Things are rapidly changing for all of us. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we find ourselves redefining how we work, exercise, shop, and socialize. We are challenged to rediscover – or maybe learn for the first time – how to be productive and happy with less human interaction and more social distancing. My prediction is that the road will be bumpy. During this time, I encourage authenticity while adhering to the recommended guidelines. I hope, despite the uncertainty in our lives, we can take this time to re-focus and step back, to re-evaluate our routines, and make some needed tweaks. I hope, I am able to be more myself and you are able to be more yourself. As they say, “You do you.”
This go-to phrase means slightly different things for different folks but generally the term is used to encourage someone to be herself, make her own decisions, and behave authentically. When a friend or family member (usually my sister) says to me, “You do you,” I take her to mean this: Do what’s best for yourself, even if it’s different from what I -or others- might do.
It takes emotional strength and appropriate psychological boundaries to say this to others and mean it! It takes maturity to recognize you can’t always know what’s best for others. Similarly, it takes self-confidence to remind yourself to act according to your own gut, without guilt or misgivings. Many of us were raised to believe that we should consider the needs and expectations of others when choosing a course of action. We may also believe that our friends, family members, and even colleagues will like us more if “we do them” – that is, if we morph our actions and respond in ways they would respond. Remarkably, new research debunks this misconception.
Harvard Business Review’s February 2020 article (“It Pays to Be Yourself“) highlights research involving 379 working adults who served as participants in a study where they were asked to create a video for a job posting. The participants understood that their videos would be rated by a hiring expert and the participants with the highest scores would receive a financial reward. The participants were randomly assigned to one of three categories, with respective instructions:
Catering Group: This group was told to “Please position your statement for what you believe are the expectations or interests of person watching the video.”
Authenticity Group: This group was told to “Please be yourself. Be genuine with the person who will watch to the video.”
Control Group: This group was told to “Please remember that a person will watch this video to review applicants.”
Scores from these three groups showed that those in the Catering Group were the least likely of all three groups to be hired. In fact, the Authenticity Group had a 26% greater chance at being hired than those who catered to the rater.
There are a few take-a-ways from this research that may impact you today, as COVID-19 restrictions are top of mind, and tomorrow, when we return to a more predictable work life.
- When creating new routines to keep yourself safe as well as sane, take time to consider which changes to your life feel like an improvement and which changes feel inauthentic or burdensome. Experts say that this unique time will shape how we live for years to come. What is the silver-lining new practice that could emerge for you?
- When selling, forget your inauthentic pitch and, instead, just be yourself. The anxiety produced by faking it during a sales situation is noticeable and can have a negative impact.
- When interviewing for a position, remember to be the real you. Instead of spending your preparation time wondering about what your interviewer wants to hear, consider your past successes and the situations in which you feel most confident. How might these successes be replicated?
- When interviewing others, start the interview off with a friendly reminder to the candidate to be authentic. This reminder will give the applicant the greatest chance of making a positive impression.
Catering to the needs or interests of others is an outdated strategy. As it turns out, “you do you” is solid advice. When you feel the pull to play to others’ expectations, remember: authenticity always wins.