“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Value of Being You
By Andrea Novakowski
Samantha, my client, was trying to fit into a work culture that didn’t value her strengths: strategic thinking and moving into action. For example, during team meetings, she felt that the discussion would wander all over. When she would try to bring focus to the meeting and clarify the next steps she would be met with resistance.
For the time being, Samantha had put her natural style aside in order to get by and adjust to the culture of her organization. This was causing her great pain and inner turmoil.
“I know I should be happy to have a job, but I don’t belong here,” she moaned during our recent coaching session. “They don’t value me or what I bring to the table. I can’t be me. Do I have to pretend to be someone else to succeed in this position?”
Naturally, that option wasn’t going to work in the long term – for Samantha or for anyone else. So we looked at other ways to address this issue.
We discussed ways Samantha could bring all of herself to work and begin to use her talents, rather than succumb to being miserable. Some of the ideas we came up with together included:
- Sharing her strengths with others by helping her peers and direct reports think strategically about their roles and their departments.
- Appreciating and acknowledging the skills others bring to the table.
- Asking for next action steps at the end of each meeting she attends.
Over time, as Samantha looked for opportunities to experiment with these ideas, she became more engaged in her work and started to feel more like herself. She began to feel like she fit in.
Where does change come from?
I’m often hired to help a client change their behavior; to be more of a leader, to delegate, to communicate more clearly; to grow and develop.
But for someone to change, they first have to see the benefit. For you to change, the change must be important to you; it can’t be based solely on what others are telling you or what you’re seeing on TV or on the internet. (Lead with authority! Be the best manager ever! Grow a million-dollar business!) For a change to be successful, it can’t be a “should.” It needs to be a “want.”
The world can be a noisy place. Instead of listening to the ads and internet messages and trying to be what you are not, what if you use the energy you spend on the “shoulds” to listen to your inner voice and discover what really matters to you?
It’s an inside job.
In her book Waking Up in Winter, Cheryl Richardson recalls a conversation with Louise Hay in which the motivational author and founder of Hay House Publishing told her, “You will be with you longer than anyone else on the planet, so why not make it a good relationship?”
And Priscilla Warner shares what she learned from Krishna Das in her book Learning to Breathe: “I never realized real happiness could just be inside of me,” she writes. “I was doing a practice in order to make myself feel like a different person. But then I finally relaxed and didn’t want to be somebody else.”
In Walden, Thoreau shared a similar sentiment: “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”
Follow your path. Be you. Have the courage to play to your strengths and see what happens.
YOUR CALL TO ACTION
Try improving your relationship with you.
- Write down what you perceive as your strengths: the behaviors and qualities that come naturally to you, the activities you do simply because you enjoy them.
- Now consider how you might harness these abilities at work and use them to your own and others’ advantage.