A couple of years ago, as a branding homework to find more about what people value in me, I asked some people I trust, “What did you see in me that led you to be my friend?” That small action has led me to a big revelation since.
We all are uniquely shaped through our inherent traits, the environment we grew up in, and our experiences. That’s what makes us all different from each other.
The problem arises when we start looking at ourselves from others’ lenses. Somebody tells us that we are too shy, too loud, too critical, too dreamy or too (fill in the blank here), and we start listening to them.
Before we know it, we begin to see our personality as filled with flaws. We never question if it really is that bad or if it’s really a flaw.
Steve Jobs was notorious for doing what he thought was right even when the experts disagreed with him. But that’s why he could break many norms of design, marketing, and technology.
Gandhiji was criticized for being too mild in the face of the brutal British empire. But that’s what gave rise to the non-violence movement which we admire today.
Marc Zuckerberg is labelled as boring by some because he often wears similar looking clothes. But that’s what productivity experts admire in him because he is taking the decision away from what to wear every day and focusing it on something else that matters more to him.
The point is, you don’t have to dial down your own personality because somebody else doesn’t approve of it.
I was labelled many things – brutally blunt, too critical, too picky, an idealist, annoyingly positive…
But when I asked that question, I realized that all these perceived weaknesses had another side to it- honest and direct, analytical with a gift for perfecting, a person with a fine taste, an idealist with realistic action steps, a breath of fresh air in the world filled with negativity.
It is then that I started accepting those traits as a part of what makes me unique. I couldn’t disown them anymore. I could not let perspectives of a handful of people hold me back from spreading my message to many more who are willing to listen to it. Others no longer had the power over me. I felt free!
Here’s what has become clear to me through this journey:
1. We cannot appease everybody. But we have to appeal strongly to somebody. And those in turn become our most vocal, loyal, and helpful allies.
2. Many personality traits can be either a strength or a weakness depending on where and how you use them.
Now let me be clear here. I am not saying that we shouldn’t listen to others or be open to their feedback. All that is important if we want to grow personally and professionally.
But what I am saying is that in the process, we cannot dim our light. We must understand the fact, I am who I am. While I am not perfect, I am unique. I am no better or no less than anybody else. We start by accepting ourselves wholly, just the way we are today.
And if there is a part of you that you don’t like so much, strive to make it better but with utmost love, compassion and patience for yourself. Then you start looking at improvement as progress rather than fixing what’s not right. You start changing only if you choose to and for yourself, not in the hope that somebody else likes you more.
When we get this, our progress becomes effortless.
1. We start making kindred connections that strongly resonate with our world view. They want to work with you and would happily refer you to suitable opportunities.
2. Our message starts receiving more traction because it’s heard loudly and clearly. I tell my clients that we have been told to keep our personality away from our professional expressions. But that no longer works. Test it for yourself. Post something on LinkedIn or Facebook that comes directly from your heart vs. something that branding best practices tell you but you don’t have any strong feelings about. See which one gets more responses. The best branding comes from within.
3. All the external presentation of who you are – e.g. interviews, resume, networking, LinkedIn profile – becomes effortless. You no longer have to pretend to be a person you are not under the excuse of being professional. That doesn’t mean you share every little detail about you. You still lead with your strengths but without the burden of worrying what slips out of your mouth. You become less robotic, and more human in your conversations. That’s what gets you allies that lead you to your dream opportunities.
I am grateful that this year, I started the process of accepting myself just the way I am. It’s a process for sure. I still hesitate on broadcasting my message loud and clear from time to time worrying that some people may not like it. But even with the baby steps, I have already seen the results.
Knowing that you are enough just the way you are is a game changer. You learn faster, and aren’t afraid of making mistakes. The peace of mind you gain allows you to always bring your A-game to the table. You exude the confidence that others find comforting and attractive.
Is the process easy? Absolutely not!
But set an intention and give it time. You can get there.
For me, it all started when I asked, “What did you see in me that led you to be my friend?” Their answers were eye opening.
I am really, really thankful for that action.
What are you grateful for? Share in the comments.
This is the second post from the series “11 Days of Thanksgiving”.
Read the Day 1 here.
I invite you to join me in this gratitude practice. It is a powerful act that will reset your mind no matter how your 2016 went. Get ready for the new year. Send me a request to join this Facebook group if you want to participate.