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.
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.