Authenticity & Our ‘Cool’ Voice
I was visiting my sister the other day, when I heard a booming baritone voice come out of my 10-year-old nephew, “Hiii Aunty MEL!” he intoned. Whoa. I looked at my at my sister, questioning, and received a look that said “Don’t say anything, he’s exploring something new.” Most of us learn very young to start trying on other characteristics and personalities. I remember myself at that age: playing with makeup, experimenting with accents (usually British and Southern) and desperately interested in anything that wasn’t me.
We can carry these tendencies with us to the workplace, using our ‘cool voice’ to connect with others, assuming it’s what they want from us. In fact, what the world and the workplace needs is authenticity; there are more than enough people already trying to be somebody else. In being ourselves, we contribute our own distinctive thoughts and perspectives to the collective conversation.
It can be difficult to maintain our integrity and separateness in a society that is eager to have us conform. Oftentimes the freedom to be yourself, depends greatly on the culture of your workplace. There is a rather standard uniform and language in corporate America, which is supported by media images, and cultural pressure of who we should be. Identifying and holding tightly to our authenticity throughout the traditional noise can be confusing. According to Seth Godin, progressive organizations give us the freedom to be ourselves, and recognize how valuable we are when we come to the table as simply us: ”The purpose of the modern organization is to make it easy and natural and expected for people to take risks. To lean out of the boat. To be human. Alas, most organizations do the opposite.”
Underneath our ‘cool voice’ and conformity are our natural talents, capabilities, and the insights we were gifted with. Some of us have spent years repressing or ignoring these (*raises hand guiltily), and some of us are too busy listening to what everyone else thinks we should be doing. It’s the weird ones, the true ones, the outliers, and the brave ones that push our society forward. People who are bold enough to take a different path, wave their freak flag and allow us all to imagine a different road for ourselves. Were it not for their courageous venturing into the territory of authenticity, perhaps we wouldn’t have the freedom to follow suit.