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When You've Been Told "You Need To Tone It Down"



You may not be aware of the fact that you have been told, directly or indirectly, that you simply need to tone down who you are. That you need to fit into a mold that's more convenient for others.


Straighten your hair.

Toughen up.

Achieve this goal, the one you set is unrealistic.


Embracing authenticity is something leaders are continuously told to do. The irony? You could be handed a script of what authenticity looks like, that has nothing to do with you. It could be a script for what the "toned down" version of you should do. This script keeps someone else comfortable or successful, but it may not necessarily serve your work of getting to know yourself authentically.


So how do you tap into what is authentically you to begin with?


Define Authenticity

Authenticity is not just having passion for what you say or do, according to Stephen Joseph, PhD. on Psychology Today. Instead, he writes, authenticity has to do with a combination of characteristics that embody a "psychologically mature" person. These characteristics include accepting yourself and others, and understanding your own motivations.


Accepting yourself is the challenge when you have not yet created the space to cultivate the parts of yourself that you have spent a lifetime covering up, making excuses for, or simply ignoring. The journey towards authenticity might begin with self-improvement, but it becomes much more fulfilling when your curiosity encourages you to know yourself and stop hiding that self.


Take Time To Learn More About Yourself Without The Filter

Looking inward at the parts of yourself that you have shut out, or put a filter on, can feel uncomfortable. That discomfort likely arises from the overwhelming vulnerability which this work requires. Brenee Brown says that vulnerability is, "the feeling we get during times of uncertainty, risk, or emotional exposure. This includes times when we’re showing our feelings and we’re not sure what people will think..."


Is it possible that you aren't terribly sure what YOU will think when you are showing your feelings about the parts of you that you have hidden? That there is a fear about letting some of those emotions out, and not being able to reign them back in?

What if you played with this concept: "I am open to experiencing my emotions. I am curious about what fuels them. I trust that there could be some deep wisdom in the emotions that arise as I do this work. This is good work to do as I explore how to live more authentically."


Understand What Success Is and What It Isn't

The first definition of success via Oxford Languages is simply: "the accomplishment of an aim or a purpose." Your personal purpose may be wildly divergent from the purpose you are hired to fulfill or the purpose that marketers flash in front of you every waking moment. Deeply consider which aim or purpose you are striving to accomplish. Does it align well with your definition of authenticity?


Ian Romprey recently wrote that, "figuring out our purpose in life is key to becoming a successful and happy individual." It's less about the artifacts that often represent monetary success. And while achieving monetary success is a reasonable aim, it is not worth the absolute exchange of health, family, or authenticity. That said, success is a very personal experience. Understand what it is, and what it is not, for you. Especially that "you" without the filter.


As you start to become more authentically you, your influence as a leader will naturally increase. That is not something you want to tone down. You're not too much. You're exactly the person to fulfill your purpose.




I published this article on Medium.com on 3/7/21.




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