Welcome to the very first edition of Unlock Your Authentic Self! Periodically-delivered strategies to help you discover and leverage who you are to get what you want. If this is our first time meeting, welcome! You can learn more about me and the work I do here.
Throughout my work as a college admissions advisor, author, and diversity leadership expert, I’ve worked with thousands of people at all levels of their career and education. Maybe you’re here for help with applying for colleges, landing a big job, developing a TEDx talk, or collaborating with your team. No matter the goal, I’ve found one thing to be universally true: if you want to find success, you must bring your authentic self to the table.
It’s the key that unlocks your next milestone and the better version of you.
Removing your mask
My interest and experience in this topic is both personal and professional. As a neurodivergent woman, to pursue my goals and “get ahead,” I’ve had to mask from time to time, meaning that I’ve had to hide one part of myself in order to meet the “norms” of the group and project a certain “ideal.”
While masking is a necessary tool for survival (and occasionally for getting what we want), if we “overmask” – use masking too often in too many settings for too much of the time – we are in danger of losing touch with who we truly are. Losing touch with our authentic self is limiting; without you, your unique gifts cannot rise to the surface.
While superficial changes like trading in your sweatpants for a suit may make sense, when it comes to the fundamental makeup of our character, personality, and values, authenticity beats overmasking every time. For teenagers and young adults, there is pressure to fit in – I see it all the time with my college applicants – but in the world beyond high school, it’s better to be who you are, even if who you are is different.
Research backs this up
You don’t have to take my word for it about the importance of being authentic; the research backs this up! Data supports the connection between authenticity and well-being, and researchers have found that people who scored higher on a measure of authentic living reported greater happiness, more positive emotions, and higher self-esteem than people who reported being less authentic.
Unlocking your authentic self will lead to happiness. And I want the contents of this newsletter to help you find that true happiness. Whether you’re working on your college admissions essay, seeking a promotion at work, or thinking about that next opportunity, your authentic self is the north star that guides you on your journey.
To fit in or not to fit in
In 2019, Melinda Gates was asked for her best advice for young women, and she was quick to reply that “fitting in is overrated.” She went on to say, “I spent my first few years at my first job out of college doing everything I could to make myself more like the people around me. It didn’t bring out the best in me, and it didn’t position me to bring out the best in others. The best advice I have to offer is: Seek out people and environments that empower you to be nothing but yourself.”
In 2023, uncertainty seems to be the name of the game. I’ve worked with young adults on their academic and professional development for 15 years, and the future has never been so unknown. A recent survey by The Prince’s Trust, a UK-based non-profit, has shown that more than 60% of 16-25 year olds feel scared about their future. Who could blame them? They’re facing unique challenges, and it can feel overwhelming for students, young professionals, and their families.
If that sounds like you or someone you love, you’re not alone.
There is no one-size-fits all approach
No matter what you want to achieve, there is not a pre-programmed path to success. I’m a parent of two young kids, and I’ve learned that they mature at their own pace, on their own timeline. You can’t push a kid to be ready for something that they’re not, and the same is true for adults of all ages.
When it comes to college applications, many students feel compelled to go into a pragmatic line of study, like business or engineering, even if they haven’t previously demonstrated any interest or even capability to succeed in that major. There are many entry points into those fields besides those direct majors. When students apply, I encourage them to choose a major that is a natural extension of their experiences, rather than something they are unprepared for. They need to follow what their authentic self craves.
Tools we use
We use tools like the Highlands Ability Battery to help you make sense of your natural talents and the Hogan MVPI to help you see your true values. All of this beautiful self-knowledge will help you to create goals that inspire you.
In the workplace, job seekers of all ages make the mistake of attempting to make themselves fit what they think employers want to see in a new role. If you show up as who you think you should be, the interview may go poorly, or worse – you could land a role at an organization that isn’t a good fit for your strengths. They’re rooting for you to be the right fit, and it’s your responsibility to show up as your true self and show them that you are.
If you’re a neurodivergent young professional, check out these success strategies for the workplace.
If you’re a prospective college student, check out some of our case studies and results for further inspiration and my most recent Forbes article, College Admissions Trends for 2023.
I’m here for you, so if you have questions or ideas for things you’d like me to cover in Unlock Your Authentic Self, I want to hear from you! Connect with me here on LinkedIn and send me a message or contact me at email@example.com.
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Need some one-on-one guidance on your college admissions journey? Check out Ivy Insight!
For organizations and neurodivergent leaders on their quest to reach exceptional outcomes, give AsceND Talent a follow.
For more guidance on how to get into your dream college by being your authentic self, check out my book, Get Real and Get In (St. Martin’s Press).