One of the most frustrating pieces of advice to receive is the instruction to “be yourself.” Often, the reflexive internal response is “Yes, but how?” or maybe even “Which one?” When all you want to know is how to present yourself in a certain situation, “being yourself” feels like not making an effort, which – when something really matters to you – feels strangely…inauthentic. Or, inappropriate, anyway. But how else are you supposed to make the right impression? How else are you supposed to be the person you think the other party would prefer you to be?
There’s a difference between making an effort and becoming someone else. The idea in situations like this is to show up as what you truly consider to be the best version of yourself. If the adjustments you need to make involve anything beyond that, then the opportunity or relationship that may result will be one that relies on you repeating the act continuously, which is not gonna feel great. You’ll essentially have yourself a compatibility issue, and you’ll probably wonder how you ended up with it. It’s them, not you, right? Actually, you can’t do that math, because “you” never actually showed up.
Now that you know that faking it won’t get you anywhere you actually want to be, the question is what to do about it. A few ideas for your consideration, for when you need to:
- Decide how to use your own time
- Own your authentic voice
- Make the decision that’s against the grain
- Be truthful in your interactions with others
- Extract yourself from “groupthink”
- Mind your own business
- Let other people do their thing without judgment
- Check in with your intuition (aka, your “gut”)
Life – especially in the MBA world – is constantly throwing challenges at you, pushing you to redefine your comfort zone, grow and strengthen yourself in a hundred different ways at once, and envision as many options as you can while simultaneously analyzing and choosing among them. It’s easy to get swept away in a landslide of overwhelm if you let your guard down for even a second. Who wouldn’t? It’s a lot at once, all the time.
Most of us are happiest when we are around people, places and experiences that feel like “us” to ourselves – where believe we can “be ourselves” and drop the self-consciousness that comes with constantly thinking about how other people are thinking about you. It follows, then, that if you want to be happy, you have to seek those spaces out for yourself, and make choices that place you in that kind of spot as often as possible, or…dare I say…always?
Finding those kinds of situations means first connecting with yourself, however. You won’t know if something is a “fit” for you if you don’t know what you feel like to start with. My guess is that you do know, though, but you have to make the choice to value that self, and give it permission to decide what’s worth your time, and what isn’t.
You have to be mindful to know. Fortunately for you, that’s just a question of finding a moment, and then finding your breath. Your truth will speak to you, and odds are good you will recognize it when it does.
Photo credit: Patrick Fore