Being yourself at work is underpinned by authenticity, which necessitates living in the moment with an understanding of who you are as an individual and why, knowing your worth and taking responsibility for choices (1).
Throughout life, we embark on what psychologists call the hero’s journey (2), a quest to unlock the unique potential to live life as the best version of ourselves. Within each of us is what humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers termed an actualising tendency, which is an ability to naturally reach our true potential by unfolding over time (3). This originates from what Carl Jung (psychiatrist and psychoanalyst) called individuation, the desire to be unique, to live authentically; simply, to be our best.
Being yourself at work is natural and is an inherent want within each of us. Many things can hold us back from being authentic for example, fear and lack of confidence, however, if you achieve this state then there are several benefits.
Aristotle suggested that in reaching your best self or true potential you achieve a state of eudaimonia, a “happiness of the soul” (4) which could be translated as meaning, happiness, wellbeing, or even human flourishing (5). When Jung’s individuation or authentic living is embraced, eudaimonia could take a more prominent focus (5). Being authentic is important for happiness, motivation, achieving goals, personal and professional growth (1).
Eudaimonia (happiness, wellbeing, flourishing) is concerned with the things you do; how you behave and the action you take. Psychologists refer to this type of happiness as “psychological wellbeing” (5) which involves life meaning or activities and behaviours that contribute to overall wellbeing. Research has shown that this type of happiness can be sustained and can be increased when engaged in something meaningful (6).
Whilst Aristotle supported the view that through achieving eudaimonia suffering (e.g., boredom and frustration at work) could be reduced or alleviated, he claimed that the essence of it is found in acting with a purpose (7). This concerns finding a purpose and acting towards becoming your best or authentic self which delivers a sense of meaning. Therefore, finding purpose in your work is fundamental.
Meaning at work is viewed as an important motivator along with remuneration and job security (8). Furthermore, this view was supported by a survey that revealed most respondents would prefer a pay reduction to gain increased meaning at work (9). This is because purposeful work makes you feel good. Furthermore, it allows you to overcome obstacles to perform well and achieve your goals whilst at the same promoting a sense of happiness, purpose, and fulfilment.
When work becomes meaningful you engage and grow your strengths which brings flow type experiences where you lose a sense of time (10). In combination, they develop skills allowing you to flourish and be your best authentic self. Additionally, when you allow your values to reflect in your work this brings feelings of confidence and improved self-esteem. Increased confidence helps build resources that will support you in expressing your ideas, voicing your opinions, building relationships, making decisions, building resilience, and finding ways to overcome challenges (11).
Being yourself at work means you can better align your interests, skills and personality to flourish and succeed which makes you feel good. It delivers a gift of increased happiness and the achievement of goals which is available to us all if we choose it.
Main image by Alexandra Haynak from Pixabay
- Joseph, S. (2019). Authentic: How to be yourself and why it matters. Little, Brown Book Group.
- Campbell, J. (2008). The hero with a thousand faces(Vol. 17). New World Library.
- Joseph, S., & Linley, P. A. (2006). Positive therapy: A meta-theory for positive psychological practice. Routledge.
- Hall, E. (2020). Aristotle’s way: How ancient wisdom can change your life. Penguin Books.27
- Ryff, C. D., & Singer, B. H. (2008). Know thyself and become what you are: A eudaimonic approach to psychological well-being. Journal of happiness studies, 9(1), 13-39.
- Lyubomirsky, S. (2008). The how of happiness: A scientific approach to getting the life you want. Penguin.
- Ross, D. (1956). Aristotle: the Nicomachean ethics.
- O’Brien, G. E. (1992). Changing meanings of work. In J. F. Hartley & G. M. Stephenson (Eds.), Employment relations: The psychology of influence and control at work (pp. 44–66). Oxford, UK: Blackwell.
- Kelly Services (2010). Kelly global workforce report 2009. Retrieved June 18, 2010 from https:// issuu.com/michaelkirsten/docs/kelly_global_workforce_index_2009
- Steger, M. F. (2017). Creating meaning and purpose at work. The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of the Psychology of Positivity and Strengths‐Based Approaches at Work, 60-81.
- Fredrickson, B. L. (2004). The broaden–and–build theory of positive emotions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences, 359(1449), 1367-1377.