Being your authentic self – why it takes courage to be vulnerable

Being your authentic self – why it takes courage to be vulnerable

Maybe it’s at work, maybe at parties, or PTA meetings, networking events, or social clubs, but the chances are you have first-hand experience of the topic we’re covering today. How do we know this? Because it’s a very natural human phenomenon that affects most, if not all, of us: the pressure to conform.

We all know this pressure exists, but perhaps we don’t realize just how much or how deeply it can impact us. Its effects can be profound for one main reason: the pressure to conform takes away from your authentic self. The person you are deep down inside. The way that you would most naturally think and behave. Your true opinions and beliefs. These are the things that make us who we are, and yet faced with this enormous pressure, they get chipped away. This can be especially true if we’re faced with uncertainty such as changes to our routine or adapting to new ways of working.

Why is this? The Asch Phenomenon explains a lot. Professor Solomon Asch conducted various studies on group dynamics and found that we will generally go along with the group or conform for fear of being thought peculiar or weak. Fear. That word really matters, because it’s the crux of this phenomenon. Standing apart or being different leaves us vulnerable, and that can be truly frightening because it exposes us to the judgment and opinions of others, the possibility of being left out or ostracized, and the inability to just blend in.

That’s why vulnerability is not a sign of weakness. On the contrary, it takes great strength – the belief in your convictions, and confidence in your own value. In short, it takes courage. And at Pfizer, that courage is incredibly important to our success – our colleagues believing in their convictions and having confidence to be themselves and speak up is what pushes us to achieving our purpose: Breakthroughs that change patients’ lives.

If you’re able to let go of who you think you are supposed to be, and how you think you are supposed to behave and think, you might find a relief that is truly rewarding. For a start, it takes less energy to stop trying to control your image and just be yourself. And when you are yourself, it stands to reason it’s easier to build authentic relationships and make real connections precisely because you are being authentic to start with.

Here are three top tips to live as your authentic self:

1. Know yourself – Identify your authentic self by doing a bit of reflection. What do you like the most about yourself? Make a list of your top five attributes – the things that you would never want to change. It might feel like a strange exercise, but remember that you don’t need to show anybody else the list!

2. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable – We’ve already talked about the pressure to conform and the Asch Phenomenon. It’s not something that can be easily overcome, but accept that you are going to be uncomfortable in certain situations (and that anybody would) and it becomes less difficult to deal with.

3. Remember your courage – Never forget that being vulnerable is not a sign of weakness, it’s an act of courage. If you can identify your own behavior as courageous, you should take pride in it. It’s not easy, but it is worth it. 

At Pfizer, it has always been incredibly important we create a space for our colleagues to have the courage to embrace their true selves, share their voice and understand their value in order to make a difference to patients’ lives everywhere – something that’s more relevant now than ever before.