Dear Lesley, Do I Have To Change Who I Am To Be Successful?

Dear Lesley,
Do I Have To Change Who I Am To Be Successful?

Dear Lesley,

You often speak about the importance of authenticity in your brand, which is something that really speaks to me. I am a finance writer and have always been called a little “quirky” by those I know and love. I am getting a lot of advice to conform to more standard “dress” and practices now that I am starting my own business, but I just don’t feel comfortable being someone I am not. I want your opinion on this matter. Do I need to conform while I am trying to make it and then change back when I do? Can’t I be myself, fully, and find success?

Dear Michelle,

I really appreciate your question and completely understand the balance we have to find between being ourselves and things like dressing “appropriately” for certain audiences and occasions. I first want to be clear that I understand the value of clothing in terms of self-expression and also in brand expansion. I get that we are all professionals with a unique vision and if we all “conformed,” we would be nothing more than a stagnant industry full of frustrated professionals who felt stifled and unable to express themselves.
No one wants that.

That said, we all have different sides to us and different layers, and authenticity does not mean “letting it all hang out” so to speak. A part of building a brand people can trust is sensitivity to culture, atmosphere and the comfort of our audience. We would not wear the same thing to play tennis that we would to a black tie affair and the idea that we have to dress “stuffy” in more conservative designs is also a fallacy. To be successful, I believe we must present our clients with our best selves in attire that is clean, fitted, expressive within reason and appropriate for the occasion and the client expectations from your role. After all, we can inadvertently offend potential clients in the wrong attire (i.e., uncovered shoulders in certain situations). You are a writer and therefore in an innovative industry. Your clients will quite possibly therefore expect you to be individual in your dress while still being appropriate and credible for the finance industry.

Still, I believe that, while your family and friends might mean well, your brand is a reflection of you and will attract those who are in-sync with it. They should meet the real you and be presented with the best possible work you can give them. Being who you truly are is never a setback, but a great gift one can give themselves. It’s really quite liberating to do this with your soul, words, vision and values in-sync. I truly believe that being authentic brings the right clients to us and they are the ones who love our work and make it all worthwhile.

What are your thoughts? Do you feel pressured to “conform” to gain success?