Embracing Our Authentic (Best) Selves

This post was written by Jay Prewitt, Director of Coaching and Facilitation at The Latimer Group. 

Have you struggled with how to be your authentic self at work? Should we bring our whole selves to the workplace? Great questions.

If you haven’t seen chief diversity officer and keynote speaker Carin Taylor’s 2022 TedTalk on Belonging, I urge you to watch it. Her masterful exposition of the concept resonates deeply with my work on queer leadership in corporate America. As someone who explores the experiences of diverse leaders, her explanation of acceptance and authenticity stands out, particularly the balance between being authentic and fitting into organizational culture.

Authenticity is a recurring theme in my conversations with our clients, reflecting a broad trend that emphasizes the desire and need to be one’s genuine self at work. And it’s a concept I deeply align with. Yet, for many, striking the right balance between organizational culture and personal authenticity can be a complex task. Ethnicity, race, or being queer can add layers to this decision, but it’s a choice we all grapple with from time to time. I’ve even heard concern that the “bring your whole self to work” idea might have gone too far.

Carin’s PEACE method—Psychological safety, Empathy, Acceptance, Connection, and Embrace—provides a great foundation for Belonging. Her description of Acceptance delves into two simple categories to guide the presentation of authenticity at work: the authentic whole self, and the authentic best self. The authentic whole self, including our less desirable aspects, is something to leave at home, while the authentic best self is “the person who’s going to help us thrive in the workplace.” Psychological safety can be a barometer for examining our workplace behavior.

At The Latimer Group, we teach finding the balance between authenticity and appropriateness. Being an effective communicator requires authenticity. The best communicators exude authenticity, creating trust with their audience. Yet, our authenticity must adjust to our surroundings to meet the moment. Imagine if we lived our lives like small children, speaking our minds without filters. Extreme behavior in public is a quick way to become a viral sensation online! But it is probably not the best way to show up at work.

We all have different versions of ourselves. The next time you struggle with how to show up authentically at work, ask yourself if this presentation of self is your authentic best self, one that will inspire an environment of trust, collaboration, and psychological safety. This does not preclude us from having bad days, but it does guide our self-awareness so we can all thrive together. Leaders, ask yourselves if you and your organization foster an environment where colleagues’ best selves are welcome and encouraged. And if not, think specifically on what would need to change. Because it won’t just happen on its own.

The journey toward authenticity is both personal and communal. Let’s embrace our authentic best selves to create a workplace where everyone can flourish.

Does your team:
– Take too long to make decision?
– Fail to ask for what it wants or needs from you?
– Make things too complicated?
– Deliver unconvincing or disorganized presentations?
– Have new hires who are unprepared to communicate in the workplace?

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Jay Prewitt, EdD

A book about change

The Latimer Group’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.