Being True to Yourself – Part 1 – Authenticity

The Being True to Yourself Series, is a result of personal observations and experiences.

Authentic means being true to who you are.

Genuine.

It means not allowing a spin doctor, campaign manager, copywriter or another well-meaning advisor to change your way of speaking or behaving. Certainly there is a need to gain poise and polish, but this does not need to mean a loss of authenticity.

That is not to say we don’t evolve and change over time.

Of course, we do!

It’s part of life and the experiences we go through shape us as individuals. Some of us are very fortunate to have great role models and mentors come into our lives naturally. They help us evolve.

I am lucky to have had some wonderful influences, from a range of professional and cultural backgrounds in both my business and personal life.

When I embarked on my public speaking journey way back in 2004, or to be more accurate was thrust into it as a result of winning the Telstra NT Business Woman of the Year Award, I was a terrible speaker.

It was my biggest fear; I had to face it head on because there were expectations that went with the role. Expectations that I would travel around the country and speak at different functions.

Thankfully, I had wonderful support and improved no end, now I always receive excellent feedback. I developed and grew, but I have never lost my authenticity.

I will also never forget how hard it was to learn and how nerve-wracking.

The Turning Point

The turning point was when I received a very sage piece of advice.

It was simply ‘never lose sight of who you are; it’s what makes you unique’.

Those simple words gave me confidence and, amazing as it might sound, permission to be me.

I knew early on that I could not be a slick joke teller to break the ice, that’s not me.

I’m hopeless at jokes as I never remember the punch lines! I don’t try to tell them in the course of my normal conversations so how could I be expected to include them in a speech?

Sure, I’m not the same speaker I was 18 years ago. I’ve changed and evolved. A little older, a little wider physically and a little bit wiser, but I am still very much me.

How often have you a speaker and felt they were not genuine?

They may have something great to say, but because they are not using their own expressions, the words don’t ring true. They sound false even if they are genuine.

That’s because they are either, consciously or unconsciously, imitating someone or delivering a message in a style that is not their own.

The very best speakers in my book are those who have a passion for their subject and have had some training in public speaking, but remain true to who they are.

Subtle Nuances

I’m told I am very perceptive because I detect subtle nuances, read between the lines and realise something is not quite right.

I have often come across materials purportedly written by high-profile individuals, yet the moment I read it, I just know, they have not written that article or blog post.

How do I know? The answer lies in the tone and ‘voice’ used.

The more prominent you are, the more public speaking appearances you will make. This makes is all the more important that written pieces, especially those that will go to print,  sound like you.

It is for this reason that it is vital that speechwriters and ghost writers really try to understand an individual before writing for them.

The writing is the easy part, understanding who you are writing for is what makes the difference.

I’ve also noticed that authentic people are generally happier, less stressed people and will deliver their speeches with ease. Could that be because they are comfortable in their own skins, that they are true to themselves?

I’d love to hear your views and experiences on authenticity, either as a comment or email me privately.

Michelle


HAPPY AUSTRALIA DAY

It’s already Australia Day but, where I am, here in my little flat in Ecija, Spain, rugged up in 4 layers of clothing with the heaters on, it’s not yet the 26th. I am however reflecting on my journey to becoming Australian.

I wasn’t born in Australia, but then again, neither were so many others that call this country home. My entry to Australia was relatively easy as I didn’t need to sit any IELTS tests, apply for sponsorship or come on a boat seeking asylum. I am very grateful and blessed!

I first visited Australia as a 19 year old travelling overland from London to Athens on a bus, flying to Bangkok and Singapore to visit friends and family before landing in Sydney and heading to Canberra before eventually travelling up to Darwin to visit more family members. Little did I know that Darwin was going to play a big role in my future.

It took me a great many years to become completely comfortable living in a country that was so totally different to where I spent my childhood – the Middle and Far East – even though I went to the UK for my final years of schooling. I felt like a fish out of water for a very long time because it was so culturally different to what I was used to. I didn’t really identify as any particular nationality even though my passport said British, and I rather suspect, this was due to my global upbringing and not having a fixed home base. Home was wherever my parents were.

On reflection, I was lucky to have ended up in Darwin as it’s undoubtedly the most multi-cultural city in Australia, a real melting pot where everyone lives side by side and there are no enclaves of particular ethnicities.

Today, I most definitely identify as Australian and consider myself extremely fortunate to live in a country that offers wonderful opportunities and provides, a predominantly, safe environment for children, as well as a warm welcome to those who manage to make Australia their home, even if there are lots of hoops to jump through and things are not always quite as some of us would like them to be.

I applaud all those who work so hard to make Australia a better country.  I give kudos to those in our armed forces who fight to protect our liberty and our freedom and I congratulate all the wonderful people who have been honoured in the 2015 Australia Day Awards. It’s especially pleasing to see Rosie Batty, a domestic violence campaigner named Australian of the Year, her story is truly inspirational and shines the spotlight firmly on a topic that is all too often avoided.

Australia Day Ball 2012 with special friends
Australia Day Ball 2012 with special friends

I’m missing the Australia Day Ball and other festivities, both madcap and serious, but I will be bringing a little bit of Australia into my Spanish classroom tomorrow.

Thank you Australia for all you have given me. I am proud to call you home.

Happy Australia Day!
Michelle

 

Paperwork……Spanish style

A national ID card is mandatory in Spain and I’ve got 3 months to get one. The only problem is I can’t get one locally so need to go to Seville which is easier said than done since I work the hours that the office is open. I’ve also heard many stories, and already had my own share of experiences, about how hard it can be to get paperwork processed in Spain so decided the sooner I go the better. Last Thursday I had no classes till 4pm so here was my chance!

It was still pitch black outside when I crawled out of bed at 6 am. Into the shower, a quick coffee and yoghurt, last moment check that I had all my originals of every document I received in Spain to date plus photocopies and I was ready. At 7 am I was standing on my street corner waiting for Ana (one of my students) who works in Seville and was giving me lift as the bus doesn’t start running early enough.

The sunrises as we queue
The sunrises as we queue

We pull up at the most impressive Plaza Espana just as the sun is coming up, I wave goodbye to Ana and find my way to the office which doesn’t open till 9 am but already a small queue is forming. I am number 4 but less than a minute later another 30 people turn up. We patiently stand in what has a vague resemblance to a line. I get chatting to the American chap in front of me, who tells me it’s his second trip here this week and he’s got a massive folder of documents but he’s an engineer so his case is more complicated than that of a Professora Inglese.

It’s finally 9 am and the massive wooden doors creak open to reveal two, gun toting policemen who step out and shout at us all in Spanish. I vaguely understand that we need to divide into two lines depending on what we need. The line starts to separate into two but I am not sure which one I need to be in and by this time there are about 150 people. Lucky for me my new-found American friend tells me where to stand. The officers come back out and shout again telling us that unless our lines are straight we are not going anywhere. Everyone suddenly straightens up and there is order – amazing!

The officers seem to have a personality chance because now they are beaming at us and tell a few of us to go inside. Luckily I’m still number 4 so I’m straight in. I now have to pass through the security point and then there are 2 more lines. When I am called to the desk the lady only speaks Spanish so I somehow tell her what I want and she points me the next desk where a man shoves a form and a number in my hand before telling me to go next door.

I sit down and look at my form which is all in Spanish. Bloody hell, I wonder if I can fill it in all by myself. Yep, I can manage most of it. My number is called and I step forward to the next desk, handover my paperwork along with the dratted form and smile hopefully. It must be okay because next thing the chap bashes away at the computer, asks me a few question that I respond to in tentative Spanish, and then prints off a piece of paper, stamps it whilst simultaneously yelling for a colleague to come see la Senora (me). I guess he’s worked out I am not exactly capable of understanding what is about to come next.

A tall fellow with a tatty T-shirt and hair that looks like it could do with a cut saunters over, smiles at me and says in English “now you go to the bank, any bank and pay” as he hands me the piece of paper. I look perplexed and he explains further “then you come back here and we give you the card.” Ah ha! The light bulb goes on in my head. I quickly ask if I have to get back in the queue as I have visions of myself being there till nightfall. No, he explains as long as I still have my number I can just walk in. Thank goodness for small mercies!

I walk outside into the sunlight and look carefully at the paperwork. It’s only E10.50 that I have to pay but clearly they have never considered an onsite cashier or EFTPOS, much easier to make us all find a bank. I stop two women walking past to ask where the nearest bank is and then head towards it and meet my American friend along the way. Together we find the bank, pay our money and walk back wishing each other success as we part company.

There has been a staff change by this time and the women currently on duty insists I need yet another piece of paper. I have no idea what she means but she prints out an official letter in duplicate, makes me sign a copy (I have no idea what I signed!) and tells me I have to come back in 10 days. I smile nicely, take my copy and head for a coffee shop.
Seems like everything here needs at least two trips and depending on which officer you see depends on what you might need to produce which is why everyone goes to appointments armed with the kitchen sink!

Back in Ecija I show the letter to Anne (my boss) who translates that they are insisting on a copy of some information that is already in their system but that this is Spain so we have to do as asked and I’ve got 10 days to produce it. Anne organised a copy of the required paper and guess where I am going this Thursday? Yep, back to Seville!

Ah well, it’s all a new life experience and I am still enjoying myself whilst appreciating how lucky we are to have EFTPOS at official offices!

Michelle

Friends

friendOne of my newer (and much younger) friends asked me recently how I managed to remain in contact with so many people for such a long time. He went on to explain that he’d always felt the needed to be in touch with people all the time in order to keep up a friendship and hence had lost touch with several.

His question made me think and this is the answer I came up with.

First of all we need to be clear not to confuse colleagues and friends. The relationships are completely different.

We actually experience several different types of friendships over the course of a lifetime. There are many types of friendships and the old saying ”people come into your life for a reason, for a season, for a lifetime” is definitely correct but it is only as we grow older that we understand and appreciate this.

Friendships occur amongst school friends, workmates and sports teams as well as within social circles that we mix in. Many of these tend to be of a transitory nature with only a few friendships continuing once we move into different jobs, sports or circles. Those we maintain contact with tend to be those who we truly have a connection with.

I’ve been lucky enough to connect in person with several friends over the last couple of months. They are all people who I have not seen for some time yet when we met again the conversations flowed as if it was yesterday.

A friend can come from any walk of life, and indeed my friends are a very diverse group from all corners of the globe. A friend does not necessarily agree with you all the time, rather friendship is built on mutual respect where each person can be themselves and unafraid to express alternate views. Friends also sometimes provide advice that we might not want to hear but it is always given with the best intention and these tend to be our friends for a lifetime, people who we know will support us in an hour of need even if they don’t always agree with our decisions. They are the ones who drop everything to turn up with the tissues, bottles of gin or whatever else is needed during a moment of crisis.

Each of the friendships I’ve experience have helped me develop and grow as a person. I am thankful for the experiences and grateful for all my friends far and wide both the new and the old. Through this blog I’ve been keeping in touch with the world at large and it’s those who take the time to respond by clicking Like on the Facebook feed, sending me a private message, an email or leaving a comment on the blog that make my day. Friends for a reason, a season or a lifetime – thanks for sharing the journey that is life.

Michelle

Success

Success – what does it mean? Different things to different people and I suppose the most common myth is that those with the trappings of wealth, status or fame are successful – at least this is what the media would have us all believing. But these are purely external – it is what the world sees on the outside.

Success and happiness do not go hand in hand. Often individuals push themselves so hard to achieve more in terms of material wealth and status that they forget to stop and enjoy what they have already achieved. There is then a very real risk of losing the most precious commodities of health and family.

In my eyes you are a success when you are happy. Now this may sound a bit strange to some but based on my personal experience I believe this is absolutely the case.

To qualify I am talking about being in the here and now and accepting that you are achieving what you want as opposed to what everyone is considering or thinking is appropriate. We must accept that it is only ourselves that are responsible for how we feel. It does take some time and work to actually have the skills and experiences in life to come to a place where we are able to “live in the moment” – believe me I speak from personal experience.

Living in the moment means taking the time to enjoy what are often the very simple pleasures of life – for me, because I am single and pressed for time due to my heavy work schedule, this means things that are also never-ending chores. The lawn mowing and dump run are weekly occurences that become my opportunities for embracing the moments.  I relish the exercise and enjoy the satisfaction of seeing the cut grass whilst my nostrils are tickled and my senses stimulated by the fresh scent of freshly mowed lawn.

Similarly when I walk Janie (the dog) I enjoy allowing my mind to wander where it chooses, as I take the time to appreciate the cool of the early morning, watching the birds dart about as they chirp enthusiastically to each other as they too greet the dawning of a new day.

The alternative to enjoying these moments would be to see them as chores and a burden. It is my choice that these are pleasure moments and therefore I am a success.

Love to hear your thoughts …..

Michelle