by Soulaima Gourani contributing writer to Forbes.com
It’s often said that the easiest thing in the world is to be yourself, but ironically for most people, it’s can the hardest thing to do. After all, wearing a mask feels much more comfortable as it protects you from the fear of nobody liking you in the first place. However, after a while, pretending to be someone that you are not can become very draining, disingenuous and can even leave you in a very lonely and isolated place.
Of course, the pressure to be perfect is real, which is another reason that many of us operate in pretense. However, the pathway to success is not usually paved with perfection. Even some of the greatest companies in the world went through seasons of hard trails, bankruptcies and even starting all over again (read the story about Phil Knight, the co-founder of Nike). And, who would ever think that infamous Shark Tank investors like Daymond John would ever face hardships after starting his companies. John openly talks about the numerous times he had to endure business failures and restart his ventures all over again. However, it’s the transparency about our trials that can help others believe that they can overcome too.
The other day I was on the radio and the interview was about my life as a female entrepreneur. I did share quite a lot about myself, and I was a little anxious about whether or not people could handle some of the hardships I was sharing. Could they live with the image of me being an imperfect leader? Could they handle me sharing all of my faults and shortcomings?
Well, I learned that they could. After my interview, I received personal letters from many people sharing how much the interview touched them. Furthermore, a few minutes after the interview, I received a special email from a former colleague of mine who wrote, “I never really had the chance to get to know you before, so decided to listen to your interview and after hearing you out, I have determined that you are a true leader.”
The primary lesson learned here is that being authentic and transparent doesn’t make you less of a leader; instead, it can make you an even stronger one that knows how to overcome and preserver. It shows that you didn’t quit amid adversity; that you were able to accomplish great things despite hardships.
Simply put – it’s ok to just be you.
In fact, people are increasingly demanding leaders with empathic abilities, intuition, self-insight, self-understanding and social skills. In short, a real, living human being who isn’t afraid, to be honest and tell the truth. It’s time to stop worrying about what others think of you and whether you are a success or failure in the eyes of others – as long as you stay true to the priceless value that’s already within you.
For those of you who may find it challenging to step into your true self, here are a few tips to help you feel more comfortable showing your true self.
- Be at ease in dealing with people’s eventual mockery of you. Everyone won’t like you and that’s ok. Once you embrace this, it will make it easier for you to withstand adversity
- Stop trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. The fact is, everyone is not designed to fit into your life, so make sure your inner circle is filled with people who are liked minded and supportive.
- Evaluate your own flaws and weakness. Once you know this, then it will be no surprise if someone else brings it up and you can defend yourself from a place of acceptance and confidence, instead of being overly defensive and in denial.
- Know there are dangers with keeping the mask on. If you keep hiding who you are, then you will always attract the wrong people in life and business. By being your true self, you will attract the people who are supposed to be there and reject the ones who are not.
Start examining your life and see if every single situation you’re involved with is healthy for you. Go out and get to work on telling more truth, because when you’re true to yourself, you’re also true to other people. Authentic people know themselves, own themselves and enjoy being themselves. Just be you! – Soulaima Gourani contributing writer to Forbes.com