Be your authentic self
Authentic. I love this word. I have friends who tease me about how often I use it. So, why do I love this word? Apart from its definition of “being genuine, real and true”, it’s a synonym for reliable, dependable, trustworthy, and honest. I value these attributes in my life; I bet we all do. It’s how I want to and strive to live my life, and it’s what I value in the people I surround myself with.
The only time I find that these attributes disappear — the biggest challenge to being authentic — is when people care too much about what other people or society thinks, about what should do or should be.
Society’s rules for success
We are all given a roadmap for success, the things we should do — from our parents, from our teachers, and from our mentors.
There is a clear definition of what success means and how to be successful.
The usual pattern is getting good marks > stay out of trouble > graduate > college > university > good job > get married > work > buy a house > work > have kids > work > get a promotion > retire > then your children start the whole cycle over again > get good marks > stay out of trouble > etc…
If we veer from this path, then there is doubt, fear, and sometimes even ridicule.
So when I quit the job I didn’t enjoy or gave up my home to become a nomad, or even after I embraced working as a freelancer, there was a lot of judgement and continues to be fear and opinion heading my way on a constant basis!
Baby boomers — my parents — come from a generation that struggled to find gainful employment. So when they think about work, they believe it means a steady income. When they think about marriage, they think — security. The aforementioned roadmap and the principles associated with the roadmap resonate with them; working for a big corporation provides security and stability, and the freedom to start a family.
So when they hear about someone quitting a job or starting a business, it can create anxiety as they immediately think of the inherent uncertainty around finances, the potential for failure, or the impact on being able to start a family.
Since the pandemic, those comfortable, "secure" roles in organisations have ended because of the uncertainty of the economy…so this is a new opportunity for many that previously felt trapped in the cycle of society’s path to success.
Succeeding by society’s standards
I followed the societal “should” roadmap for a long time. I gathered the diplomas and succeeded whilst working in corporations for over 26 years. Sometimes I was lucky, I had authentic leadership, and I sincerely believed in the company and what we were striving to achieve. Other times I was unlucky, working for a corporation that did not value its employees, and promoted leaders who were micro-managing and lacked integrity.
Is this what success looks like? Working for a company, we don’t feel aligned to? Working for people, we don’t trust?
It seems that some companies are revealing their true values or having them revealed due to the transparency of the internet. They are laying off interns who had previously espoused valuing them and investing in the future. They are cutting work hours whilst asking for more from their employees through virtually working. They are revealing the best and worst of themselves, and we are in the unique position to determine if they align with our personal values and goals.
It didn’t take long for me to decide that succeeding in such organisations did not define success for me.