Personal growth

Show your personality

Show your personality

Yesterday was my birthday. I just turned 34, landing me on the soft side of the “mid-30s”. I’ve always had a hard time with birthdays because in my head I have that feeling of “I’m going to be young forever.” But aches, pains, and hangovers are beginning to tell me otherwise.

When I turned 30, I had someone tell me that your 30’s are much more fulfilling than your 20’s. I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but 4 years into it, I’m starting to understand what he meant. When I was in my 20’s, believe it or not, I was very shy. I fully identified as an introvert and wouldn’t give you an opinion unless I was specifically asked for it.

I didn’t know much about myself, and I would constantly watch others to see what they did and how they reacted to things. I was learning.

In my 30’s, with my kids starting to walk, talk, and go to school, plus a few nudges from some enablers, I stopped watching all the time. I knew what I liked and to be honest, I cared a lot less about what other people thought. Sounds like a harsh statement, but hear me out.

Once I fully realized the things that made me happy, I wanted to do those things. All the time.

Before, I would be nervous about being judged or ridiculed and back off doing some of the things that made me happy because I cared too much about what other people thought of me. I’d act reserved or not do something because I didn’t want to stand out at the risk of being embarrassed. Now though, I do it anyway and try to get other people to have some fun with me because it doesn’t matter.

A person passing you in the grocery store might hear you singing along to your favorite song that just came on over the speakers. Sing it! It doesn’t matter if they laugh at you! You know what? You probably just brightened their day.

I like making people laugh. That’s one of my strongest personality traits. For too long, I’ve held that back to just my friends and family because I was too shy to do it to strangers. But something about being in my 30’s changed my outlook on life. I know what I like, and by golly I’m gonna do it.

How things changed by showing some personality

In addition to becoming more and more extroverted as I got older, other aspects of my life changed considerably as well. From how I produced content to who I was hanging out with, leaning into your personality has a huge ripple effect.

Content creation

The first time I ever published a blog post, I almost threw up with anxiety. The imposter syndrome was fierce. I wrote an article about the way I ran Scrum retrospectives for my team. I had come up with a way to get the other introverted developers on my team to talk and I was excited to share that with world.

But I was so nervous.

Classic imposter syndrome hit me like a bag of doorknobs. “Why should people listen to you?” “There are tons of articles on retrospectives out there, the world doesn’t need another one.” “Nobody is going to read this, it’s just by some random dev.”

But whether I knew it or not, I wrote something unique. Something with my personality embedded directly in it. Even if someone had written about my exact topic before, they didn’t write it the way I did - because I showed my personality.

It was something I didn’t know I was doing at first, then something I intentionally did and was extremely nervous about. The first time I ever wrote an opinion piece I remember telling my wife at the dinner table, “we’re about to see how the community views my opinion.” I was intimidated, to say the least, because it was very bluntly showing my opinions and personality.

Turns out it was received really well. As was the next opinion piece I wrote. And the next one. And the next one. With each post, my confidence went up as did my understanding of what I liked.

This led to my passion for content creation. I took a big leap of faith to leave enterprise architecture and become a developer advocate. I’m thankful every day for that decision. But if I hadn’t started showing my personality and begun to build a portfolio of blog posts, newsletters, podcast episodes, and conference talks, I wouldn’t have been qualified to make a move.

Now, I’ve discovered that personal touches make all the difference. I moved from generic vector graphics to expressive pictures of my face for blog post header images. I switched from generated text-to-speech to recording myself read my blog posts. I try to throw as much of myself into everything I create - not just for fun, but to show that there’s a person behind the content, not some random LLM.

So many friends!

It’s good to be different. People feel connected to other people they feel are genuine. I show lots of emotion and make strong claims in the content I create, and as a result I’ve had lots of people reach out to me for help, to meet up for coffee, or challenge my opinion. I take every chance I get to take someone up on offers like this.

I recently released an episode on my podcast about the value of meeting in person, where I have a discussion with my guest about the tremendous value of networking. Making friends and building connections not only helps you professionally, but personally as well.

I have friends all over the world that I try to visit any time I travel. Not to talk tech, but to chat, experience their culture, and build stronger friendships. If I hadn’t shown my personality and started with trust-building in my content, I’d have a completely different experience when travelling - usually a much less fulfilling one!

Fun observation - because I share so much, many of my new-found friendships have been accelerated! People feel like they know me already when we meet in person, which is a fun and surreal feeling to say the least 😅

Growing into it

Showing your personality is all about comfort. Are you comfortable showing who you are to the “open internet?” Now, you don’t have to go and tell your deepest darkest secrets, but throwing a little bit of your flair into the mix when writing or recording a video is absolutely the way to get started. Tell a joke! Share a personal story. Throw in something that makes you uniquely you.

Over time your comfort will grow. Like I said earlier, I like making people laugh. I started by telling funny little anecdotes in my blogs. Now I dress up like a farmer and post stuff like this on social media.

But it was a journey to get here. A combination of age, confidence, and lots of practice have all led to how I create content and interact with people on social media. And let me tell you, I’m having a blast.

Start with what you’re comfortable with, it doesn’t have to be much. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably already showing your personality in whatever you’re creating and you might not realize it. People like opinions and it’s totally ok if they don’t agree with yours. I often talk about diversity of thought, which is just another way to say getting a bunch of other opinions before you do something. Hearing the opinions of others and considering them in your decision makes you more balanced and generally leaves you with a more complete view of something.

So be funny. Or witty. Or terse. The point is to be you. You don’t need to spend effort to abstract away your personality from the content you create. Share it! Over time, you’ll really pick up on what you like and you’ll want to do it more and more. And that’s why we’re all here anyway, isn’t it?

Happy coding!

Allen Helton

About Allen

Allen is an AWS Serverless Hero passionate about educating others about the cloud, serverless, and APIs. He is the host of the Ready, Set, Cloud podcast and creator of this website. More about Allen.

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