As I work with mid-senior professionals, a disclaimer that often comes up is: I can do everything but not ‘x’; it is just not me!

They tell me they don’t feel authentic doing ‘x.’

‘x’ varies for different people. It could be anything from a range of behaviors to skills, e.g., –

  • Networking
  • Talking about their work or achievements
  • Moderating a discussion
  • Presenting in front of a large group, or
  • Not getting into the nitty gritty /getting into the nitty gritty, etc., etc., etc.

Often, it turns out that they cannot do ‘x’ in the professional setting but are comfortable doing it in alternate scenarios, e.g., –

  • Networking with the parents of their children
  • Talking about the achievements of their team
  • Moderating a discussion in their Rotary club
  • Presenting their perspective in their Residents Welfare Association
  • Checking one child’s school diary but not the others

If you see yourself in any of the above scenarios, I urge you to double-click on what makes you feel inauthentic, using the same skills at your workplace.

  • Is it social conditioning?
  • Is it the comfort of doing what you have always done?

I also urge you to reflect on the idea that you have a fixed persona. We play many different roles in our lives, and every part requires us to show up differently. How easily we switch from one persona to another determines our effectiveness in each role.

Being authentic does not mean not learning new skills and behaviors.

Learning new skills and behaviors does not mean being untrue to yourself.

What if you could see yourself as a work in progress and give yourself the permission to evolve in your professional identity (and other identities, too)? Setting goals to learn will help you be curious, open-minded, and kind to yourself. It will allow you to experiment with your identities.

It will not be easy. It will take work. It will take courage. Learning anything requires putting yourself in a discomfort zone. Learning new behaviors is particularly tough. There is trial and error involved. There is vulnerability.

But it is like learning to ride a bicycle. It seems so difficult initially, and it takes time, but with practice, it becomes a part of you.

So, which dimension will you work towards adding to your identity this quarter?