, don’t ask, don’t knock, don’t demand – relax. If you relax, it comes. If you relax, it is there. If you relax, you start vibrating with it.” ~Osho

Is it possible to take our training on the mat into the workplace? Can mindfulness matter in our busy work lives? When I talk to people at workshops about balancing work and life they all say that the pressure to be something special, rise above the rest, and self promote in a “real” way without exposing too much of who they really are is exhausting. One recent participant said, “The idea that we are supposed to constantly sharing our ideas, thoughts, and what we had for breakfast all in a way to get some kind of illusive success is too much. How do we do our jobs when we are so busy “being authentic.”

Good question.

I don’t believe that those blogs, articles, and personal coaches really are interested in true authenticity. They want a package that is appealing to the general public. Which by any standard is less than authentic. In fact, packaging ourselves on Twitter or Facebook with the goal of attracting more followers by saying the right things is edging on deception.

So, what is being authentic? True authenticity comes from being present in the moment. When you are talking to your co-worker, you are really listening. When a deadline is looming, you are taking the actions needed to get the work done in the time commitment. Being present at meetings by not checking your email every moment is a great start towards being with yourself at work. As for your package, start to be known by what you do, not what you tell people you do and you will be traveling down the road towards true authenticity.

Jacqueline Wolven left a successful career in San Francisco as the director of marketing to build her own, personalized, marketing studio working with small businesses nationwide. Her passions are doing good work, zen business, siting practice, and living the life you create. Read her blog at Moxie Works.

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