People crave authenticity. We may appropriately adapt to different situations and environments, but we feel most comfortable when we can be our unique selves. It can be hard to reveal our inner selves, though, especially with the prevalence of faux realities on social media platforms like Instagram.

Most users realize that Instagram is the equivalent of a popularity contest, encouraging users to share only the most picturesque parts of their lives. Because of this, the Facebook-owned platform is testing the removal of likes from user accounts to encourage honesty and authenticity.

We need to adopt a similar test for our everyday lives. Like on social media, we want to put our best foot forward and avoid judgment. However, authenticity means carrying yourself with confidence and pride — no matter what.

Young professionals should seek to embrace vulnerability and overcome fears of rejection by differentiating themselves as unique, genuine individuals. If you’re driven to inspire others, then aim to stay true to yourself and your purpose. Start by finding and elevating your distinctive voice.

Defining a Clear, Unique Voice

It sounds simple: Live authentically and you’ll rise above the competition. However, embracing your identity comes with risks. Not everyone may appreciate your authentic nature, and that can cause friction. For someone who prefers the path of least resistance, standing out can seem intimidating and lonesome.

Yet letting go of self-perceptions is incredibly freeing, and it can lead others to advocate for you in ways you never imagined. When I first embarked on my journey to free my inner self, I had plenty of conversations with my leadership team members. Their advice? Stop fighting my true self and start embracing it.

Of course, I first had to identify who I was and bring that to the forefront. By examining my professional experiences, I realized that embracing authenticity for me meant being honest, clear, and truthful — even when employees and co-workers didn’t want to be pushed by my high expectations.

At the end of the day, my overall goal is to feel like I can say, “I would do the past 24 hours the same way again.” Not everyone appreciates this level of intensity. When I first started my career in London, I had a tough time fitting in initially because my mantra wasn’t always understood or valued by team members. Regardless, I forged ahead, believing that the wisest path to leadership success was to share my unvarnished core identity.

Testing Your Real-World Authenticity

Do you find yourself worrying about what other people think of you? It’s time to stop thinking about how many “likes” your perspectives and personality have. Try these methods to unearth and share your authentic self on — and off — the job.

1. Remain self-aware.

For the next week, keep track of everything you say, feel, and do. Make a note when you feel uncomfortable interacting with others. Later, you can reflect on these moments and how they relate to your progress. Are you being drawn into someone else’s identity? When do you feel empowered to showcase your inner self?

Try not to judge your reactions. Instead, think about how you will react in future similar situations and brainstorm effective ways to raise your voice. You can’t predict how others will respond, but that’s OK. Your objective is to navigate your emotions and needs responsibly and respectfully, not to worry about making everyone else 100% comfortable.

2. Listen to the people around you.

All humans have deep-seated needs for connection. By intently listening to others, you can improve the authenticity of your interactions. Find out what makes them tick and honor their genuine character traits. After all, if you’re focused on authenticating yourself, you should celebrate other people’s uniqueness, too.

When talking to someone, concentrate on what’s being said and ask relevant follow-up questions. If a co-worker mentions a difficult project they’re working on, try asking them about their problem-solving process. By actively engaging, you show that you’re interested in the conversation at hand and them as a person.

Open communication leads to close relationships, and close relationships allow you to enjoy spaces where you can make mistakes without fear. The more comfortable you feel, the easier it will be to embrace your true self. Plus, you’ll notice personal growth when you can lean on peers for emotional support.

3. Recognize your imperfections.

Perfection is impossible to attain. The sooner you accept that fact, the faster you can achieve authenticity. Pretending to have all the answers isn’t the solution to genuineness. Instead of trying to be what you’re not, assess what you are — flaws included.

To acknowledge your imperfections, you should evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. Not all shortcomings should be ignored, but not all need to be overcome, either. For instance, should a public-speaking weakness be addressed, or is it an opportunity to partner with someone who excels at talking to crowds?

Too often, we focus on weaknesses rather than letting go of them and concentrating on our strengths. When you start seeing yourself for your effectiveness, your peers will also notice your newfound confidence.

A little authenticity leads to a more comfortable environment, closer relationships, and better performance. Everyone says they appreciate uniqueness and candor in the workplace, but those traits are rare because they’re tough to hone. You must persevere: Cultivating your inner self will reap immense benefits personally and professionally.