Finding the Real Self When Your Job Has Changed You

How did you get here? 

You work at a job you don’t like, for a boss you can’t stand, and look in the mirror and don’t recognize yourself.

The conversations you have at work include fake smiles and mindless commentary.  You never feel safe enough to express your real opinions.  And you entertain people, meetings, projects, and events that you could care less about.

When did you make the decision to sell out who you are in exchange for what you could have?

And, worse yet, have you been fake for so long that you no longer remember who the real you is?

Some people fall into this category and are simply annoyed with themselves.  Wishing that they had never let things get as far as they have gotten.

Others, however, are devastated.  Realizing that in exchange for money, a title, an office, or holding down a job, they have completely lost their sense of self.

Who are you right now?

If for the sake of work you have gotten too far away from who you know yourself to be, don’t worry.  You will never lose your opportunity to choose to be different.

“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”

― Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

You can choose who you want to be AND have a job that makes you proud of who you are. 

You do not have to compromise what you are in order to please anyone.

You can reclaim the real you that you want to be and change your work life for the better.

How Do You Begin Finding Yourself?

First, let’s be clear.  You cannot really lose yourself. 

You may believe that you are not being the real you, but the real you is exactly who you are right now.

That’s because there is only one you.

You may not like all the parts and pieces of you at the moment.  Or you may feel disconnected with the you that you have become. But who you are is represented by how you show up every day.

If you have a negative relationship with the real you, it is because there is a noticeable gap between who you are and who you want to be. This negative space can leave you feeling imbalanced, disingenuous, and just not real.  

But do not beat up on yourself for getting to this place.  The reasons you got here were likely sound and reasonable.

We all have compromised before in order to create peace.  Peace for others and peace for ourselves. 

It is important to feel a sense of harmony, acceptance, and security in our environment.

To gain what we need in life can become easier when we are in the good favor of others. And so we work to create positive experiences with those with whom we share space.

These are all good intentions.  But also risky decisions when repeated for too long or too intensely. 

When you continually morph yourself to be in alignment with outside standards, you may begin to forget the standards that you hold solely for yourself.

But it is possible to reclaim this knowing and to put yourself in alignment with what is important to you.

Make a commitment to yourself today.  Who you want to be and who you are will be the same person starting right now. 

Take steps to rediscover the essence of you and then move forward as the you that you really want to be.  

“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”

― Carl Gustav Jung

Finding Yourself Through Self-Definition

Self-definition is the result of examining yourself and independently determining who and what you are.  While you may have been influenced by societal standards, the influence of those in your circle, or your observation of the world, you make the final decision of what definition applies to you.  

One path to create your self-definition is to undergo an independent journey of self-discovery. To know who you are at your core and what you stand for requires internal assessment and willingness to be quiet within oneself.

There are innumerable approaches to embark on the journey of self-discovery. 

If you are a beginner in creating a self-definition, here are a couple methods that you can try:

Self-Discovery Method #1:  Personal Value Assessment

A personal value assessment provides a means to examine, interpret, and choose what you consider to be most valuable to you. 

It is your values that affect how you interact with the world and also how you react to others response to you.

Many forums, such as the Values Centre, offer assessments of this kind.  See their free example here.

It takes minutes to complete and the outcome is a comprehensive report in response to your inputs.  You can learn what your core values say about you and how they impact your connection with others.

The key value with participating in this type of assessment is not only the report that you receive.  More importantly it is the experience that you can gain from the questions that are asked.

It is highly likely that questions geared toward determining your core values will help to bring clarity to your self-discovery.  These questions may cause you to think more deeply on what is of personal priority to you. 

Because of these priorities, you make decisions on how you live, who you have in your life, and what drives you each and every day.

When you know and understand these core principles for yourself, you then can consciously choose how to incorporate them into your daily life.

This process of self-discovery helps create self-definition.

Self-Discovery Method #2: Core Values Journaling

Another self-discovery method is to independently and thoughtfully consider your core values. No report or outside opinion, just you thinking about you.

You can do this through self-dialogue, meditative thought, or journaling.  You may find this Core Values Journal to be a useful tool to guide your self-exploration.

With a mixture of questions, journaling prompts, and open journaling pages, you serve as the primary navigator towards learning what is most important to you. 

Completing your journal pages is not an all-inclusive means to determine your self-definition.  However, the pages can help to create meaningful internal dialogue and to point your mind in the direction of self-discovery.

The most important take-away from these exercises is that you start to consider your own opinion.

And once you identify your opinion, you can then examine if in your opinion you live in accordance with your core values.

Presenting as your true self requires a real connection with your self-definition. 

When you know who and what you are you can more easily create a definition of authenticity that you can live.

How Can You Move From Finding Yourself to Being Yourself?

Now that you have identified who and what you believe yourself to be of your own independent opinion, it is important to regularly express this side of you.

When you interact, communicate, and engage with others in alignment with your self-definition you are at same time honoring your self-expression.

To express yourself as the real you is to further clarify to yourself and others how your authentic self lives in every day life.

It can take bravery, vulnerability and openness to shift from being totally outward focused to including your inner self’s thoughts and opinions.  This can be particularly difficult at work when you may fear consequence to your decision to shift.

However, if you continue to hide your authentic self, you may continue to feel a disconnect with or loss of your true self.

Often you will also run the risk of becoming restless with your job, disconnected with your work, and unsatisfied with your boss.

Alternatively, honoring your authentic self-expression is a form of affirmation, self-respect and self-preservation. 

To maintain the legacy that is you, you must keep the core of you intact.  And, to keep yourself connected with your authenticity, it is important to continually permit your real self to show up.

5 Ways to Express Yourself Authentically:

1. Be Honest

Find comfort in speaking your truth versus trying to please the crowd at work.  This not only demonstrates your genuine self but also allows those around you to learn and become acclimated to the real you.  Honesty can be a breath of fresh air when conformity can leave many wondering if real responses are a thing of the past.  Feedback given with respect and thoughtfulness is appreciated, versus being considered rude or disharmonious.  It creates opportunity for engaging dialogue and shows consideration.  

2. Speak Up

Be transparent with your thoughts, ideas, or recommendations.  When you are inspired to share, take confidence that your voice matters and your input is important.    Rather than an intrusion, consider that you are a valuable asset to others.  When you respect what you have to say often others will as well. Speaking up when you feel called to share trains you to feel safe when letting the real you show.

3. Follow Your Gut

You may not always have the facts and figures to back a decision, but you know your internal gut feeling.  Permit your senses to guide your actions and trust in your ability to rely on your sixth sense.  Likely it is derived from past experiences, gauging the current climate, and even an emotionally based inclination that makes sense to you.  All these queues combined can provide you your own unique read on a situation.  You only sharpen these skills when you practice using them regularly.  And you honor your authenticity when you recognize and respect that your gut instinct exists too.  

4. Respect Your Boundaries

You do not have to always be everything to everyone.  And you do not have an obligation to share space, time, or resources with others just because. Respectfully declining work beyond your scope or an after-work event you have no interest in is not a dealbreaker.  Instead, it is an opportunity for you to honor your priorities and self-care.  Make practice of saying no so that you can affirm your sense of self-awareness of what is right for you.

5. Expect Respect

Everyone has their stressful days at work.  This does give license for you to be the recipient of another’s stress release.  When things go too far, respectfully let the other person know.  You also can take time away from those that seem to be in a toxic rut for days or weeks.  Respecting your personal space, your mental space, and your heart space is honoring your authenticity at the same time.

The real you is an authentic you.  And the practice of authenticity permits you to stay connected to the full definition of who you are at the heart.

Practice living and interacting authentically to ensure you will not let unintended conformity remove the essence of the real you.


The real you is a part of you no matter where you go, including at your job. However, in order to maintain a harmonious or successful experience at work, you may have felt that you had to leave the real you behind.

When you fake who you are in order to appease others you can feel as if you have lost yourself and suffer the outcome of feeling disconnected or disingenuous.

And when you hit the wall in order to feel whole again you decide to go on the journey of finding yourself.

You can always choose to let who you are and how you show up to others be aligned each and every day.

And you can be 100% yourself without sacrificing your career goals.  But instead enhance your ability to achieve your goals holistically.

Whether you use tools like a personal value assessment, a core values journal, or just quiet discussions with yourself, take time to explore self-discovery.  Use what you learn as your personal priorities and values as your means to infuse your unique expression into your daily work life.

Through finding yourself, developing your self-definition, and showing up fully as you, you will feel real once again!

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