What it takes for us to feel fulfilled and successful is an ability to bring our whole selves to work all of who we are, all the gifts, all the talents, the fears, the doubts, the insecurities, our heart, our soul, and the things that matter most to us. 

Being authentic is the new buzzword in the workplace today.  More and more organizations across the globe are encouraging their employees to bring their complete selves to the office, to engage in frank conversations, and to tell personal stories as a way of gaining their colleagues’ trust and improving group performance.

However, being yourself in the workplace can come in many forms. Whether it’s being open about your personal life, letting others see your professional struggles and successes in the spirit of vulnerability or breaking out of other self-imposed limitations, there are a number of ways to embrace who you are. It’s just about picking the right way to go about doing so and being aware of where you work.

As an executive coach, I feel, “You can’t get to the courage of being authentic without walking through vulnerability.”

Being yourself and things like appreciation, authenticity, and compassion in the context of leadership and teamwork and success in the business world seem to be pretty simple concepts.

What it takes for us to feel fulfilled and successful is an ability to bring our whole selves to work all of who we are, all the gifts, all the talents, the fears, the doubts, the insecurities, our heart, our soul, and the things that matter most to us.

Being authentic is being vulnerable

Organizations of various sizes strongly believe that vulnerability is the key driver in human trust; so it’s fundamental for leaders to build confidence to connect with people. Also, it’s the birthplace of innovation of change of risk of all the things that are most important to us, if we’re going to do anything new or different we’re going to grow we got to be vulnerable.

However, it’s hard to be vulnerable, and we don’t want to be vulnerable. It doesn’t feel right; it’s uncomfortable, it’s scary, and why is that I mean there’s a lot of reasons I mean on a more superficial level we don’t want to look bad right we don’t want other people to judge us.

How many of you honestly find yourself from time to time worrying about what other people think about you, most of us do, right, some of us do more than others, but one time or the other we all worry.

I remember this, having said to most of my clients whenever there is this conversation, “You wouldn’t worry so much about what other people think about you; if you realize how little they did.”  People may not be paying that attention, not as much as we think.

We all know and appreciate, vulnerability is hard, because we’ve all experienced pain in our life, we’ve all experienced disappointment, we’ve had our hearts broken, and not just personally even in our professional lives. At school in the things that we do we’ve wanted things when you want something badly, it becomes vulnerable because you could lose it or not get it, so we hold back, so it takes courage.

Key elements organizations have to look for in helping employees bring their authentic self

There are two essential elements for creating an environment that’s conducive for people to thrive and bring their authentic selves to the workplace: the first part is, a high healthy bar of expectation, not perfection, demand not pressure, but the high expectation of excellence.  So the other part is high nurturing, so you expect a lot, and you nurture a lot at the same time, not one or the other, and most of us as individuals and in the groups that we are in have a tendency to fall on sort of one side or the other.

If we look at what is involved in the organizations which are built around nurturance, people feel nurtured, being seen, being heard, being valued, and being appreciated not just for what they do, but for who they are. What also has people feel nurtured is, it being safe for us to be ourselves to speak our truth to disagree, to take risks, yeah it can be scary but that it’s safe to do that and what also creates nurturance is compassion.

Compassion the typical human response, the natural human reaction to vulnerability is compassion, empathy now those things are simple, but again they are not comfortable.  I know quite a few organizations that do this actively, and especially now in the 21st century looking at how they do that in a conscious is more important.

Organizations who care and create an atmosphere to bring Authentic Self

Karen Mae who’s a vice-president at Google, and is in charge of all learning, talked about how they at Google specifically focus on trying to create an environment where people can bring their whole selves to work, and she said what they try to do is, they don’t make it prescriptive, so if anyone wants to do X Y or Z he or she can feel safe that they can be themselves.

Eric Severson who’s the co-head of HR for GAP Inc talked about a program that they’ve developed at GAP called performance for life. Based on research and on data they created a tagline “Better you Better GAP.”  He went ahead saying what they have learned and what they’ve seen and what the data showed them is that when people are encouraged to be their best self, healthy, effective, and successful in their life they are going to be more productive at work.


You may wonder that encouraging people to be their authentic self may be risky for companies – it’s vulnerable; though the old model of thinking of businesses, we have to make sure the bottom line is where we want it to be.

So this is really about us collectively having the courage, individually and together to be vulnerable to bring our whole selves to whatever we’re doing.

The question now is are we willing to take the risk, are we ready to go for it, are we willing to try and at the end of the day it does come down to how we relate to ourselves, and we can’t change the environment around us.

I firmly believe that nothing changes until you do so, it’s an internal process.  Moreover, if you think about this for yourself, where are the places in your life, where are the areas in your work, where are the situations, the circumstances, the conversations, that you want to have the risks you want to take.  Also, where do you find yourself holding yourself back, and with compassion can you challenge yourself to step beyond what might be safe what might be comfortable?

As a conclusion, my final thought is because all the above things may be making sense, we get this. However, the question is; whether we practice it, and do we have the courage to do that.   A simple yet profound statement which I got from my mentor that I can never forget.  After having started of my own, I was scared I was nervous I was trying to get my business started and get things going, and he said to me, Sudhakar you’re living your life as though you’re trying to survive it, he said you have to remember something significant nobody ever has.

Published in YourStory.com on 9th Oct’18