Thursday 11th November 2021

Authenticity at work - Is it time to take off the mask?

Gemma Brown asks, is it time to take off the mask?....

Authenticity at work - is it time to take off the mask?

By Gemma Brown


Being authentic at work is not a new phenomenon, but now, more than ever, it is needed throughout organisations in order to lead with integrity, honesty, compassion and ethics. When we can be true to ourselves, we can then, in turn, be true to those around us. 


For most of my career I put on a mask to go to work. I had a pretty set idea of what it meant to be professional, successful, a good employee and a strong leader - and I couldn’t reconcile these words with myself. So I put on an act. I dressed the part, wearing smart suits. I was serious, not showing my true personality. I had to be the one to have all the answers, saying ‘I don’t know’ would be weak. I kept my distance. I worked ridiculous hours to keep up the pretence that I was good at my job. I was agreeable. I was quiet. I didn’t rock the boat. I was cheery on the outside even when I didn’t feel it on the inside. 


I didn’t think I had what it took, so I pretended I had the skills, strengths and attributes to get ahead. It took me many years to recognise the impact of this, and a long journey of personal development to finally acknowledge my skills, strengths and experience which were all valid and actually sought after.


I coach many individuals who can relate to this ‘putting on of a mask’, and especially women in their careers. The impact is real - not only is it draining, tiring and has a detrimental effect on your well-being, it is also preventing you from sharing all of your true skills, strengths, abilities and opinions (those that are needed more than ever) with your workplace (and the world!).


The mask-wearing leads you to constantly second guess, hold back on your opinions, not speak up, a fear of difficult conversations and not going for opportunities that you are more than capable of. 


But simply taking the mask off will not bring forth your true self. 


The trouble is, we’re not taught how to be authentic. If anything, we’re taught how to be inauthentic. From a young age we’re told how to be - ‘be good’, ‘be quiet’, ‘be seen and not heard’, ‘put your coat on’. We look to the authoritative figures around us (be it parents, caregivers or teachers) for instructions on what to do next. And we do what they say to stay safe.


So is it any surprise when we find ourselves putting on a mask to go to work? That mask becomes such a regular fixture that we’re left questioning, ‘is it ok to take this off?!’. 


Knowing, understanding and accepting who you are is a journey of self-discovery. As Brene Brown says “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are”. When you do this, you will flourish and those around you will too.  

At the heart of authenticity is the alignment of your values and beliefs with your actions and words. The key to unlocking this connection is developing deep self-awareness. When you stop looking to others for clues of how to be, and instead look within yourself for the answers, your true self will shine through. You will have conviction in your opinions,  you will have strength of decision making, you will step forward with confidence, and you will speak up with compassion.


If you are curious about personal development and developing a growth mindset and want to better understand yourself so that you become increasingly comfortable with who you are, loosening the reliance on any ‘masks’ you wear and role-model the practice of being true to yourself with those around you - join us for the Future Leaders Programme. 


Through this group coaching programme you will work with like-minded women on a similar journey who will support, and share with the same generosity that you intend to. You will leave with the self-awareness and confidence to drive your career forward in a way that is aligned with your values, needs and purpose.


Find out more here

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