According to Ekman Friesen, there are six basic face expressions universally understood by everyone across different cultures; anger, happiness, fear, surprise, disgust and sadness. Smile and spreading happiness are my favourite superpowers.
Yet, I’ve gone through a long phase where I was asking myself trying to tame the real me. Is smiley appearance considered too inviting, too childish? Unprofessional?
I remember my first days of university of economics, many of us felt they needed to start playing The Game of Appearances. We were such young’uns, yet from the first days, some already felt obliged to put on the right image, got themselves a leather briefcase and put a clumsily tied tie, although rather than respect, sparked a smirk in others, at most.
I really wanted to belong to that prestigious circle so I observed what others do. Got myself tons of investment books, started reading Financial Times, learned all the fancy vanilla words and tried to fit in.
But it wasn’t me.
Luckily, graduating any university doesn’t define your future, and with an economics degree you can do anything and nothing, papers don’t count anyway. I didn’t get on becoming investment banker although I had a short flirt with banking. Instead, I found my passion in technology – an industry, which with all its flaws and a room for improvement, allows you to be yourself.
The real me has always been about creating things, dreaming big, questioning status quo, laughing out loud, making not always appropriate jokes, helping and inspiring others. Powered with technology, I can do good and create value on scale.
Who creates these role models, anyway?
Does it make me weaker compared to a business man who doesn’t reveal his personal thoughts and emotions but instead, shares all greatly PR polished accomplishments the company he works for stands for? Is there a model that a tech entrepreneur ought to follow and behave accordingly? Of course there is a perceived value in playing safe with caution when your company IPOs. I doubt Mark Zuckerberg still uses his business card from Fb’s early days “I’m the CEO, bitch”. Not all shareholders have that kind of sense of humour.
But I believe that in order to find the perfect match to who you are and where you can be of most value, you need to show your true colours (*Cyndi singing in the background*).
I still remember when Lucy Cooper whom we invited on one of our Girls in Tech events said that it was only when she started voicing her ideas and being true to herself, people started noticing her and giving her more opportunities. Because there is only one you, and that’s your best strategy in differentiating and making a mark in whatever endeavour you decide to undertake.
Of course we all have our doubts and fears of rejection, the more we show our vulnerable self. Yet, the more we’re alike, the less interesting we are to the world. We become commodity.
I say what I think and more often than not, I am better of as a result, professional and life wise. I don’t want to please everyone. When you know your worth, you get respect.
Only when I felt like I don’t care if the truth will backfire at me and told my potential bosses at the first interviews what I felt their company lacks and what they could be doing better, did I get a job.
Only when I really felt that they need me more than I need them, I got a real appreciation.
So what’s the point of all of this?
To bond. To dream of greater things together. To challenge status quo. And like the peacocks or those other exotic birds which dance you see on The Planet Earth, we show our best traits to attract the best match. Business and life wise. People love doing business with people whom they like and are alike. Simple. So why making yourself a disservice and attracting the wrong kind? That may hurt you in the end 🦨.
You can’t fake the real you. It will always be nagging you if you steer too far away.