It Might Be Time to Accept Your “Dynamic Identity” Instead…
I had an interesting conversation the other day with one of my clients about identity and “feeling authentic” in the consultancy business.
She struggled with being “herself” as a high-level consultant. It’s understandable; the job asks a lot of you: in-depth market expertise, unwavering confidence, fist-slamming assertiveness and the ability to spread your “social butterfly” wings at every networking event (even the boring ones).
But when the meetings are over, and the books are closed, even the fiercest consultant needs to unwind—spend some chilled out time with friends and family.
This consultant was the same. She had no trouble unleashing her inner ‘stop-at-nothing’ business titan at work – but at home? She was genuinely a loving wife, nurturing mother and caring friend.
The well-intentioned but often misguided self-help ‘experts’ of the world don’t like that. They chant “be yourself and be proud!”, insisting that acting differently in different situations is ‘fake’ and compromising your real identity—whatever that might be.
The thing is, human personalities don’t work like that. We can’t have one consistent character 100% of the time without ruining our personal relationships or else raising some SERIOUS eyebrows in our business.
We can’t have one consistent character 100% of the time without ruining our personal relationships or else raising some SERIOUS eyebrows in our business.
Still, thanks to the commonly peddled “be yourself” mantra, this consultant felt fake across the board.
Her anxiety increased with the idea that it’d be insincere not to be the same relentless professional all the time, whether meeting a client, tucking her kids into bed or even just grabbing coffee with a close friend—ridiculous!
Back in my day…
It got me thinking back to when I first experienced success in the entertainment industry as a dancer/choreographer.
I’ve heard a few people say that they were intimidated by me then because I was a bit ‘hardcore’. To be honest, they were right; I was mega-confident, driven to win, completely fearless and ready to destroy anyone or anything standing between me and success.
I built massive walls up around myself, so you could only get to know “die-hard Kym”.
I dictated how things would work around me (rarely leaving room for compromise).
I found it easy to walk away from professional (and personal) relationships if they didn’t work the way I wanted them to.
The truth is, I was an unstoppable force when wearing my “militant” hat; I was the person that got the sheezy done.
Fast forward to the present, and a few things have changed. I’m no longer as hardline as I used to be – having a child put a stop to that real quick!
As a mother, I’ve developed new levels of patience and empathy unknown to me before. No amount of hard-faced tough-talk could get my son to eat his veggies as a toddler, and that carries over professionally.
I listen more. I consider other points of view. I smile more.
Does that mean that “bulldozer-Kym” no longer exists? Nah, she’s still very much alive ‘n’ kickin’.
If I need to lay down the law, it WILL be laid without hesitation. It’s just not something that needs to be on professional autopilot anymore; the needs of my clients now guide me.
As a coach, some clients need me to be harder on them for them to succeed – they thrive when I stand firm, ask the uncomfortable questions and hold them accountable for their actions (or lack of them!)
Other clients need me to be more of a calming and supportive presence in their professional lives, helping them to find clarity in the chaos of their consultancy practice.
So, the question becomes – am I “unreal” now? Or was it all just an act when I was bold, brave and outspoken all those years ago?
Am I “unreal” now? Or was it all just an act when I was bold, brave and outspoken all those years ago?
The truth is, I have always been the person I needed to be to achieve the thing I need to achieve.
All of this is me.
I can be a beast in the boardroom as I negotiate corporate contracts.
I can be the uber motivational “pom-poms-and-all” business coach for my clients.
I can be the nurturing mother and supportive wife when I walk through the front door of my home.
I have an arsenal of personalities, and they’re all authentically “me”.
Be who you need to be to get the job done.
Todd Herman is a Peak Performance Coach based in New York and author of “The Alter Ego Effect”. He asks the question:
“which was the alter ego – Superman or Clark Kent?”
Thinking about it, it’s pretty much a chicken-and-egg scenario, though Herman goes on to say that Clark Kent was the alter ego. Ultimately, the protagonist in this DC comic series was who he needed to be to get the job done. When all was well, and the world was at peace, he presented a nervous, bumbling newspaper reporter. When things were heating up, and lives were at stake, everyone’s favourite muscle-bound, pants-on-the-outside superhero came out to play. Whatever the situation, he was who he needed to be to get the job done. We can all learn something from that.
Feeling torn between who you really are and who you “should” be is incredibly common. So, permit yourself to summon absolutely ANY of the personality traits you need to get the job done—otherwise it might not get done at all.
You’re still 100% you, and you’re certainly not ‘faking it’ – because if you can activate those character attributes, it’s highly likely they’re already a part of you, just waiting to be switched on.
Be dynamic. Be Super(wo)man. Be the person that gets the job done.
Be proud of YOU – whichever identity you decide to present today.
I’d love to hear about your experiences with ‘identity’ in business — let me know below or connect with me on Linkedin, Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.