The ‘be yourself’ movement is a double-edged sword — Tread with caution

We have to start adding disclaimers to the popular hashtag before it is too late

Recently, I was chatting to someone and the conversation flowed easily, like a champagne tower. Suddenly, out of the blue, he started stating facts and when I agreed, he retorted: yes, I am always right. Here, am referring to a fully-grown male adult in his thirties, just to be clear. Not sure if it was sarcastic or a joke, I half-heartedly asked if he was joking. He continued, there is barely anything negative about me. I do not know if you have met. A lot of people like that? I certainly have not, having made sure to always surround myself with humble opinions and people having a decent level of emotional intelligence.

I flashbacked to a conversation I had with a good friend, years ago. He had just broken up with his girlfriend of a few years and when I asked what went wrong, he said she was 90% compatible. That intrigued me and I delved further. Is that 10% such a deal breaker or was my friend just being difficult? He said that 10% represented something fundamental, which in his books, is a no-no for any success in their relationship. The girl in question, refused to work on her flaws which was impacting the relationship, stating that it is what it is; a fixed mindset if you will.

In my 13 years of corporate career, I have often been told….just be yourself. I loved that. I was recruited by acquaintances on two occasions and each time I asked them what I should prepare for the interview, they said exactly the same thing: Just be yourself. I loved that. I have always preached authenticity in staying true to yourself and asserting your values. However, I also believe in self-awareness and working on yourself constantly. With the be yourself movement, I believe certain people are unscrupulously abusing the concept of being yourself. It makes them dismiss any work they have to do on themselves or simply refusing to believe there is anything wrong with themselves. Be yourself and the world will adapt they said.

But in no way, does the adage says unleash your whims onto others. Be yourself can be poisonous especially in corporate environments where managers and leaders have been given the green light to be themselves without any word of caution. Not every boss is a good leader and the scapegoats in this scenario are the juniors and team members. God forbid, they get stuck with a cocky, arrogant but competent boss who got told to be themselves. Too often, being themselves lead to them not being aware that their management style needs work, that they could be toxic, micromanagers or simply bad leaders. That they could be pushing away talent because they refuse or simply unaware of how being fully themselves is causing harm to the team. I have seen staff leave bad managers, too many times during my career and it was always, without fault, because the person was super competent in one area, whether it is getting the work done or bringing business. They were encouraged to be themselves in all their glory, with their blatant lack of emotional awareness or impact on staff morale.

I am a big fan of the be yourself movement, my social media posts are full of them. But what I mean is embrace your authenticity without fear of repercussion of who you are or what you stand for. But I will start adding footnotes: Please also work on your emotional intelligence and aim to grow a little each day, making a positive impact on the world around you. Sadly, some are oblivious to the fact that they still have room for improvements..that we all do! Whether in a professional or personal setting, be yourself could simply be an excuse not to engage in any sort of self-improvement. Because we all know, that takes effort. I am still optimistic about that footnote though.



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