Knowing this will help propel your career to new heights

Being authentic is always the best option, even at work. Here’s how to be your true self and why it’s important. 

Being your authentic self takes practice, especially for those who have been conditioned to default towards ‘game face’ (where you nod, smile and go out of your way to appease another person or situation), just to avoid conflict or feelings of discomfort. But while you may be making life easier for others, you’re doing yourself a disservice. By staying true to your own values and beliefs, you’ll not only fill your cup mentally and emotionally, but you could also physically see yourself progressing in your career.  


“When you're authentic, you're not wasting energy pretending to be someone you're not, and that's liberating. This boost in mental wellbeing can lead to better focus, improved relationships, and possibly, even career progression. People are more likely to trust and respect you when you're genuine and in the long run that’s a fast track to success,” explains Cheryl MacDonald, business mentor and founder of the YogaBellies franchises. 


You only have to look at celebrities like Oprah, Angelina Jolie, Beyonce and Leonardo DiCaprio to see what a success they’ve become by staying true to themselves and following their own authentic path. Julian Metcalfe, founder of food chains Pret A Manger and itsu, also stresses the importance of how being authentic at work won’t just help you to thrive but others too, especially if you’re in a leadership position: “You need to let people be themselves, to speak up, to be transparent – that’s what builds great teams and great companies – it doesn’t matter what it is. People need that feeling of purpose and openness.” 



In reality though, all this authenticity is often easier said than done, especially if you work in a corporate environment where the work culture seems more like a dictatorship. “Company culture is one of the biggest barriers to authenticity,” admits Mhairi Todd, life coach and founder of Revolve. “Yes, there are some that encourage diversity (and even opposition) of thought, embrace feedback and put employee satisfaction as high on the agenda as customer satisfaction but sadly, there are far greater numbers where the culture is imbalanced. This means they often place restrictions and demands on employees in terms of behaviour and conduct, so from the offset, your workplace environment is feeding back to you ‘not’ to be fully yourself and instead to conform. It’s easy to see why many people hold back elements of themselves.” 


There’s also the case of ‘learnt’ behaviour. “Donald Winnicott, one of Britain’s great psychoanalysts wrote about the concept of the true and the false self,” says Dr Arianna Masotti, in-house psychologist at ROWBOTS. “If, when we were younger our true self (our most authentic yet vulnerable part) wasn’t accepted, we develop what is called the false self and we wear a mask to be accepted. This doesn’t mean we’re lying; it’s a defence mechanism to be part of the group – a primordial instinct inherited from our ancestors: if we stay in the group, we survive; if isolated, we do not.” 


This need for approval or to be seen as ‘easy-going’ then stifles our freedom of expression and keeps our authenticity hidden. It’s especially pertinent when dealing with dominant or intimidating characters in the workplace. “Some people aren’t easy to work with and it might feel easier to fall into the trap of over-explaining yourself to avoid conflict. However, while to you, that may be basic courtesy, to them it may indicate a willingness to be subservient or what is called ‘fawning’ which can attract intimidation,” highlights Ingrid Ord, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist and part of the TherapyFinders database. Resilience and self-awareness will keep you in your lane in these scenarios, and they are easier to lean on if you’re used to being authentic.  


“When we have a clear sense of our identity, it allows us to free ourselves from the need of others approval to determine our self-worth because we no longer need it. This resilience then reflects not only in our work performance but also, and most importantly in our wellbeing. We let others’ comments slide off us and paint the world with our own colours,” continues Dr Arianna. 



It won’t happen overnight but there are practices you can put in place to help you stay in your lane at work. Then, like everything, the more you do them, the more of a habit they become and before you know it, you’ll feel like your core values are being met just as much in the workplace as they are outside of it. 


1. Recognise when you have imposter syndrome then let it go 

Even the most successful people on the planet will have no doubt suffered from imposter syndrome at some point and it usually happens when we’re pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone. “Reaching for the next level within us triggers our inner child to become scared and the whole ‘who do you think you are’ inner dialogue starts up. But think of it as a maladaptive attempt to keep up safe and recognise that when you are in the grips of imposter syndrome, rather than trying to rid yourself of it, congratulate yourself on reaching for more and see it as a sign you’re working towards something greater,” recommends Mhairi. 


2. Trust the process and live in the moment 

Don’t ruminate on failure or what has gone wrong for you in the workplace that day. Instead, focus on the process (not the result), as this will diffuse the pressure of reaching your end goals. When you feel like you’re enough, you can be more authentic and “the result will come naturally without self-criticism or self-doubt,” says Dr Arianna. 


3. Lean on your natural talents 

By getting to know yourself and your inner strengths you can use your gifts to your advantage – whether that’s social skills, organisational prowess, logistical thinking…Once you start shining in your areas of strength, others in the workplace will recognise that side of you too, you’ll feel more comfortable at work and more likely to succeed at the tasks you get assigned. 


4. Note down your patterns of behaviour 

“Conscious awareness is so helpful,” says Cheryl. “Catch yourself when you start to veer off your authentic path and don’t feel like you can be yourself. Journaling can be a great way to keep tabs on your feelings and thoughts. It can be a real eye-opener. And remember, it’s okay to mess up, it’s the course of correcting that counts.” 


5. Be aware of your work/life balance 

If you’re struggling with workplace challenges or dread going into work, you need to weigh up why that is and what your priorities are. “Life goes by quickly and what may seem of ultimate importance when we are working towards a specific goal, can fade into insignificance when balanced with all our values,” says Ingrid. Check in to make sure the direction you’re going in makes you happy and isn’t just something you’re conforming to for a quiet life. 


Want more tips on how to live a more authentic life? Read more here.

Becci Vallis

Becci Vallis

Becci Vallis has been a health and beauty journalist for 17 years and has written for publications including Grazia, Stylist, Cosmopolitan and Red. With a passion for sustainability and how the industry can turn the tide on plastic pollution, when she’s not walking her dog or writing articles you can find her boxing, doing yoga or cooking up a vegetarian feast in the kitchen. Dessert is a daily staple she will never forgo!