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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

Truth: You Have to Embrace Your Real Self if You Want to Be Happy in Your Career

Hank Azaria commencement speech

Addressing the Tufts class of 2016, Hank Azaria, perhaps best known for his role voicing many popular Simpsons’ characters (including Moe, Chief Wiggum, and Apu), cracked some jokes and adopted some familiar voices. But in the midst of the silliness, he had some real and remarkable advice to offer.

He admits that when he was starting out, he believed that who he was, how he thought, and how he felt was inherently uninteresting, flawed, and not practical. He says maybe that’s still the case—he doesn’t suggest that he’s perfect—but he’s clear on not letting the self-doubts get in the way of his current trajectory.

Somewhere along the way, he learned not to care about his flaws. Somewhere along his professional pursuit to become an actor, he stopped fixating on all that was wrong with him and started going with who he knew himself to be. He explains that it wasn’t “until I embraced the person that I really was that my work as an actor became really interesting.”

It’s such a simple lesson, but it’s loaded with truth. If you embrace who you are, you’re far more likely to go after what’s true to your person. You’re less likely to take a job because it’s one your parents think you should take or because it comes with a prestigious title, if it’s not really what you want or where you wish to be. In spite of a lucrative salary or a perk-filled role, if the work isn’t enabling you to really be you, what kind of success or fulfillment will you discover? Probably none that matters to you deep down.

He advises people to “Just please be honest with yourself.” (Yet, he doesn’t go as far as to suggest that you do it at the expense of your peers or the environment. So no, he doesn’t advocate for breaking the law or going against the rules of society to achieve one’s dream.)

The way to go after your dream job, he says, is to follow your instincts. It’s paying attention to those inner workings—“What you think, how you feel, what you dislike, what angers you or scares you or saddens you, or inspires you, or delights you”—and not ignoring who you are, regardless of how imperfect that person is. Although Azaria doesn’t use the words imposter syndrome, it’s feels fairly obvious that he’s speaking out against the damaging effects of this very real phenomenon. Resist the doubt derived from feeling inadequate, and instead, choose to believe that you are good enough, no matter how inherently flawed you may be.

Not all of life is going to be enjoyable, the actor says knowingly, but if you do what you can to listen to that inner voice within you, both your professional and personal life are probably going to be a lot better because of it.