Over the years, one really common phrase I’ve heard from women is: “I wish I could be more of my authentic self at work.”
A lot of them find themselves on a spiritual and personal growth journey, and long to bring their passion for the same into their work, but have created work personas that they believe are incongruent with that.
My best piece of advice is to start small.
Start by inquiring with your coworkers about themselves in a deeper way. Ask them about what they did on their weekend and get curious about any of the activities they named.
From there, you might feel more comfortable openly share about what you did over the weekend, which maybe involved some time reading a book you are feeling inspired by, going to a soundbath or whatever else.
Find pockets and people at work that feel safe for you to reveal more of yourself to, and slowly, you will feel more comfortable being your authentic self in all areas of your work too.
We need people being their authentic selves.
When we are not being true to ourselves, or expressing ourselves authentically, we are keeping ourselves caged.
Sure, this works out okay for a little bit, but eventually…you will notice your energy drain and you’ll see the sparkle in yourself fade away.
Other Ways to Start to be more open and authentic at work
Ask yourself: what am I afraid would happen if I shared more of who I was at work?
Are you afraid people would think that you are stupid? That you aren’t competent?
There are so many stories the ego tells us about why we can’t be our true, full selves, and they are all primarily bullshit.
You might say “seriously though Catie – I actually can’t. I am so weird and quirky and my job requires me to be serious and dependable.”
To that I would say: “is that the job you really want to be in then?”
I just think that over time, if you are in a role that requires you to be something that you are not, you will deplete your passion and life force so much that it isn’t even worth it.
You will get burnt out. Tired. Overwhelmed. You know the jist.
So it’s good to question whether it’s healthy for you to actually stay in a place that you know is leading you to burn out, where eventually you might be required to take a bunch of time off.
You might reframe your mindset with statement like: “Everyone benefits the more I am authentically me. It’s safe for me to be myself.”
How This Came up For Me
When I first started in law, I was told to…not be myself.
Not actually by anyone who worked in my firm, but from other female mentors and others close to me.
I was told to wear glasses, no make-up, and wear clothes that were a bit big. I was told to stay quiet, prove myself, and keep a low profile. In other words, I was told to stay small and to not be so “me.”
I was told that this was in my best interests, but I honestly couldn’t imagine going into work each day and not dressing, feeling, and acting like myself.
Before law, I had only been a camp counselor and a bartender – both jobs which encourage you, and allow you to succeed even more at, when you are your authentic self.
So when I started out my first year as a lawyer, I decided…F it. I’m just going to be myself because that’s the type of lawyer I wanted to be.
That was easier said that done. I definitely did not do that.
I spent my first two months at work trying to keep a low profile and doing good work to prove myself. I stayed small and quiet, just as I had been advised.
It felt hard though. It felt like I was fitting myself into a box that didn’t feel like me, and it was making me feel stifled. I wanted to be more of my true self at work, but was struggling with it because I was new to my firm and also new to the profession.
I was already feeling burnt out and I was only 2 months in. I knew keeping myself small and out of alignment like this could only last for so long, and I couldn’t imagine spending my career that way.
Enter…the Disney Princess Contest
Toronto was hosting a Disney Princess contest.
I caught wind of the contest because I love Disney and a bunch of people forwarded me the article about it. I dismissed it until I saw that the prize was that you would get these insane bedazzled shoes from Christian Louboutin if you won, plus you would be able to go to a fancy movie premiere of…Cinderella, and some other awesome prizes.
To add to it, there were only 20 of this shoe in the world, so they were really special! They also were gorgeous (see below!).
And!!! Your feet had to be size 37.5…which mine were!
Keep in mind that during this time in my life, I was still very much “into” the fairy tale of relationships adn weddings that we are sold. I later had to unravel that one, but at the time, my first thought was honestly “OMG I CAN WEAR THEM TO MY WEDDING!!!”
In order to enter, you had to share a story of how, like Cinderella, you had to work hard to get where you are.
I penned a whole story about how I was finally a lawyer after all the years of study and hard work it takes to get there. I now had my dream job, and was proud of myself for making it through.
I was happy to hear that I made the finalists – although, to be fair, how many people really decided to apply for this thing?
As part of being a finalist, they needed to confirm that you were, in fact, a size 37.5 and that the shoes would fit.
They called me to arrange a time for me to have a shoe fitting, but because I was busy and working, the best option was for them to come to my office building to do it.
I imagined I would just sneak downstairs to the building lobby where no one would see me, but the event people could only come at lunchtime.
So, there I was, in the busy lobby of my building filled with so many other lawyers and my colleagues upstairs, with this whole group of people from the event around me making sure the shoes fit.
The was…until one of the partners and another associate from my firm came in.
“Catie…what are you doing?”
“Oh umm….I’ll tell you upstairs after!!!”
At this point I realized that there was no going back. The crack in the box I had tried to put myself had been fractured.
I decided in that moment that I needed to recommit to just being myself at work. I was going to own that I was the type of person who entered Disney Princess contests for the shoes and for fun, and that it wouldn’t take away from how good I was as a lawyer.
It helped me get over my fear of being seen for the quirkiness of who I am, and to just own it instead.
I just made the commitment from that day on that if I was going to survive in the profession, I needed to just be myself.
I also motivated myself with this because I didn’t often see women like me in law, or women that I related to, and I wanted to model for other female lawyers that you could be sharp, smart, and successful…and also goofy, playful, fun, and into wearing chic skirt-suits and makeup.
And honestly – it worked. All I needed to do was just commit to what reality I was going to play in…
The possibility that I could be an incredible lawyer and well-respected in the profession, or the possibility that in order to be well-respected and a good lawyer, I had to not be so “me.”
I was really, truly happy as a lawyer, and I think one of the biggest reasons for that was that I felt comfortable being my authentic self at work (except for court…that always made me crawl back into the box. Sigh).
I hope this story gives you some confidence today to start to tap into a new reality for yourself.
Write it out: “The possibility I’m creating for myself is that I can be myself and still thrive at work.”