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Monday, February 1, 2016

What it means to "just be yourself" in competition...

If you have ever competed, I'm sure you have heard somewhere along the line to "just be yourself". Personally, this line is a bit of hogwash because as great as you are, when competing against someone who is exceptionally polished, you may not compare.

So what does this mean? The idea of just being yourself, to me, is all about being the BEST version of yourself. Polished, humorous, refined, intelligent...whatever. Here it comes (I may get some backlash for this one, but...): in competition, you are an actress. You are playing the role of "the best version of you". Now, when I say this, I mean that you are not your everyday you...where you may use slang, wear that third piercing, or rock those jeans. Instead, you must be the best version of yourself...just as if you were going into an interview for a job or a college. So I want us to stop thinking about just being ourselves and instead, start thinking about being the BEST version of ourselves.

In the business world, you'll hear about this again: the idea of being authentic. Hey, you may have heard of in pageants too: "don't be a Pageant Patty" or "you sound rehearsed". You must be authentic at all times; this means that you must be genuine, real, and self-aware. You should know your strengths and your weaknesses.

Inauthenticity is when you put on a mask; it is a kind of pretending that does more harm than good. For example, maybe you chose to do something that you knew made you uncomfortable or compromised your values. This may be followed up with feelings of self-consciousness or deception. And trust that you never want to feel that way after your interview or pageant competitions. Many judges will be able to see right through your mask; stop wearing a mask and instead, be the best authentic version of yourself!

So, how do you maintain authenticity? Here's my THREE steps to being more authentic in competition:

1. Be exceptionally self-aware.
This means that you should know your strengths and your weaknesses. You should know what you value and what is important to you. And you should be able to speak about these things with confidence.

Suggestion: create flashcards with main topics. When you have a few moments, flash through those cards and give a brief speech about topic. 30-45 seconds will do. For example, if the card says, "Education", you should be able to speak off the cuff about your education (highlights, favorite classes, best experiences, awards won etc). Be sure to record yourself so you know where you sounded shaky or unsure...then go back and try again. By becoming more comfortable with your main topics, you can ensure that you'll know your main points and be able to speak freshly but concisely. And by recording yourself, you will know what to eliminate and what to keep.

2. Notice when you are being inauthentic in life.
Did you lie to your friend about your thoughts on her new hair cut? Did you lie about why your homework was incomplete? Take notice where you are not being honest and real and try to turn things around!

Suggestion: make a list of "if you really knew me, you would know". On the other side of the paper, list "what people think they know about me". Then strive to turn all of your negatives into positives. Be aware of where you could use improvements though - sometimes being authentic is about being humble too!

3.  Highlight your strengths.
You know what you are good at, now can you talk about it? Can you back it up? Some people think that bragging is not good in interview...well, your entire life cannot be summed up in a minute (i.e. NAM or IJM) or 3 minutes (USA Ambassador or United States) or even 9 minutes and 30 seconds (Miss America), so take the time to make sure everything you are saying is of value and that it can sell you. If you cannot provide a good enough story for your strength or talent or ability, it probably should not be listed or said in interview. By eliminating what is not important and by highlighting what is most important, you will be able to understand why particular things are important to you and you will be able to best sell them in interview.

Suggestion: make a list of your strengths, talents, and abilities. You can also list honors, awards, etc. Make a list of your awesomeness...then create flashcards for each (or a list). On the other side of the card, write two or three bullets of explanation. If "it" can be explained easily, it is authentic and real. If you are struggling with it, you'll know that it probably is not the most important topic or the most worthy of slipping into your interview. Once you identify what is most important, you will know why it is important, and how to utilize it in your interview.

People who are authentic or real do NOT:

  • fake their feelings (but instead explain why they feel a certain way),
  • speak for the approval of everyone (but instead diplomatically and with sincerity),
  • compare their journey to anyone else's (they instead realize that their unique journey helps them stand out)
  • lie or pretend to be something they are not (they recognize what makes them amazing and play to their strengths and their awesomeness)
  • dwell on the past (they instead learn from their mistakes and utilize the lessons for the future),
  • blame others for their weaknesses or get jealous over the success of others (but instead support others and realize that their success is just more proof that you can succeed too),
  • hang with toxic people (but instead, understand that birds of a feather, flock together and that positivity is contagious),
  • act out of a closed-mind nature (but instead welcome the opinions of others so that they can make more well-informed statements and decisions in the future)

So the next time you step into competition, don't just be yourself, be the BEST version of yourself! <3

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