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Who are you? This can be both a simple and a daunting question at the same time. To make things even more complicated, you might change in small ways from moment to moment, and in larger ways from year to year. You are not (nor should you be!) stagnant, and it’s natural to grow and evolve as you move forward in life.

That’s what being human is all about.

This past year (a year that seemed about a decade long at times!), you might have shifted more than usual. Many of us had to reinvent ourselves and adapt to new life situations as we worked from home, attended video conferences, tutored our children at home, and were less able to enjoy public spaces. Shaking up your basic lifestyle might have forced you to discover new sides of yourself or lean into underdeveloped sides. Maybe you realized you’re more extroverted and social than you thought you were. Maybe you found that you actually enjoy working at home and setting your own schedule. 

Whether or not this past year brought substantial change for you, the fact remains that you are a complex, multi-faceted person and it’s difficult to thrive if you’re not embracing your whole self. Yes, that means acknowledging your trouble spots, too. You can’t work on changing those trouble areas if you ignore their existence.

To me, owning who you are means…

…Sticking closely to your values

Though you may change slightly from day to day, your core values should not. Unless you’ve had a major change of heart and have had to re-examine some fundamental areas in your life, your values should be one of the consistent features of your personality. Embrace them; live by them. Don’t compromise your values for a promotion or to fit in with others.

…Recognizing your strengths and the areas where you struggle

Whether you recognize it or not, I know you are multi-talented with an array of valuable skills. Perhaps you’re an excellent listener or someone who is good at analyzing data. Perhaps you’re highly organized. Or, maybe you’re creative in certain areas or are an innovative thinker. Don’t be afraid to recognize your skills (or interests) and lean into them. Capitalizing on your abilities will not only benefit you, but also your co-workers and anyone else around you. Your skills are a gift—use them!

On the other side of the coin, it’s valuable to understand and face your shortcomings. You could take two approaches: 1) Think of them as “areas of opportunity” and do your best to learn or improve or 2) Recognize that certain tasks/methods/activities/etc. are not for you and stick to what you know. If, for example, you are well-aware that you are much more of a creative person than an analytical one, it’s better to entrust others with data analysis and data-driven strategy. You’ll be doing everyone (including yourself!) a favor if you focus on what you do best.

…Consistently being yourself

Have you ever met someone who acted completely different around different groups of people? They seemed to be one person, then another—changing personalities like shoes.

Behaving in such a way can be off-putting and can leave people wondering who the real you is. That isn’t to say you can’t modify your behavior in certain situations with certain people. Of course you’ll act differently if you’re grabbing a casual cup of coffee with friends than you would at a company meeting. However, your core self can (and should!) remain consistent. Think of yourself like an M&M that comes in a variety of different colors—you’re still chocolate in the middle! And you’re not morphing from an M&M to a Twix bar to a Gummy Bear.

In sum: it’s fine to present the many shades of your personality. It gets problematic when you’re willing to compromise your values or completely change your thoughts, opinions, or beliefs when you’re around certain people.

Own who you are.


MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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