Ms ZiYou Individual - be yourself

Be yourself – Authenticity is important, but don’t be afraid to polish your rough edges

Lately, authenticity has become all the rage. In the age of the influencer, it has now become cool again to be individual. To be yourself, unique and bring your full self everywhere. Gone are the days of blending in and following the crowd, which can only be a good thing, yes?

First and foremost: be yourself

It goes without saying that I am a firm advocate of individuality. I’ve never been one to follow the crowd; it has never appealed to me. What I am realising lately is that being yourself matters more and more.

I write as I have just got back from an interview, and am marvelling how interviewing advise has changed over the years. It doesn’t feel that long ago that common wisdom was to fit in and present yourself as someone who blends in with the team.


However, nowadays, authenticity is much more important. Naturalness and genuine enthusiasm are much more valued qualities in candidates and most recruiters are much more holistic. They are looking for someone who fits in in a much different way. Teams are balanced with a mix of different personalities and aptitudes and gel because of shared purpose and work experience, not shared viewpoints on everything.

Authenticity in action

On a personal level, I am a great fan of allowing people to be themselves. I feel the move to a more casual workplace, where people are free to dress to express their personalities can only be a good thing. When people are free to share details of their hobbies and interests it brings a wider perspective to those who interact with them. Not to mention the curious amongst us generally love learning more.

And this matters in writing and blogging too. Who wants to read a book when the author doesn’t seem really invested in it? When it reads like a textbook or instruction manual, I know I start to doubt the author. I need to believe that the writer is interested in the subject and really wants to be writing this piece to convey information to me.

Accept minor flows

A key part of authenticity for me are flaws. Yes, flaws. We all have them, me no doubt more than others. I have a selfish streak and no patience. By embracing authenticity I argue we need to start being more tolerant of others minor flaws.

By that I mean if your friends is always 10 minutes, or your colleague starts every sentence with ‘But’ that these should be small things that you accept as a part of them. Nobody is perfect, and we always should make allowances for other quirks. We all have them, and if we can tolerate others quirks the world will be an easier and less stressful place to live.


Ms ZiYou Single Cog

Find people who appreciate you as you are

In 2019 I feel it’s really important that we find people who accept us as we are. This goes for most aspects of life. If your work wants you to be a radically different person, are you sure you are in the right environment for you? Over the years I have learned that all workplaces (and even teams within) operate very differently even in the same industry. If one isn’t perfect for you, there may be another that suits you better.

The friends we chose to surround ourselves with tell a lot about us. Do we pick friends who appreciate all we bring to the table? Friends who let us be ourselves, live true to ourselves and feel free and unconstrained? I always feel it is worth evaluating how you are spending your time and making sure you are spending more time with the friends who bring you the most joy.

Family is a different kettle of fish. You are generally stuck with them, but I do advocate spending more time with family members that let you be yourself. And letting your time tell the story.

Polish rough edges

Authenticity and embracing minor flaws is a great idea in principle. However, I have many rough edges. Many automatic attributes and behaviours that I think are far from perfect. I’m a big believer in understanding your flaws and categorising them. Some you feel are minor flaws that are just to damn hard to sort. Others are more concerning, and rough edges you might want to work on.

Rough edges that impact others

In addition to rough edges I want to work on, I also have rough edges that I have a blind spot to. As they say, there are the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns.  A wise person understands these and makes allowances and plans for the latter category.

Moreover, some of these rough edges hurt other people, even unintentionally. The emotionally intelligent are very aware of this impact of their behaviour and that is somewhere I’d love to get to. Being able to see my blind spots more clearly and read their impact on others is something I am personally striving for.

Be Authentic and Still Polish

In summary, I believe we should all strive for authenticity. And bring our full selves to all areas of life we participate in. As we let others put up with our minor flaws we can develop more and more tolerance for the quirks of others as we participate in the tapestry of life.

Alongside this, I believe we can polish those areas we aren’t 100% happy with. Being authentic doesn’t mean accepting all flaws, but adopting a more tolerant mindset and still pursuing personal development that matters.

Over to you

  • What are your thoughts?
  • Do you believe in authenticity?
  • What about rough edges?

Thank you for reading – please leave a comment below and join in the conversation. You can also connect on Twitter or contact me privately.

17 comments on “Be yourself – Authenticity is important, but don’t be afraid to polish your rough edges

  1. Hi Ms ZiYou,

    I think I have mixed feelings about this. Obviously, authenticity is good, nobody likes to deal with a phony, and one of the big advantages to FIRE is that once you’re financially independent, you can really do as you please since you don’t depend on anyone else for survival. That said, I also think authenticity has limits, because most of us want to live in society and our freedom of behavior has to take into consideration others’ wellbeing, within reason. For example, just because I abhor Trump, I don’t feel I have the right to mouth off about him to my friends or family who still support him (though in the privacy of my own thoughts, I’m super disappointed in them and have definitely adjusted my interactions with them as a result). Though if they ask for my opinion (which they never do, of course 😉) I would definitely be honest. I just don’t think it’s my place to clamor my every thought every time I feel like it. But maybe this is also due to my introversion! Hard topic 😊

    1. Hi FF – yes you are right there we do have to consider others and conflicting beliefs. And that sounds so hard spending time with people who are still Trump fans.

      1. It’s definitely hard, but I believe they’re Trump fans because they’re stupid/not educated, not because they’re evil (at least for the people I have in mind – I have no doubt that a good subset of Trump voters are simply evil). And I can’t be mad at them for being stupid, they’re born that way, I just feel sorry for them, mostly. That helps a little. As a Remainer, do you have friends or family who are pro-Brexit? I envy you if you don’t 😊

        1. Ugh! I’m with you. My father in law is a Trump fan. We just avoid the issue by not talking politic. Yes, it’s good to be authentic, but sometime life is easier if you avoid the problems.

  2. Can’t say I’m a fan of the word “authentic” used in this context as it sets my teeth on edge for some reason. Maybe its an age/out of touch thing on my part. I’m not wholly convinced it brings much that’s new.

    Perhaps it’s about the examples. Did we ever really have a society where a friend who was always 10 mins late wasn’t accepted without comment? Or that a colleague saying “But” a lot would be performance managed out of the habit? I’m not sure we did – at least not in my working life. Such things were simply covered by manners and acceptance.

    The real challenge and opportunity is in appreciating those with wildly divergent values and behaviours from my own – and indeed, I think it’s the only way to build a cohesive society. As a non-voting anarchist – the obsessed remainer and leaver are equally trying. As an atheist, the beliefs of some of my devout colleagues, family and friends are often baffling. But they remain individuals trying to make sense of and their way in the world – and therefore worthy of respect and perhaps I may even learn something from them. If we want workplaces which are truly reflective of society then we need to embrace diversity across many different spectrums including mindset and cognitive ones.

    I also respect the right of colleagues to not show up with their whole self for whatever reason. Many jobs don’t need it and not everyone wants to share. I’ve had some who are incredibly private – and even telling others how you are feeling is hard for some on the milder end of the autistic spectrum. I also pity those who now have to demonstrate their enthusiasm and individuality for a McJob at interview – that’s placing an unfair burden in my opinion.

    Bit of a ramble I’m afraid.

  3. I agree that you want to be yourself, but specifically your BEST self, hence the need to “keep polishing” as you point out. Being yourself doesn’t give you license to hurt people or to give up on self-improvement (under the guise of “it’s just how I am”)

  4. I’d like to think that my writing/blog reflects how I am in real life. That said, I only not too long ago observed myself that I’m different at home than when I am at work. At work, I’m super-organised, with a tidy workspace, religiously practice a clear-desk policy, have neat cupboards. At home…it’s a lot more chaotic! Maybe the me at work is the one with the rough edges polished but at home, I revert to natural tendancies? Once I’m spending more time at home, ie when I’m no longer working, I think I probably could do with more polish at home or it would just be chaos!

    1. Hi Weenie – Yes I do agree we tend to take our best selves to work a lot. That’s interesting how you are so different in organisational ways in each place – as I tended to think that was an inherent trait rather than a learned practise. And when you end up spending more time at home when retiring, will be interesting to see how that goes organisational wise!

  5. I think authenticity is definitely key to a good life (and probably a good workplace too). I choose people who accept my quirks just as I accept theirs. That’s not to say that I don’t try to work on my flaws but I’ve accepted that a certain amount are here to stay.

    I’m sure that I have blind spots like the ones you mentioned. Unfortunately it’s hard to say what they are since I’m blind to them. But this is a good reminder to keep an eye out for hints or clues about them. Maybe I can diss them out, which would allow me to work on them.

  6. I love what you wrote. Be yourself and stop worry about what others think about you. If you are constantly worrying about what others think about you, you’ll never get anything done!

  7. Hi Ms ZiYou – What brought a smile to my face was you starting this post with the sentence “Lately, authenticity has become all the rage”. There’s a certain irony in that, wanting to be authentic because everyone else is now doing it. I know you don’t mean it like that but as someone that more and more doesn’t try and follow the herd (it’s probably an age thing!), as soon as I read about the latest trend, meme or must have, my brain’s AVOID button starts to flash.

    Your last sentence for me hits the mark: “adopting a more tolerant mindset and still pursuing personal development that matters.”. Now that is something I’m happy to follow!

What do you think?