“Just be yourself”: The Difference Between Your Authentic, Whole, and/or Best Self at Work (Part 1)

The other day, I was driving to meet a friend/colleague for lunch. I was on the fringe of running late as I tend to be (it’s a character flaw I’m actively working on, haha), and realized I didn’t have my makeup bag with me.


Now I know that femme-identifying folx like myself don’t need makeup in order to grab lunch with a friend, but the truth is I feel more confident wearing makeup, showing up in the professional world as my “best self.”


I considered going home to grab my bag or even hit up a local pharmacy to get the bare necessities—either of which would have caused me to be late.


So as a mini pseudo-experiment (I can’t help myself) I gave my friend a call and asked him whether he wanted me to arrive 15 minutes late as my “best self” or on time as my “most authentic self.” He chose the “authentic” me to show up right on time…which I did, no makeup and all.


Over lunch, we had a rich conversation about the difference between bringing one’s “authentic” versus “best” versus “whole” self to work and our personal preferences for using these terms as diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practitioners. Most importantly, he barely even noticed my lack of makeup and I found myself feeling as confident as I would have with it on. As we were wrapping up, though, the self-consciousness of my makeup-free face once again creeped in.


As we were walking out, we bumped into some important connections of his, which quickly turned into a critical networking opportunity for Mattingly Solutions. As it turned out, my makeup-free “authentic self” nailed it…even though I very recently believed that makeup was a requirement for women in business to be successful.


As it turns out, sometimes my authentic self IS my best self.


Bringing one’s best self to work, means choosing what aspects of your personality and identity show up on the job, leading with your strengths in order to be the best professional you can be.


The key is alignment between your authentic self, including your lived experiences, your background, and the ways in which you feel the most you, with the work you do every day. There are many ways to do this but some examples include:

How to encourage your employees to bring their best selves to work:

  1. Build psychological safety by using inclusive behaviors, so everyone feels comfortable to come to work as their best self

  2. Encourage your team members to consider their strengths, in and out of work, and how those can be leveraged every day so they are their best selves

  3. Consider your DEI mission statement. What are you asking of your employees? To bring their best self? Their most authentic self? How can you encourage your employees to bring their most effective and confident selves everyday into the workplace?

Contact Mattingly to schedule a Strategy Session and learn more about how you can create a DEI mission that enables your employees to bring their best self to work every day!