Woman looking at a coworker and smiling

If you will, I invite you to take a moment to imagine something with me. Consider the many elements that make you who you are. Now, let’s imagine those pieces being contained within a circle.

Next, reflect on your job and the aspects of your company’s culture, your responsibilities and expectations as a second circle. Lastly, think about your colleagues, the dynamics of your team and the components that make up who they are within a third circle.

There is a common misconception that when a person shows up as their true self at their company that all three of these spheres will perfectly overlap, one on top of the other. This concept suggests that there is complete alignment between all characteristics of you, your work and your coworkers.

In truth, you have so many facets to who you are, as does every person you collaborate with and every company culture you become part of. That means there is a good chance you will connect with certain people more than others. You are also likely to feel more fulfilled by aspects of your job and perhaps less enthusiastic about other elements.

You may also wish to set some boundaries between yourself, your role and your teammates. For example, if I have a colleague who prefers to keep their home life very private. Although I may not have insight into that portion of who they are, that does not prevent them from being genuine. It’s simply part of a circle that does not overlap with me.

Even with the three spheres having areas of disconnect, you can still feel a strong sense of belonging and connection in your job and with your colleagues. As you strive to be authentic at work, I encourage you to imagine the circles of yourself, your position and your coworkers as a Venn diagram with healthy overlapping sections as well as areas of individuality.

Venn diagram with Your Authentic Self, Your Work and Your Coworkers

Exploring the Intersections

The parts of each shape that fully overlap create a strong core. When you bring many aspects of your personality, background and interests to your organization, it enables you to feel engaged because you are using your strengths and values to support performance. You may also find yourself in a state of “flow”, where you feel so engrossed in whatever you are doing that you even lose track of time. This sort of experience can accelerate engagement and motivation. When we work in an environment and function that allows us to be our authentic selves and display who we are at our core, we can truly thrive as people and professionals.

Recognising the Distinctions

There are likely to be portions of the three spheres that do not overlap. You may not find every facet of your position energising. You might also discover that you are prone to reveal certain elements of your background to colleagues, while leaving other thoughts unvoiced to support the culture of the organisation. For instance, a third-third Assertive team member may choose to apply an indirect approach when disagreeing with a first-third teammate. That does not make the person insincere. They are still sharing their perspective and simply adjusting the way they do to match the context of their environment and the needs of others.

7 Ways to Honour Your Authentic Self in the Workplace

To promote a sense of belonging and establish an environment that allows you to be you while respecting differences within a company’s culture and workforce, consider the ways in which you wish to align, and where you prefer to set boundaries.

1) Start with self-awareness.

Self-discovery is fundamental to the process. When you gain a strong sense of who you are, how you prefer to think, behave and interact as well as the values that drive you, you will be able to better understand the circle of your genuine self. What you find may surprise you! To increase self-awareness, try using assessments like the Emergenetics® Profile or exercises to explore the values that matter most to you.

2) Study your company’s values and team norms.

To create overlap in the intersections of your three spheres, examine your organisation’s ethos as well as the behaviours and expectations set within your team. As you delve into the values and norms, consider where you connect to these ideals and what opportunities may exist to find greater congruence.

3) Reflect on what energises you.

Certain tasks and experiences are more likely to engage you than others. By evaluating your responsibilities and the role you play, you can understand what actions, projects and functions give you energy. When you can take part in these activities frequently, you can expand on your core and promote your own motivation.

4) Reframe de-energising experiences.

As you identify the elements of your job that innately speak to who you are, you may uncover some aspects that are not as appealing to your core. When you come across these responsibilities or events, assess whether there are opportunities to reframe your approach to honour your preferences and needs. If nothing else, the reflection can draw attention to when you may need to flex and re-energise afterwards.

5) Embrace the mindful pause.

At any point in your day, you can take 10-15 seconds for a mindful pause. The practice encourages individuals to stop and ask themselves which of their gifts or experiences they would like to call upon to support them during a meeting, a project or a conversation. By consciously identifying moments to lean into your strengths, you can show up more fully and expand the core of your Venn diagram.

6) Recognise and communicate boundaries.

While many of my tips focus on expanding the center of the three circles, remember that boundaries are important. You are under no obligation to share every part of yourself or every thought you have, nor are your colleagues. There will be sections that are distinct. Take time to determine and share the healthy lines you would like to draw.

7) Cultivate emotional intelligence.

Every person in your organisation is a unique human being. It is important to remember that having variations in the way people think, behave, collaborate and operate is a good thing! By building respect for those who approach work differently and seeking to understand and honour alternative perspectives, you can more effectively establish an environment where every person is celebrated.

While the circles of a person’s authentic self, their colleagues and their jobs may never be in perfect alignment, there is still so much opportunity to find connection between who we are and what we do. When we all make an effort to show up fully and give space to others to be themselves, we can make the workplace a centre for belonging and connection.

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