Sell as Yourself: Making Authenticity a Practice

This blog originally apeard on LinkedIn

Key takeaways from my LinkedIn Live conversation with Lex Moschakis.

What is authenticity?

Let’s start by putting some shape around what authenticity actually means. After doing a lot of reading and research into this concept, authenticity is a sense of resonance when your outer expression is aligned with your inner sense of values and your sense of self.

Think about it this way…

In life, we make a lot of compromises. There are external compromises, like letting your friend or spouse decide where to go for dinner. And then there are internal compromises, which are a lot harder because they require us to go against our beliefs or the way we see ourselves or the world.

A lot of the time, the way that we show up in work and in life leads us to make those internal compromises. Over the course of our lives, this can lead to us waking up and saying, “Who am I? How did I get here?”

Authenticity is really about making sure that we make fewer internal compromises so that the internal and external versions of ourselves are as aligned as possible.

When we make internal compromises, it doesn’t feel good. It leads to questioning and self-doubt. We lose confidence and trust in ourselves, our ability, and our judgment. And, it’s exhausting!

What makes it difficult to be authentic?

Lack of clarity about what’s important.

One thing that makes it hard to practice authenticity is that people don’t possess self-awareness around what their values are. Having clarity and definition around our values allows us to know what is important and meaningful in our lives. Our values act as a kind of internal guidance.

The problem is, we’ve been so conditioned to look to external examples of what success is and how we should be in the world. Then, we model ourselves after someone else’s excellence.

And, we’re so busy that it’s difficult to find the time to stop and do the deep inner work to figure out what is important and meaningful to us.

This is not something where you can just set aside 30 minutes on a Sunday and ask “what are my values?” and they just magically pop into your mind.

As our self-awareness deepens through practicing authenticity, it becomes easier to unearth our true values as individuals over the course of our lives.

Our existing biases, beliefs & behavior patterns.

Another thing that makes practicing authenticity difficult is that we tend to take for granted the way that we already see the world, which is typically formed during our early development.

The beliefs and behaviors that we developed in childhood and adolescence that helped us survive — and probably helped us be “successful” (to a point) — don’t always necessarily serve us later in life.

From personal experience, I know how much time and effort it takes to simply get clarity on your values. Reflecting on and reassessing your beliefs and behaviors, and whether they reinforce or align with your core values, is quite another thing!

Alignment of your values, beliefs, and habits is achieved through a lifetime of practice.

There are times when it feels easy to make choices that are in alignment with your values and there are times when it feels confusing or difficult. This is when those internal compromises take place!

For sellers, when you’ve got quota closing in on you and you’ve got meetings all day long and you’re balancing the needs of your team, your customer, your manager…it’s really easy to fall back into “default mode” where your behaviors may not be in alignment with what really matters to you.

Lex shared how her pattern of people-pleasing helped her become successful…until it didn’t.

She wanted everyone to like her, including her customers. When she formed relationships from this place, it felt inauthentic and out of integrity with who she was (there’s that internal compromise!), which wasn’t sustainable.

A lot of sellers out there can understand how difficult it is to balance everything at once — including how you show up in the moment and respond to your customers. It’s a practice. It’s a choice at any given point in time.

Authenticity evolves over time — it isn’t a fixed state.

Early in my own career, what got me to where I felt like I was successful was being loud, direct, declarative, having all of the answers, and being forceful.

I wanted to be better and get to the next level of my career, but the behaviors that had helped me get to where I was started to actively hold me back from where I wanted to go next.

These behaviors created a false ceiling for me.

If I wanted to move into a new role, especially a leadership role, some of the ways of being and behaviors that felt authentic to me in the past needed to evolve or change.

I had to evolve what authenticity looked like for me. This was hard because it required that I not only develop new skills, but it meant that my confidence and sense of self also became unclear and wavered WHILE I was developing those new skills.

Paradoxically, becoming authentic required that I felt uncomfortable while I tried on new ways of showing up…until that practice turned into a new way of being that became natural for me!

Paradoxically, becoming authentic required that I felt uncomfortable while I tried on new ways of showing up…until that practice turned into a new way of being that became natural for me!

It took a lot of reflection and practice to realize that I actually needed to talk less in meetings. I needed to listen more. I needed to not just pretend like I was considering another person’s ideas, I needed to change my limiting belief that I was the only one with good ideas!

If what I actually wanted as an outcome in my work was to be effective and for others to want me to be a leader (not just have to have me as a leader), then I had to show up a different way to get the outcome that I wanted.

By practicing these different ways of being (listening more, being open to other people’s ideas, collaborating, and trusting others), my outer expression began to feel much more resonant because these behaviors were connected to deep internal values that I didn’t even know that I had 10 years prior!

It’s an unearthing process.

It’s putting a pause on the play and considering without judgment: What’s happening here? How have I shaped myself? Why have I shaped myself this way? How did I get here? Is this serving me?

It’s a total shift in the way that you exist as a human.

Being authentic gives others permission to do the same — including your customers!

Last year, during the pandemic, we were shifting our entire business. I was definitely reaching burnout toward the end of the year, but in the middle of the year, I was humming along.

I was finding new ways to express myself because you couldn’t go out, you couldn’t dress up. We were wearing pajamas every day! We were on video calls some days for 14 hours a day and I was finding it so draining.

One of the things that I did that gave me a little bit of self-expression was dressing up for Friday team happy hours as different characters. I was Madonna, Mugatu, a Grecian goddess, a fortune teller, a rainbow, a disco ball…you get the idea!

What’s even more interesting is that I started to post about it on LinkedIn and share it with our customers.

When I would have customer meetings, I would tell them what I was doing and we would have an entire conversation about it.

Our customers would ask me to show up like that for our meetings! I’m serious.

Our team happy hours (and my costumes) became a conversation piece, but they also allowed our customers to be a little bit more themselves in our meetings because I was expressing myself.


My authenticity created an opportunity to connect deeply with our customers.

When you’re trying to stand out and differentiate yourself in the world — as many sellers aim to do! — it can be helpful to interrupt the “pattern” of normalcy that your customers are living and working within.

Similar to my example of modeling authenticity with my customers, leaders have the power to pave the way for their people to be authentic by role modeling authentic behavior.

Leaders can do so much without having to change a policy or rework a workflow or implement new training. Just showing up differently and modeling a new way of being can have such an impact on your team and the people in your life.

Common misconceptions about authenticity.

Misconception: people will see you as weak, weird, or inappropriate.

One of the biggest misconceptions about practicing authenticity is the belief that others won’t accept you or that they’ll judge you if you show up differently.

We worry A LOT about what our peers, customers, managers, friends, and family think about us. But this worrying is only our assumption of how others might act — it is not a true indicator of their behavior!

What typically happens when we are truly authentic, is that our vulnerability and honesty pull other people toward us like a magnet!

Misconception: authenticity isn’t showing your “mess”; it’s about being your best (as in…your most integrated self).

We hear and read a lot about how managers and leaders are worried that if they give their people “permission to be authentic” then they will show up at work in their pajamas, half asleep in customer meetings.

This is a huge misconception ——– authenticity is not about casual Fridays!!!

Another example is when people use being authentic as an excuse for being blunt or straightforward, or as a cover or defense mechanism to protect their ego.

While that may be the definition of authenticity if we’re living in The Upside Down from Stranger Things, in this shared reality we’re currently experiencing…authenticity is NOT an excuse or justification for a way of being (or behaving) in a reactive manner.

If you’ve ever said or heard someone else say things like…

“That’s just the way I am.”

“That’s the way I’m built.”

“It’s gotten me this far.”

“I’m just being real.”

…in a reactive or defensive manner, then you’ve seen the co-opted, upside-down version of authenticity.

This leads us to another misconception…

Misconception: authenticity is a fixed state.

Practicing authenticity is about having more possibilities, choices, and freedom for how you consciously respond and show up in every present moment.

It’s about choosing how you respond to the world, embracing that, and being really powerful inside of that.

And that’s hard work!

Misconception: authenticity is an act of rebellion.

Oftentimes we see authenticity as a form of rebellion like it’s risky behavior that maybe you shouldn’t be doing.

What will people think?

This also goes back to the example of leaders thinking that if they give their people permission to be authentic it means that their people are going to start doing a lot of things that they don’t want them to do!

It’s like we view authentic behavior as kindling for a kind of rebellion.

The interesting thing is that “rebellion” requires that we go against something, like a system or a belief.

Acting against something means that there has to be a standard that we are holding up and comparing people to.

Authenticity is creating and living into a genuine, individual model of excellence, not copying or replicating a standard that someone else sets for us.

So, when authenticity FEELS like a rebellion, it means we need to examine the standard we’re using for comparison.

Where did this model of excellence come from?

Who created it?

What were their motivations?

How am I holding myself and others against this standard?

Why am I holding myself and others against it?

Is this standard in alignment with my values?

What does excellent look like for ME?

How is it different from the “standard”?

Practice being authentic NOW.

There are many ways you could begin, but I recommend that you contemplate what is important to you in your life. What are your core values?

And, dig a bit deeper, because when you take look, all of the things that immediately flood into your head are likely going to be values that someone else has set for you.

We are so practiced at getting our cues externally and working toward an external model of excellence that it can actually be difficult to discern what our true personal values are!

So, no action steps. Instead, contemplate. Get curious.

For each value that comes up, turn it over in your mind and play with it a bit.

Ask yourself, “Why is this important to me?”, until you can uncover whether or not this value is something you truly find meaningful and worthwhile, or if it is something that you think you SHOULD find meaningful and worthwhile.

The distinction is critical.

Personally, I review my values yearly and check in with them at least quarterly to see if my behaviors, contribution, and way of being are in alignment (it’s actually one of my values to live by my values! Meta!).

If you’re interested in seeing my values for 2021, check out the post below.

Thanks for reading,

~ Bree


Chief Brand & Product Officer, Co-founder

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