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  • Writer's pictureJames Frater

You Are What You Say You Are

I remember saying on a panel for young professionals that “people will believe whatever you say to them”. We were talking about imposter syndrome and not feeling capable, competent… and all the other synonyms. I also said: ”it is important to not speak negatively about yourself in the workplace (or in general) because if you tell someone that you’re not good at your job enough times… they’ll start to believe you”. This is not to be confused with not finding safe spaces to process and speak about very valid feelings.

Instead of ‘I don’t know how to do my job’ the approach should be ‘who is the best person to ask for help?’ or ‘where can I find resources to help me overcome this challenge’ or if you’re going for that A*, ‘are others having the same problem and what can you can you all implement to help each other to overcome those challenges?’. I have seen many iterations of this. Some people call it a growth mindset. A positive attitude. Problem-solving. It’s all the same.

Another reason that choosing the right perspective or having a ‘growth mindset’ is so important is because of self-fulfilling prophecy. This is the process through which an originally false expectation leads to its own confirmation, according to Britannica. If you – or other people – tell you something enough, you’ll become to embody that thing.

I was introduced to Carla Harris – an executive at Morgan Stanley - who spoke about her experience in investment banking. To summarise: she said that she chose 3 words that she wanted to be known for. Characteristics that were desirable for the work that she did. For 90 days she did things that embodied those words and she kept on repeating those descriptions of herself to other people. After that period people started describing her in that way too.

She hadn’t fundamentally changed who she was, all she did was highlight the characteristics within herself that she wanted people to recognise and attribute to her when she wasn’t in the room. I have to clarify again – this is not to say that you should be inauthentic and portray characteristics that are not consistent with who you are. For example, it is also not enough to say you’re hardworking without actually putting in the work.

How do I implement this in my own life?

I always tell myself that if I have all the necessary resources, time and clear outcomes, I can solve any problem put before me. It doesn’t mean that I think I’m smarter than everyone else, it forces me to focus on what I need to solve the problem… not the fact that I have a problem that I cannot solve yet. I am able to ask for help when I need it or at least be very clear about what I need.

I’m also constantly evaluating the skillset/characteristics that I need to become the person I want to be in the future. This is an honest conversation that requires introspection and clarity of self. When I have identified the gaps I read books, watch videos, speak to mentors, build habits and unlearn things that hinder me. This approach allows me to remain intentional and authentic to who I am and who I want to be.

In conclusion, I think it is possible to be intentional about how you want to be perceived without being inauthentic. Live the way you want to be seen. Manifest things into your life. Pray for clarity. Reverse engineer the person you want to be. Do whatever works for you, but be sure to have enough clarity of self to build upon. Every situation has multiple perspectives, and the beauty is that you get to choose the one you focus on.

I’m super interested to know what other people do, so feel free to send me a message.

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