A very nice email popped up on my laptop the other day. It was from a woman who had heard me speak at a recent conference and wanted to update me on what she’d done with the ideas I presented. Here’s what she wrote (I changed a few words to make sure her identity remains anonymous):
Thank you for the inscription you inscribed in your book, All About Them.
You wrote: “Being Yourself is All About Them.” Those words have given me permission (not that I NEEDED permission, but I WANTED permission) to be myself; flaws, quirks, and all. Why not showcase my personal issues and struggles? And why not explain that I am a lifelong student in the school of life? I have 30-years of experience and made it to the top of my field with a corner office and six-figure salary. That says if I can do it, so can my clients.”
This morning I was training with my running group and the woman next to me talked about how she presents herself. She was concerned that if she didn’t present a scrupulously professional image at all times, her business would suffer.
After all, she said, “if it really is all about them, then that means I have to live up to their expectations.”
I shook my head and repeated the same words I had written in the book I gifted at the speaking event: “Being yourself is All About Them.”
My running partner pushed back. “How can being yourself be all about them? Being myself is all about me – THAT’S the point.”
“Really?” I asked. “Then why do you feel you can’t always be yourself? Is that for you? Or is it for others? Are you worried about how you’ll react to your new-found freedom or are you worried about how others will see you?”
“Look at it this way – you’re a really good attorney. But there are LOTS of really good attorneys at your firm. And there are even more really good attorneys out in the world. If you’re totally committed to presenting yourself solely as a really good attorney, you’re setting yourself up for a lot of strong competition.
“But if you present everything that makes you unique, different, and special, then you’re offering your clients something they cannot find anywhere else. And by being yourself, and being available to your friends, family, and clients just that way, you’re giving them something they can’t get anywhere else.
“Only by presenting everything that you are, and having your potential clients hire you, can you actually help them. So not only is your concern about others what keeps you from being yourself, but when you are yourself you can lessen your competition, get the client, and do the work that helps them.”