Want to grab more clients or get a promotion? Sure you do. Start by unleashing the real you.

If you’re wondering how you can alter your workplace behavior to thrive in the New Year — Kiss up to the boss? Lay low? Aggressively jockey for position? — I have some surprising (and comforting) advice for you. Be yourself.

This is the year to quit hiding your differences and start embracing them. It’s the ones who are unforgettable and indispensible that get ahead. Blend in too well and you could seem expendable. 

If you’re entering the New Year holding your breath, it’s time to exhale. To move up, you have to let go.

Here are five ways to fearlessly get ahead in 2012 (without being a ruthless ass or a pathetic workaholic).

1. Let go of your fears.

Think about the toll your fears took on you last year. What did they keep you from achieving? Did a colleague get a promotion instead of you because you were afraid to put yourself in the hot seat? Did you lose a client because you didn’t speak up when you knew they were going down the wrong path? Did you fail to increase your business because you played down your ambition and assertiveness? Make this the year to take credit for your work and accomplishments and fearlessly negotiate compensation.

2. Unleash the marketable parts of your personality.

I hear all the time from top executives that their employees are not bringing new ideas to the table. They’ve gotten comfortable and have lost their desire to innovate. Comfort is the blinking yellow light we often drive right through. If you are highly creative or a great problem solver make sure you really make these traits work for you. Don’t just come to work every day, head for your office, and play it safe.

3. Pick a boundary. Resolve to push it this year.

If you’ve been hiding a part of yourself just to fit in—whether it’s your flair for the dramatic, your offbeat sense of humor, or your uncanny ability to get people to open up to you—you should take a hard look at what you’re giving up to fit into the accepted mold and make 2012 the year you break out of it. Sure it may seem scary to make bold moves, but leaders appreciate any innovation that will get business moving right now.

4. Speak the language of benefits.

Last week I was in a brainstorming meeting with clients. One of the managers was trying to get his point across, but no one was relating. He turned beet red and said, “None of you are listening to me!” How could we? Only he knew what he was talking about. It doesn’t matter how clever your ideas are if those in power don’t “get” what you want to do. It’s your job to find a common language that resonates with them. You have to explain with visual words and concrete examples how your idea will benefit the business.

5. Go for the BIG SCARY IDEA that will make you different. Stretch yourself.

If you handle your career like one of those reality show contestants who go under the radar to stay in the game longer — eventually you’ll get kicked off the island. You have to be the one who’s playing to win. To do this, keep growing, stretching, and reinventing yourself.

This is the year to do something that’s truly scary and utterly cool. Become fearless by setting your intention each day and finding something that brings you back to what’s positively different about you.

Get a promotion by being you. Once you embrace your authenticity, you’ll be amazed at where it can take you.