Being Authentic wherever you are, whatever you do… What does this really mean?

I attended a feminist leader workshop today and the main topic of conversation was “How can one be truly authentic in the workplace?” It was hosted by Penelope Sanyu, one the most inspiring, innovative feminist leaders I have come across in a long time and I felt connected to her at once. I found myself nodding emphatically and clapping my hands enthusiastically, feeling fully understood… could this be because we speak the same language of love, joy and playfulness? Without a doubt. But what I came away from this workshop with is proof that what I have known for a long time is accurate and that for any of us to properly function in any environment – be it work, home, family, friendship circles or romantic relationships – we need to learn how to love our whole self. We also need to teach others how we need to be loved and learn from them how they need to be loved.

Love is not something to be confined to our partners, families or friends. The world desperately needs love to become our currency. It is our human nature to love and nurture each other, to support and champion each other; we have just forgotten how…

It may feel slightly alien to talk about love in a working or corporate context, but if we start from the premise that we are all energy and that our energies mingle and mix with each other every time we come together as a group, bringing love-charged energy to all that we do can only be a recipe for success. If we can bring more joy to each interaction we have with others, if we can uplift ourselves and others from a place of love, then we can live a lighter, brighter, easier life. If through being our true selves we can create an environment that allows others to also be their true selves, we will see a positive shift in mental and physical wellbeing, more meaningful relationships being built, more laughter, more joy! And if you are a corporate leader, you will also see increased performance, productivity and commitment in your workforce.

But… how can we do that? We need to start with ourselves by giving ourselves all the love and care we deserve. Here are a few suggestions based on my experience of working on myself and with clients. You don’t have to apply all of them at the same time; have a look, see what you feel drawn to, implement one small change at a time and see what happens:

Operate from a “full cup”.

It may seem obvious, but unless our tank or cup is full we cannot be there and present for either ourselves or others. If we are operating on fumes, feel frazzled, stressed, short tempered, we are not going to be able to share much love or joy or playfulness. So, how can we make sure that our cup is full and that it stays that way?

The single most important thing you can do to ensure your cup is full is to develop a daily practice. This is a chunk of time that you carve out of your day that is just for you; that allows you to spend some time away from all the demands of modern life and technology. What does it consist
of? It can be anything that fills you with joy and gratitude for being alive, be it journaling, meditating, practising yoga, doodling, painting, talking to yourself in the mirror (I personally love this one as it really helps me to bring clarity; I have the best convos with myself!), a walk in the park with or without the dog, roaring at the sea, walking barefoot in the wet grass, learning a new skill (pottery, jewellery making, etc), cooking, baking, simply sitting in silence allowing the thoughts to flow, resting, having a luxurious bubble bath with candles and all the trimmings… the list is endless. As long as you make the time each day and do it mindfully, this can become your daily practice.

Create a beautiful & safe personal and/or working environment.

This may feel like a little bit of a luxury and so it should! Carve out a space in your home and/or office – no matter how small – that brings you joy. For example, you can turn your desk at work (or at home if you are a remote worker) into a space of beauty that is just for you, that you enjoy being in, that is not just functional and impersonal; a space that lifts you up, makes you smile and that you love being in. Maybe add your favourite plant, photos of your family, crystals, little mementos, diffuse essential oils. Use your imagination and follow your heart. This is the space you can be your whole self in, your safe space.

At home, you could turn the spare room (if you have one) into your sanctuary, the place where you go to fill your cup. By creating an environment that is soothing and comforting, or energising and invigorating, and retreating to this space for your daily practice or when you need a break, you will allow yourself to fully breathe and let go of the madness going on outside, re-centre yourself, recharge those batteries, refresh your perspective. If you do not have a spare room, create a special corner (maybe in your bedroom). Size is not important, what is important is that this space is your space and those around you will get to know that when you are in your sacred space you are not to be disturbed as this is your special time to be with yourself.

Be more playful.

It is a fact: most of us take ourselves too seriously and have forgotten how to play! From an early age we are discouraged to be playful. It starts in school, where beyond the age of 6 we are expected to sit nicely at our desks and “do our work”. We are expected to be quiet and serious. Over time, we lose the ability to be playful and it can feel quite alien to re-introduce being playful in our day to day. So, we can start small. Being playful can be an intention that we set at the beginning of the day. For example, we can be playful when choosing what to wear. Instead of throwing things on, let’s have a think about what combo would bring us joy that day, what colours would brighten up our day. The same with cooking our meals: if you are cooking an omelette, do it playfully, add colour to it, add spice, add flavours, experiment, let your imagination run wild! At work, add fairy lights to your screen, flashing ones if they make you smile. Whatever the task, listen to your heart, let it guide you to a lighter way, start small and gradually bring more playfulness in all that you do.

Set boundaries.

This is an important part of treating ourselves and others with love. Knowing what our boundaries are, communicating them clearly to our loved ones and to colleagues, ensuring that when we enforce these boundaries we do it with firm kindness. Boundaries are there to keep us safe. We are often pushed beyond our boundaries. At times this can be healthy, but mostly, this is where we learn to say no.

Maybe you have had a long hard day and no longer feel up to meeting with friends for that drink; taking care of yourself is being able to say no with kindness and guilt free. Or maybe at work you are expected to take on more work when you are already stretched. You have options and honouring your boundaries can be an open conversation around timescales, priorities, resources and asking for the help you need to complete the task.

Find your joy.

What gives you joy? It is quite a hard question, isn’t it? With a few exceptions, this can change every day. And so make it your priority to find joy in every day. Look for the small things, the sun shining after the rain, a jammy kiss from your toddler, a hug from your teenager (right?!) the twinkle in your eye, that look from your partner, a load of washing on the line. Be present, each day and every day, live in that moment because that particular moment will not return, ever, so do not waste it. Breathe deep, embrace they life you have, find the joyful moments in it. You will see that once you focus on joy, more joy will come your way and life will be lighter, brighter, more playful.

And just in case you are wondering if this is bordering on toxic ‘pathological’ positivity, I would like to reassure you that it is not. It is about resetting your mind, resetting your expectations, shedding some of the heavy load so you can bring in the good stuff, the love, the joy, the light. I speak from experience when I say that by adopting these principles you will feel more balanced, more open, stronger and when life throws you that curved ball, you will be in a better place to deal with it.