Dear Debbie: How Do I Tell if I’m Improving Myself at Work or Diluting My Best Qualities?

UPDATED: September 28, 2023
PUBLISHED: October 3, 2023
Debbie Biery, a white woman with shoulder length blond hair, red lipstick, and a blue floral shirt, smiling to represent her CEO mindset

Q: Dear Debbie: In the workplace, how do I know if I’m improving myself for the better or just watering down my most unique qualities?

A: You are one of a kind. Your unique mix of traits and strengths and even weaknesses isn’t replicated in any other human alive. That is amazing.

Many of us know what it feels like to be in a tight-knit group where we can communicate totally unfiltered and unedited. We also all know what it feels like to experience the opposite: to be on guard, cautious and even judged. Sometimes, that happens in the workplace when we’re trying to fit into an existing culture or connect with our new coworkers.

It can be confusing to be this aware of ourselves. Are there places and contexts in which you can show up as your true self—and others in which you shouldn’t? This can be especially difficult for people of color and other underrepresented groups, according to Globis Insights. Which category should work fall into? And, as was asked, how do you know if you’re improving yourself or just watering down your most unique qualities?

Self-improvement in the workplace

When it comes to the workplace, I believe the answer is here: Your ability to become a better leader and colleague stems from your willingness to reflect on how your actions and behaviors affect others. To me, growth means continuously improving yourself—including your soft skills. 

For example, tailoring, say, your cellphone etiquette in an executive meeting perhaps isn’t a case of censoring your true self; instead, it’s an example of reading the room and adapting to the situation. These are things all leaders must do.

This constant growth takes time and practice. It can be day by day or even minute by minute. But fear not. As you understand yourself, your behavior and your role at work, you will come to know and understand your colleagues as well. You might even think more considerately about how they do business and why they operate in a certain way.

This effort to be aware of others, while understanding your role, will reveal whether or not you are watering down your personality or actually improving yourself for the better at work. Look back on the situations that have confused you and consider: Did your actions and behaviors affect others?

Self-improvement starts with self-awareness at work

Right now, this all starts with you. But being aware of yourself and others quickly translates outward. You might be the one to create a ripple effect in the workplace. Awareness of yourself and others might lead to a team that respects each other’s roles and trusts each other’s decisions. 

Over time, perhaps that environment will allow everyone to get to know each other a little better. In my experience, this is where barriers get broken down. This is how growth and self-improvement at work happens. And this is why we can all improve, even if we’re one of a kind.

This article originally appeared in the September/October 2023 issue of SUCCESS magazine. Photo courtesy of Debbie Biery. 

Debbie Biery

With more than 20 years of experience in the real estate industry and a certified life coach, Debbie Biery is a firm believer in the power of communication, authenticity and self-awareness. She combines that experience with a desire to serve others and empower them to be the best version of themselves by helping them embrace failure and choose each moment as an opportunity for change and growth.