3 Ways to Unlock Your Authenticity

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Photo credit: iStockphoto.com/portfolio/DamirCudic

On the night of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the Peabody Award-winning journalist Mariana Atencio had her colorful dress ready to go. Then the phone rang. It was her manager with a message: “Don’t look too Latina.” So, she went to Saks Fifth Avenue and chose a more somber black-and-white dress. 

Then, a few months later, someone suggested she not wear her particular shade of red lipstick. And this time, she was prepared. She said: “If what you have to say has nothing to do with my editorial or my reporting, I would kindly ask you to refrain from telling me these kinds of comments in the future.”

And the next time she was invited to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, she wore a bright orange dress, big jewelry, and big hair. “I was proud to look and feel very Latina because I ultimately wanted to represent my community.”

She also learned an important lesson. “At that moment,” she recalls, “I tapped into what I call the power of being real, and my purpose came to light because I was walking in my own skin.”

Since then, the former NBC national correspondent and Univision anchor has been on a mission to persuade women to claim their authenticity. Here are some insights she shared with the Conferences for Women:

Express your opinions and your authenticity

“That means avoiding saying ‘I’m sorry’  and ‘just’ as in: ‘I’m sorry, I’m no expert, but I just think …’ When expressing yourself, do so directly. Remind yourself you’re entitled to your opinions and share them respectfully. And be prepared.” 

Do not minimize what makes you different

“It is the biggest source of your power. Don’t worry about what other people think. Ditch the so-called fear of other people’s opinions or FOPO.”

Embrace the “CONTROL” formula

  • Clarity. “Acknowledge what and who takes control from you, and what and who gives control to you. When I did this, I realized that my former supervisor had taken control of me. Habits like working out, affirmations, eating healthy, those were all in the Give Control to Me column.”
  • Outlook. “What is your vision for yourself? What factors do you give importance to? Some women give importance to external factors and others to internal factors. Some women tell me, ‘Mariana, I’ve been so lucky. People have connected me.’ Only giving importance to things outside of themselves. So, I want you to consider what you bring to the table.”
  • Network. “Who are you surrounding yourself with? Cancel your subscription to other people’s drama and negativity. It takes a lot of bravery to recognize that you may be in a negative circle at work, in a negative environment with your friends where you may be having lunch, and all you hear is gossip and destructive things about other people. Surround yourself with a grateful, inspirational, and proactive network of people. And also, I want you to keep that network warm. Don’t let it cool. Cultivate your contacts. And don’t call them just when you need something.”
  • Time. “It’s the most valuable commodity we have. It’s our precious non-renewable resource. We know when we’re procrastinating. We know when we have spent too many hours watching a show on Netflix that adds no value to us or when we’re down the social media rabbit hole. A minute that goes by is a minute you won’t ever get back.”
  • Ritual. “Have a routine that allows you to be in control.”
  • Order. “Organize your house, your closet, your bathroom. Organize your ideas and prioritize what you want. ‘Something’s got to give,’ as the saying goes. So, what is your number one priority for you?”
  • Love. “Love yourself, love your body, love your journey. Everything you have gone through, good or bad, it made you who you are today. And that’s the person that will move forward — not the one that you fantasize about or the one that you post for others to see, but the real you.”

Mariana Atencio

Mariana Atencio is a TEDx speaker and author of the memoir, Perfectly You. She spoke at the 2020 Massachusetts Conference for Women. This article is based on her talk.