Authenticity is more than a simple buzzword. It’s about living with integrity. But I only understood what that meant, in practice, once I set the intention to live authentically.
Little did I know it would end up bringing exciting career opportunities, deeper professional relationships and even increased productivity.
It all started when I got my dream job — or what I thought was my dream job at the time.
I was the editorial lead of a lifestyle publication. I managed a team of people and got to make strategic decisions. It was the best case scenario only a couple of years after graduating from journalism school. I had worked hard for it.
This accomplishment filled me with pride, but something felt off. My day-to-day reality just didn’t bring me the excitement and joy I had imagined while working towards achieving it.
I spent hours wondering what was wrong. Had I chosen the wrong industry? Would I just end up feeling that way about any job? A few friends told me that it was normal not to feel passionate about work.
Call me an idealist, but I refused to believe that. Or maybe I didn’t want to accept that I would spend the rest of my career liking my job just enough, or liking it because of factors such as the salary or the people. I didn’t want to live for the weekends. I wanted my Mondays to feel as good as my days off.
I started fantasising about quitting. I felt guilty about those feelings because I was in an enviable position. Conflicted, I soaked in the bathtub to introspect.
I asked myself: “If I put aside what my friends and family think, what looks good on paper, and what I think I should be doing, what do I actually want?”
The answer was clear: I wanted to be myself. I couldn’t bring myself to compartmentalise professional and personal self. I craved work-life integration rather than work-life balance.
Finding your values
As I dug deeper, I realised that as great as my job was, there was a disconnect between my values and the values I embodied at work.
I was good at navigating the internal politics that came with the leadership role, but it felt like a performance. And performing was killing me inside. But what exactly were my values?
I wrote down everything that was important to me, putting aside any limitations in terms of available jobs. I wanted to believe in the mission of any company that I worked for.
I also wanted to be myself at work — even if that meant being unpolished, imperfect and vulnerable — and drop the professional masks. I wanted the freedom to take impactful decisions. I wanted continuous growth. I wanted to spend my days with like-minded people who share my love of deep, genuine conversations rooted in authenticity.
Given the job market, this seemed absolutely impossible at the time. But from that point on, I committed to showing up authentically in all areas of my life regardless of external factors I couldn’t control.
I started being more straightforward and honest about my thoughts and feelings, even if it didn’t align with what I believed people wanted to hear or expected. I started showing parts of myself that I used to perceive as undesirable in a professional environment.
One day, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and noticed a viral video on personal development. I had been pursuing self-improvement for years and could talk about the concept for hours, but the thought of turning it into a job had never crossed my mind.
I googled the company behind the video and realised it was a start-up in my city. There were no open roles, but I reached out to the CEO asking him to lunch. I showed up to that meeting just being me. The company ended up creating a role for me, fitting every single criteria on my list.
I was so excited about my job, I would have done it for free. I got to bring my whole self to work. I formed meaningful friendships with my co-workers. I got to make decisions and produce impactful work. I believed in the mission of the company wholeheartedly.
Had I not committed to being authentic first, and had I not asked myself what that actually meant in practice, my eyes would not have been open to the opportunity.
The decision precedes the reality, because you can’t create outcomes that are aligned with who you truly are if you don’t start by being yourself.
I am now always checking in with myself and whether my decisions are in line with my values. I know that when that’s the case, I am excited, energised and take the right actions.
I find deeper fulfillment in my relationships because I allow people to see who I truly am, which gives them permission to do the same and breeds deeper connections. It’s the power of authenticity.
Authenticity has not only led me to my dream career, but also to my dream life.
This article was originally published on The Ladders.