Sounds like pretty generic “woo-woo” talk, yet it’s a part of every personal development book and business blog you’ll ever run across. Which means there’s probably something to it. And if you’re pursuing a career in the competitive tech field, learning to block out the noise and be true to yourself could be the secret ingredient to your professional success.
Very few professionals take the time to understand themselves – let alone be true to who they are at their core. This leaves them susceptible to outside influence. People who don’t have an internal “true north” spend their entire careers being reactionary. They wait until something happens and then they respond based on the circumstances.
For example, the average tech professional doesn’t have a plan for his career. He knows he wants to be in tech, but he doesn’t take the time to set goals for where he wants to be in five, 10, or 15 years. (And he definitely doesn’t plan out a list of steps to reach a long-term goal.) So rather than proactively investing in networking and professional development, he’s content waiting for things to unfold. Then he reacts.
Likewise, it’s easy for the average tech professional to become misaligned in the area of work-life balance. At work, he’s one person (saying and doing things to make his coworkers and boss happy). At home, he’s a totally different person (doing whatever it takes to keep his wife and kids happy). And while he might not be able to pinpoint why, he feels a sense of discontentment no matter where he is. He’s never satisfied, because he’s never comfortable. When he’s at work, he feels like he should be at home. And when he’s at home, he feels like he should be at work.
There are any number of problems driving issues such as these. But when you peel back the layers of the onion, there’s a lack of proper calibration at an identity level.
The problem is that most people in the tech world – and really any industry or stage of life – don’t even understand what it means to be yourself. Even fewer people have an instruction manual for actually doing it. So in this article, we’re going to provide both a definition and a list of actionable tips you can put into action starting this week at work.
What Does it Mean to be Yourself?
First things first, let’s get clear on what we’re even talking about. Being yourself doesn’t mean having a detailed understanding of every single personal belief you have or even knowing why you believe the things that you do. In fact, it’s best to view it as a process – not an outcome.
The reality is that we’re all in the process of learning who we are. And as you dig, you’ll soon realize that you’re more multifaceted than you ever realized. So it’s less about fitting yourself into a box and more about getting clear on who you are when nobody’s watching and there are zero expectations to act or think in a certain way.
“Our true self is who we really are when we let go of all of the stories, labels, and judgments that we have placed upon ourselves,” life coach Victoria Ayres writes. “It is who we naturally are without the masks and pretentiousness. It is who we really are when we let fall to the floor the cloak of other people’s stuff that we have taken on.”
While you’ll always be in the process of discovering yourself, spending time getting to know yourself on a more intimate level is important. Set aside some time to do this and you’ll walk away with a much clearer view of reality. This will have a positive impact on both your personal life and your career in tech.
How to Be Your True Self in Your Tech Career
Being yourself doesn’t magically happen on its own. In today’s world, you have to take action. Tear down those paper facades shrouding your true identity and finally be who you were always meant to be…so that you can live up to your full career potential. Here are a few ideas:
1. Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve
There’s this idea that you have to put on a “face” at work and look like you’ve got it all together. Over the years, we’ve fallen for this notion that we’ll hamstring our career potential if we play our true cards and let people know how we really feel. It’s a problem in almost every industry, but something that’s especially prevalent in tech. Vulnerability is something we run from.
But do you want to know the truth? We’re all so focused on ourselves that we really don’t have much time to care about what others are doing. We might take notice, but it’s not like we’re pondering every little detail of what someone else says, wears, or does. Let this free you up to let loose and be yourself.
We’re not telling you to do things that are inappropriate or unprofessional. (This isn’t an invitation to go crazy – it’s an encouragement to express yourself.) Just let your voice be heard. Stop being a chameleon who tries to fit into every workplace clique and present yourself for who you really are.
- Are you a patriotic person? Wear a patriotic shirt and show people that you support America.
- When someone asks you how your weekend was, don’t give them a generic, “Good! How was your weekend?” Instead, let them in on what you did (whether fun, boring, relaxing, frustrating etc.). Being an open book helps people understand who you are.
- Personalize your office or cubicle with items that show you personality. Whether it’s family pictures, pariphanilia of your favorite sports team, or a piece of artwork that you really like, don’t be afraid to show off your interests.
2. Celebrate Your Strengths
You have a unique set of strengths. Rather than suppressing them and going along with the status quo, try celebrating your strengths. As you celebrate the things you’re good at, you’ll start feeling a sense of meaning and purpose. Life will become enjoyable and meaningful, rather than boring and pointless. (As a bonus, your boss will see you as more valuable and possibly find new opportunities for you in the future.)
3. Get Off Social Media
Finding out who you are at the core and becoming familiar with your true self are hard enough challenges on their own. If you’re spending hours of your week on social media, you’re making things a whole lot more difficult than they have to be.
Social media might be good for some things, but it’s a terrible place to develop a worldview and sense of self. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram are nothing more than idealistic and carefully curated versions of reality. You never see the bad, ugly, or monotonous aspects of life – just the success and glamor. Get off social media and all of that noise goes away. Use this time to do things that improve your career skills, like taking an online tech class or starting a little IT consulting side gig.
Stop Living Someone Else’s Life
People who are authentic at work are proven to be much happier, more satisfied, and less stressed. And according to one study, professionals are 12 percent more productive when they feel authentic in the workplace. In other words, there are practical implications to getting this right.
Most of us think we’re living our own life when we’re actually filtering the majority of our thoughts, feelings, and actions through the perceptions of others. We’re constantly thinking about how the things we say and do will be interpreted by others, which makes us pawns in someone else’s game of chess.
By getting intimately acquainted with who you are at your core, you can embark on a journey of expressing your true self (in your tech career and at home). The hope is that this article has given you a simple framework to build on.