We could learn a thing or two from birds—the feathered variety. They’re up at the crack of dawn every day, singing their little hearts out, and never worrying about where the next worm is coming from. They’re not moody and they don’t get depressed when it’s raining. (I’ve never seen a bird sulk—have you?) They add value to any natural environment, with zero negative impact. They stick together and they trust in nature’s rhythms. They’re true to themselves and they fly where their inner guidance takes them.
Humans, on the other hand, tend to be filled with self-doubt and insecurity—despite all our resources, skills and creativity. We have difficulty trusting ourselves or the natural order of things. We mask our fears, put on a brave front, and do whatever we can to impress others, in the hope that they’ll find us acceptable.
In life as in business, this insecurity cramps our style. It hinders our authenticity and the power that comes from being naturally, quirkily ourselves. In striving to make ourselves acceptable, we actually diminish our value. If we lack strong, healthy self-acceptance—as so many of us do, due to early negative programming or insensitive upbringing—we don’t believe we’re worthy of love, success or approval. As a result, we make compromises in the hope that others will like or accept us. We say yes when we really want to say no; we over-extend ourselves in our work because we want to prove our value; and we go along with what others want, to avoid conflict, disharmony or rejection.
Yet to be powerful in business and relationships, we need a strong sense of identity, healthy self-worth and the ability to embody our personal values in everyday life. Now, more than ever before, we’re being called upon to say what we mean, mean what we say, and practise social, moral and emotional integrity. When we do, we make a powerful impact. In the midst of all the hype and hard sell, authenticity is as refreshing as a cool shower on a blisteringly hot summer’s day.
The only thing that stops us from being more powerfully authentic is the fear of rejection. We’ll do almost anything to avoid that. But catering to this insecurity often brings us the very rejection we fear, whereas being brazenly authentic makes us attractively compelling. When we dare to be ourselves, to speak our minds and to express how we truly feel, we become magnets for good stuff.
Being authentic not only breaks long-standing cycles of conformity; it also gets people’s attention, as well as their respect and admiration. I’ve experienced this in my own work and life. When I say what I think/feel (despite anticipated negative reactions), I feel good about me—and that, in turn, generates some other positive outcome that matches the healthy self-worth I’ve demonstrated by being true to myself.
Finding true success and fulfillment is all about practising the very qualities that are so often missing in our early conditioning—respect, honesty and the ability to communicate with presence and transparency. These qualities are often missing in our business dealings too, as we’ve all been programmed to cater to the needs and expectations of others, rather than trusting in the value of our unique insights and contribution.
If you want to thrive in business or in love, dare to express what you really think; be proactive, rather than catering to existing circumstances or market forces; follow your instincts and find your voice, even if it means disagreeing with the boss; let go of the need to be accepted by others and focus instead on being true to you—the person you’ve got to live with for the rest of your life. Only when you give yourself the approval, acceptance and respect you’ve been seeking from others, can you really take off and fly.