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Why "Be Yourself" Is Advice You Shouldn't Truly Believe

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We often hear the advice “be yourself” when it comes to personal and professional situations, but how much should we really show our true colors? Authenticity and showing our honest thoughts and feelings are seen as a positive thing so why is the advice to “be yourself” not entirely appropriate or true?

The Art of True Authenticity and Sincerity

The advice to be yourself isn’t about manipulation, as well as showing your true thoughts and personality at the right times, while taking into consideration and respecting others. It’s a fine balance of keeping your authenticity and using it in an appropriate manner.

Authenticity is all about our ability to be self-aware. It’s about knowing who we truly are, as well as knowing our values, emotions, and our competencies. It’s also about how we come across to others and having the self-knowledge to act in a certain way that shows tact and diplomacy.

In the workplace, being authentic takes on the notion of being completely honest even if that means being ruthless. The problem with this is that there is such a thing as being too honest. Furthermore, this can harbor your ability to be an effective leader and influencer. True authenticity goes beyond showing your true personality as there are so many varieties of personality that don’t necessarily match with good leadership. Imitating the person we want to be is a more effective way to pursue success, but we also need to keep a sense of sincerity.

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The Risks of Being Yourself

1. Losing credibility with others. If we show our true feelings there will undoubtedly involve fears; however, revealing your fears to others can lead them to lack confidence in you. Being yourself means being transparent in your thoughts and even worries which can have a negative effect on morale. It’s important to think about how your influence ultimately affects others. Fear is the number one honesty factor that devalues ourselves in the minds of other people. As a manager, if you make a decision but mention your fear for the outcome; while being honest about it, there is a danger that a lack of confidence will prevail in your team.

2. You create a fixed mindset rather than a growth mindset. Being our true self is abstract because we evolve according to our experiences. Acting in a way that shows our “true self” keeps us in a fixed mindset with a sense of introspection which stops us from evolving and growing as a person. A growth mindset is how we ultimately gain new perspectives and become a more worldly, rounded person. So, by sticking to being yourself, you are hindering your growth and staying in your comfort zone.

3. There’s a chance you could make bad decisions. Acting by your values is important but sometimes this will lead you to make choices based on emotion rather than true information and data. By doing this, you are potentially open to making bad decisions without fully taking on all sides and perspectives. We are governed by past experiences and opinions that may not always be supportive in the here and now. While you are being authentic, in a way that may not fully fit with current important decisions. For example, not taking a certain path because you’ve had a bad experience with something similar in the past will cut off any potential success.

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How To Be Effectively Authentic and Sincere

1. Allow yourself to grow. Adopting a growth mindset means accepting that your opinions and thoughts will change over time through experiences. Acting in ways that help you flourish in all areas of life will help towards making better informed decisions while staying authentic and genuine. Anything that gets you out of your comfort zone and the ability to see other perspectives will go towards better judgement.

2. Timing and relevance. Being self-aware and understanding the importance of timing and tact is key when dealing with others. Being yourself can lead to opinions that may not be relevant or just bad timing. When we’re being ourselves, we are essentially self-promoting and can sometimes deflect from the task at hand. Make sure your timing is in line with your aims and question, whether it is relevant to the outcome of the task or not. Personal information should be kept to a minimum. Ask yourself if what you’re saying is a benefit to the job.

3. Understand contexts. We need to adapt to different cultures because we are all different. It’s important to acknowledge and respect each other’s actions and opinions. Understanding this, and making decisions while taking into account cultural contexts, will help you become more successful and generate more respect from others. Do your homework before working or talking with people from different countries so as not to accidentally offend.

4. Don’t get personal. By this, I mean don’t disclose too much personal information or emotion. While this can help you bond with others, if you don’t know the person (or people) yet, this can cause you to come across as trying too hard, being awkward, or even needy. Your aim might be to break the ice but this can backfire, so disclose personal stories or information for when you have established more of a relationship.

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Conclusion

While being yourself is important, be careful with the amount of information and opinions you express around others. Be mindful of different perspectives, ideas, and cultures. Think about tact and timing. This isn’t about being fake or being insincere, it’s about showing a tactful intelligence that demonstrates a willingness to grow and evolve as a person and as a leader. Being aware of how you come across brings success on both a personal and professional level.

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Featured photo credit: Daria Nepriakhina via stocksnap.io

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