Bringing Your Whole Self

Lately my attention has been drawn to this concept of “bringing your whole self to work.”  It started, I think, with a particularly challenging day, at the end of which, I found myself frustrated with my not being “more professional.”  (The fact that I can’t even remember what exactly I did, likely means it wasn’t that big a deal.)  Probably 98% of the time, I behave myself at work.  I do what I’m supposed to do, I don’t rock the boat, and I lead my team in a way that makes me proud.

That particular day I might have let a curse word slip, or I might have complained about something.  I might have arrived a few minutes late or gotten angry.  I might have groaned when the phone rang or joined in on some gossip.  Whatever it was, later that night, I was down on myself for not being “more professional.”

This this voice came into my head and asked, “Is that your goal in life?  Really? To ‘be professional’?”  And I realized, no.  No, it’s not.

It’s NOT.

My goal in life is to be authentic.  And whatever “unprofessional” thing I felt I’d done that day was probably a pretty authentic response to whatever was happening in that moment.

Don’t get me wrong.  I can, and do, behave in appropriate ways, even when I don’t want to.  I do this all the time in a wide variety of situations.  I do it at work.  I do it in relationships.  I do it at the grocery store.  And you know what?  It’s stressful.

I wondered if a large portion of the stress I feel in life is caused by my acting I ways that go against what I truly think and feel and believe down deep inside.  In other words, being inauthentic.  Which then led me to ponder why I put myself in situations where I feel I can’t be authentic.  Maybe I need to consciously put myself in fewer situations that require me to behave in ways that aren’t true to myself.  Or…this is crazy…maybe I actually CAN be authentic in a lot of those situations.  What would happen if I was?

I might shock somebody.  I might express an unpopular opinion.  Someone might disagree with me.  There might be conflict, which I hate.  Worst case scenario…I could get fired, or lose a friendship.  I could end up broke and homeless and alone and destitute.

But would that truly happen?  Probably not.

Would I likely sleep better at night?  Would I feel the perpetual tension in my shoulders relax a little?  Would I find myself in more authentic, joyful relationships?  Would I feel my 40 hours plus spent at work each week was more valuable and honest and useful each week?  Maybe.

The day after I had this epiphany, I found a great quote in a magazine about the importance of being authentic at work, because “we bring our whole selves to work.”  I can’t find it now.

I tried to look it up, and wow, there are a lot of things on the internet about bringing one’s whole self to work!  There is a great TED talk by Mike Robbins.  There are a ton of references to Brene Brown’s work with vulnerability.  There’s a great article from The Huffington Post.  How am I just now thinking about this?

Anyway, I’m pondering the concept right now, this idea that maybe I need to cultivate relationships and situations in my life in which I feel safe being authentic.  Plus I know I need to work on just being more real more often, even if it doesn’t quite feel safe.  Because it’s probably safer than I think.

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