An introduction to Free to be yourself

We all have a desire to be authentic and many of us find authenticity through our work. Freedom to be ourselves is a driver of happiness and motivation. It also protects against mental exhaustion, freeing up energy for other things.

8 Freedom to be yourself

Why it’s important

Wellbeing research has shown there are important psychological benefits that flow from living authentically. Our own research has found that ‘freedom to be yourself’ is a top five driver of happiness at work, suggesting it’s important for our wellbeing to align who we are with what we do.

Authentic leadership has become a gold standard in many companies because of studies showing those who bring their whole selves to work are less depleted mentally, less stressed and more engaged. Organizational cultures that promote openness and acceptance enable people to be themselves, and when this happens people show greater creativity, cognitive flexibility, and problem solving. We can probably all remember a time when hiding part of ourselves or putting on a front has left us feeling psychologically drained.

The desire for uniqueness sits in tension with our desire to belong. To thrive, we need to be ourselves within a set of relationships which are mutually caring and supportive. The benefits of striking this balance are clear. When managers support the autonomy of their team members, employees trust in senior management more and they feel more positive about work.

What one of our experts says

“The links between wellbeing, work and authenticity is a fascinating research area. It is striking how much personal identities form around the work we do. I saw this when I worked with agriculturalists and pastoralists fearing whole shifts in their livelihoods due to climate change and I see it with the clients we work with at Friday. When work is an opportunity to live out the values, rituals and activities that give meaning to us, it’s an amazing source of psychological wellbeing, which extends way beyond a straightforward exchange of labor for income.” Dr Jody Aked, Friday

How we measure it

To measure freedom to be yourself, we ask:

Do you feel free to be yourself at work?

The wording of this question focuses on whether people feel able to express themselves and their personality. If we have to play a “role” at work it can be very stressful and many occupational psychologists call it “emotional labour”.

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