I am sure you have heard this before “it’s important that you fit in.” Whether at work or on social circles, “fitting in” and being accepted seems to be the golden carrot. Yet we hear conflicting messages all the time! The current voices in diversity, inclusion and equity are shouting from the rooftops “be your authentic self!” And yet, you still hear whispers that maybe you are too boisterous, too direct, too quiet, too emotional, too much of “you” and not enough of someone that “fits into the culture” or better yet “represents the shared values of the organization.”
Let’s get some things clear:
1) You do not have to pretend be anyone else: What happens when you are not your most authentic self? You build anger and resentment against yourself and others. It builds over time. It affects your relationships and eventually you start compartmentalizing who you are. You at work is a completely different person than you at home or with friends. Frankly this can happen if you feel you need to be different people in order to fit into your different life circles. Be careful……it can cost you a lot.
2) Not being yourself is like holding your breath: You may be able to hold your breath for a long time but you cannot do it forever. When you take a breath again you are taking it in gulps. Not being yourself requires you to be extra of who you are in other places, occasions or alone so you can bring your spirit to homeostasis. Think about it. You may be exhaling when you leave work and then what are you doing? Anything in excess? More emotional than usual? Just saying……….You need to take big gulps after holding your breath for so long.
3) Others will judge you: When you are yourself fully, others may be uncomfortable. I am proposing to you that this discomfort arises from those individuals not feeling the freedom to truly be themselves and when confronted with someone that is, it may bring up the emotions listed in #1 of this list. So have a little compassion BUT do not cave to conform to make them feel better. Instead show them how it’s done. By the way, you are not everyone’s cup of tea. That’s fine. Your job is to find your tribe, not pretend to fit in.
4) You can lose yourself: This is probably the saddest part about this. You do this long enough it starts changing what you think are your wants and needs are. You change your behaviors enough that you may not recognize yourself. I equate it to conforming to an abusive relationship. You may have seen it, or experienced it yourself. That nervous breakdown, panic attack deep depression are all a physical manifestation of your inner self rejecting the path you are on. I know, I have been there. When you brave up and exit, its risky, and you may need help to find your way back to who you truly are. You will need to learn to love yourself again and trust your instincts. Make sure that if this is where you are that you know that you are not alone and that there is a ton of help out there to help you move forward.
Let’s make a new year’s resolution together. Put yourself first. Yes I said it. YOU come first. You are no good to your friends, family, team or co-workers if you are not your whole self. You do not need to hold your breath to fit in. If you feel like you need to hold your breath then look at the environment you are in. It may be toxic. So get out there and take on 2021 with a new lease on life. Be yourself. The world needs you.