When I was a kid my highly eccentric, incredibly old father (he was 57 when I was born) would say to me a million times a day “Thanks”. I would respond with “What for?” and his reply was always “Thanks for being you”.
He would never elaborate when asked what on Earth he meant by that. My brother and sister hated what they referred to as “that stupid expression” but I bought in to the concept big time! My family were early products of the Australian Family Court system and so Dad and I didn’t live in the same house, but every time he said it to me, it prompted hours of self-indulgent amusement while I pondered over which bits of my clearly superior personality, looks, intelligence and general charm he was most enamoured with.
Well Dad is long dead and perhaps age, wisdom and just life in general has put a few scratches in those rose coloured glasses he gave me in the 70s, but to this day I remain pretty comfortable with the skin I’m in.
That ongoing feeling of okayness and general optimism that the world was going to respond favourably to what I had to offer stood me in good stead through my teenage years. Things got a little shaky after the death of my parents and I perhaps wasn’t the best version of myself for a while but full on adulthood has worked out pretty darn well despite life throwing me a few curve balls along the way. You know the kinda curve balls I’m talking about. Things like illness, death, divorce, career struggles, friendship challenges, financial setbacks, romance dramas and more. We all get thrown ‘em one way or another!
One of the things that worked out just fine is how I get to earn a living. I am a proud portfolio professional working in marketing strategy, corporate storytelling and university lecturing. This means I am lucky enough to be able to work with students, large corporates, start-ups, product developers and public figures to help them develop their organizational or personal brand and figure out clever ways they can be known for the stuff that makes them amazing. Much of the success I have had in helping people do that can be traced straight back to Dad and his efforts to make me comfortable with being myself. Thanks Dad!
But what does this mean for the Champagne Cartel crew? In every aspect of our lives (career, romance, friendship, sport, hobbies and more) we find ourselves at some point buying into the illusion that we have to compromise who we are just to be deemed good enough, accepted by others, or worthy of love, friendship or connection. And no, I’m not going to throw out a thought provoking but largely useless motherhood statement. I’m not going to tell you, in the words of the delicious Oscar Wilde, to “Be yourself – everyone else is taken.” Without a strategy to help you live this, that chatter is wasting your time.
I’m not suggesting you just let it all hang out, don’t shower and swear like a drunken sailor yet still expect to earn and maintain a profitable place in the world. I’m advocating that you highlight what makes you unique and special, not what makes you smelly, flabby and cursy. It’s not about flying by the seat of your pants. Being a great you still requires preparation, discipline and dedication, but it’s much easier to find the time, energy and headspace to do it, because the rulebook for being you already exists deep inside you – from a place of soul-stirring truth.
It’s not easy to learn to learn to listen to that inner rumble, because as potent as the essence of the real you is, self doubt can roar right over the top and drown out all that precious authenticity.
To combat this I suggest you take a little time each morning thinking through how to approach the day’s challenges. Experiment with ways you could handle situations that would make you most proud of yourself, that make best use of the stuff that makes you special and what is going to make people stop what they are doing and pay attention to how YOU managed the situation. After a while this’ll become second nature and will be something you can easily and unconsciously do in your head, but at first I recommend scribbling a few notes in a little notebook you carry with you. You can refer to it during the course of the day and keep yourself accountable to the good ideas you had when you woke up.
This practice will give you just a few quiet minutes each day to get to know yourself better. It will help you find ways to be yourself, and highlight ways you can share demonstrations of your best self so people can understand and make enduring connections with the real you.
Throughout my entire career I have made no apologies for who I am. I laughingly refer to myself as refreshingly unique, but given the fact I am a wordsmith I know that the real name for a gal like me is at best quirky and at most, eccentric! But that’s cool. I hope that the combo of some strong work and life experience, sound intuition, good ethics, formal education and a fair sense of humour mixed in with quirky Serena secret sauce has created something strong. Created a powerful personal and professional brand that clearly identifies me as a Category of One. In marketing and life, if your special blend of personality, skills and experience sets you apart from your competition, it’s a hell of a lot easier to achieve your goals and make your mark in areas important to you – in love, life and making a living.
Don’t be afraid to speak up in that meeting, don’t apologise for having a voice, don’t avoid the vulnerability that comes from saying what you mean, do tell someone if they’re important to you, and for goodness sake allow people to get to know the fab bits that make you, you.
It’s easy to be you, there is no one better qualified. Pretense is exhausting and the pressure associated with tap dancing to a song that isn’t yours will mean that you never give 100% to anything (plus your cute little tap shoes might get all messed up – I love those kind of shoes BTW!).
I bet that if you let people see the very best version of you, then even if they don’t say it, they will have cause to “Thank you for being you” as well.