Growing up, how often were you told to, “Be yourself”?
As a kid, you probably heard it a lot. And if you’re a parent, chances are you tell your own kids the same thing.
Julie Charlestein, a dental industry veteran repeats this mantra in her recent Women in Dentistry column for DentalTown magazine. She echoes the words of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who famously urged an audience of future MBAs at Harvard Business School to bring their “whole selves” to work.
All of us seem to intuitively recognize that authenticity is important. But it’s more than a gut feeling — studies have shown that when our outward behaviour aligns with our internal self, we experience greater well-being and satisfaction, less depression, and a higher level of engagement in our work.
People who are authentic at work are considerably happier, and even a temporary boost in mood can increase productivity by around 12%. So, the old adage rings true: it’s good to stay true to yourself.
However, being authentic in the workplace is often easier said than done, especially when you’re working in a high-stress dental practice.
There's a lot of pressure to bury your feelings and “go with the flow” to get through a day of frantic phone calls, stressful appointments, and tedious administrative work.
There are times when you have to put on a smile, times to frown, and times to just sit and nod along.
But research shows that putting up a facade like that can make us feel unsatisfied, more burnt out, and less engaged in our chosen profession.
It is worthwhile to practice authenticity as a dental professional not only for your personal well-being, but for the ways it will strengthen your connection to patients and colleagues. The process isn't easy, but it's achievable. And when you do it right, it can change your career for the better!
1. Practice Self Awareness
The only way to bring your whole self to work is to know yourself.
Knowing your values, emotions, strengths, and weaknesses, as well as how you are perceived by others, is the first step toward authenticity.
Self-aware practitioners are aware of their strengths and limitations. They take advantage of their strengths and do what’s necessary to overcome their limitations, regardless of what others might think.
2. Avoid Perfectionism
Dental assistants, dental hygienists, and dentists tend to be perfectionists by nature. It comes with the job.
The textbooks at dental school showed you perfect procedures and outcomes, leaving out real-world obstacles like material breakdowns, dental anxiety, and patients’ financial limitations.
The perfect patient does not exist. Neither do perfect illnesses or conditions. So why would there be such a thing as a perfect dentist?
Authentic professionals strive for excellence, not perfection. While they strive to go above and beyond the call of duty, they also realize that perfection is impossible and they accept their imperfections (as well as the imperfections of their patients.)
Letting go of perfectionism and revealing the real you can be a powerful boost to your resolve and your relationships with patients and colleagues.
3. Follow Your Dreams
Think: what attracted you to the dental field in the first place?
If your practice is not making you feel good, take a step back. It might be time to adjust your career to better align with why you got into dentistry and who you are.
Authenticity comes from knowing yourself, accepting your imperfections, and discovering your purpose in life. This is where it all comes together. Never lose sight of your “why” and the things that matter to you!
The Case for Authenticity
Of course, being authentic doesn't mean you’re baring your soul all the time. Nobody could keep that up and still get their job done!
Being authentic is about knowing what’s important to you and integrating those values into your practice so you can experience greater satisfaction, more engagement, and stronger relationships with the people you see every day.