Exploring Our Many Selves: Navigating Professional and Personal Identities

May 14th, 2024

I’m going to start off by asking you a question “Do you feel like you have two personalities?”

I ask this as I wonder this about myself sometimes too. I have raised this question with family and friends numerous times. And funny enough, you all know me as Jackie, but my real name is Jacqueline – my friends always stir me when apparently, I’m being ‘Jacqueline’. 😊

I’m being ‘Jacqueline’ when I’m in work mode – I’m actually just being professional. And then on the weekends when I might be having a few drinks and a laugh I’m ‘Jackie’. So, when I’m being chill, I’m Jackie and when I’m being professional, I’m Jacqueline.

Who is the real Jackie or Jacqueline?

I can see the confusion but now that I reflect on it, I see both as me.

I do enjoy one personality more than the other, so possibly that’s my authentic self? And then to confuse me even more, my husband always says that I put on a great ‘I’m a lady’ act. What even is that? 😊

I thought of these dual personalities when I was listening to a podcast from Rob Dial, Mindset Mentor recently. Rob was talking about being your authentic self. He was saying that when he first started his podcast he didn’t swear because he was going to keep this very professional and clean and straight. And then after 12 months, he thought, why am I doing this? I’m not being the real me. I’m struggling to get my message across leaving swear words out. Now he does let a few swear words out here and there. It helps him to express his excitement or frustration and reflects his authentic self.

I then started to wonder how this translates to being an auditor or a consultant. When we are out there in the auditing world, or if you’re out there as a consultant – our professional world, are we being our authentic selves? Should we be our authentic selves? What is that anyway?

I’ll share a secret with you – I can swear with the best of them! I don’t do it when I’m on a job conducting an audit. I don’t do it when I’m facilitating training. Because for me, I don’t feel it’s professional in the line of work that I do. You may have different opinions so please share your thoughts.

Before I go on, I’ll share a story with you….

I was on an audit a couple of years ago and it was a male-dominated industry and business. So here I was a female auditor (Jacqueline 😊) and then there was a new consultant on this job who was also a female. Anyway, we went out onto a job site surrounded by males whose language does include swearing. I’m comfortable with this as it’s their work environment and it’s their language. They act how they want to or how they normally act, however, this doesn’t mean that I come along and join them.

Now, this isn’t what the new consultant thought. She decided that she was going to join in, and not even at the same level of swearing, she took it up a notch and I was sitting there thinking, no, no, this isn’t happening.

I read the room and looked at the body language and the workers and the managers escorting us around were showing obvious signs of shock also – I get it. She was trying to fit in and be one of the boys, but I feel that there has to be a balance.

There needs to be a balance because we do need to relate to the business and the people that work there however, we are also professionals conducting our own work as auditors or consultants.

Because what comes next? Farting and burping!

When we were kids, our parents taught us to act certain ways in certain situations, so to me, it’s just manners. I don’t know, I might’ve been brought up differently.

In saying all of this I don’t want to dampen or throttle down your own authentic self, but maybe it’s just being mindful and respectful as well. I could be completely wrong. I’m still discovering who Jackie and who Jacqueline are, but I think it’s really interesting to be aware. Be aware of who you are and how we are presenting ourselves, who we’re turning up as in these different situations.

So, here at work in my office with the team, I might be one type of person. I have to be a different type of person, but when I’m onsite with my clients conducting an audit, I might be a different type of persona again. The thing is that this is all still ME. I’m still showing up with some parts of my personality that are relevant to what I’m doing. I can just pop the other parts of my personality in the cupboard for a bit and then let them out when I’m ready to play again!

I hope you can relate to it this and if you’ve got everything sorted out and you’ve got one personality, let me know what your secret is because I need to know and possibly others will too.

  1. Self-Reflection Exercise: Conduct a self-reflection exercise and list out the different roles you play in your life (e.g., professional, parental, social). Take note of how you feel and behave differently in each role and reflect on which traits you believe represent your authentic self. This may help you to understand and embrace the complexity of your identities.

2. Discussion Prompts: Discuss with friends or colleagues the idea of authenticity in professional settings. Use specific questions like: “Do you feel you can be your authentic self at work?” or “How do you balance professional expectations with personal expression?” This can foster a community dialogue about navigating professional personas.

3. Read and Respond: Read more about the concept of identity and authenticity, such as Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown or Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.

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