How can you bring your whole self to your leadership, business, and life when you don’t even know who that is?

Many times in the past, I’ve felt like I’m trying to be someone that I’m not. For various reasons. So people would like me so that I would fit it, or so I could get ahead.

The whole “fake it until you make it” advice is well-meaning, but it’s not always the best advice because it’s exhausting to try to be someone that you’re not, especially for any period of time.

For years, many women have felt that they needed to be someone other than themselves to get ahead at work. But, what’s interesting is that most women lead differently than men. They may be “doing” the same things, but how they do it is different. So, when you show up as your authentic self, it’s a huge contribution to your organization. Because either you are shaping the organization, or it’s shaping you.

Which way do you want it to be?

So, let’s start with what makes you uniquely you? What are your gifts? Because everyone has them. What is your superpower? What do you bring to the table that no one else can, or in the same way? When you don’t know, this can be a frustrating question (I’ve been there!), but it’s a game-changer once you uncover it.

For me, my superpower is Clarity. That’s my word; it’s my company. I bring Clarity to people about themselves. I don’t know why it’s my gift, but I have this natural ability to help people sift and sort through the jumble of their leadership and life and help them get Clarity on their way forward. Clarity gives them the steps so they are no longer stuck. It asks the questions that enable them to uncover their own answers.

I like to start with the question, Who are you?

Often, when I ask the question, “who are you?” I’ll get answers like; I’m a mom, I’m a banker, I’m a million-dollar producer, I’m a…fill in the blank.

But that’s not who you ARE. It’s part of your identity, and the problem is that we can get tied up in our identity. It becomes too much of a part of who we think we are, and when what is underneath the identity changes, we struggle.

It’s why so many people can struggle when they retire. Because their work was their life, and they didn’t know what to do with themselves when they entered that next chapter.

If you’ve known someone who went through a divorce or lost their spouse and they’re lost, or won’t let go of the anger, bitterness, or grief. Their identity has likely been impacted, and they feel who they are as a person has been shaken.

Ever been fired? I have. I worked at a restaurant when I was 20 years old, and I missed a mandatory employee meeting, so they decided to make an example of me, and I was fired. By the way, the restaurant burned to the ground two days later… No, Mom, I was home last night. (And, they hired me back when they re-opened after rebuilding.) I digress. Getting fired was a huge hit to my identity. What did that make me? What would people think when they see me?

Anyone ever send their kids off to college?

That was a meltdown and a half, and I still can’t bear to listen to the song Fireflies by Owl City!

You are MORE than those identities.

So who are you? Let’s explore.

I’d like you to write five “I am” statements that don’t involve your labels or identities.

Here are some of mine as an example.

I am a woman who loves deeply and is loyal until I have a reason not to be.

I am a woman who loves the sunshine on her face, the sound of swing sets in the spring.

I am a woman who shows her love by cooking for others and dancing in the kitchen while she does it.

I am a woman who is fierce when you threaten what I hold dear.

I am a woman who has a purpose and a vision and wants to give back.

Go ahead and write your five I am statements.

What did you discover? If you did this in a room of 10 people, all the answers would be different. Yes, that’s because you are unique. You aren’t meant to show up as anyone else. You’re meant to show up as you.

So dive into you.

Explore what you love, what you enjoy, and what you stand for. Tune in to what you feel passionate about, even if you dislike or hate something; that’s all good information. Identify what gives you energy and also what sucks it out of you.

Brene Brown describes authenticity as “…a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”

This is not a one-and-done. It’s a process…and can be a scary one. But once you start exploring, it allows you to stand up for yourself because who else can do it better? Your energy can be used toward the things that fuel you, and the gift to the world that is you can show up more easily.

But first, you have to know who that is.

Until next time, here’s wishing you the Clarity you deserve!