A few weeks ago I was on a train in Morocco. My close friend and colleague turned to me and said, “Hey I think we should be careful about what we show to the corporate workplace here, even on social media…”
I believe in listening fully to the person I’m talking to — in surrendering my thoughts, philosophies, and even what may seem like wisdom, to the other person’s thoughts, philosophies, and potential wisdom. We all have wisdom inside of us.
As much as I wanted to scream and immediately tell him he was wrong, I allowed myself to listen.
He told me a story of a friend who was immediately ostracized from a recent event he attended. My friend was speaking and facilitating, and this other man, who I had heard very good things about, came with him in support — and had helped to plan the entire event behind the scenes. But, because he had a more “rugged” look, the big names at the event began to talk behind his back. There were concerns of losing sponsorships and supporters, just because this man — a man who is apparently full of wisdom and insight that could have supported attendees — was present.
The saddest part of this moment on the train for me was noticing who was telling me this story.
This very friend who was holding onto such fear that he would be ostracized in the workplace, is someone who also preaches vulnerability in leadership.
In order to have vulnerability, we must begin with authenticity. Even though this work comes from a place of deep knowing, if we don’t know
In order to have vulnerability, we must begin with authenticity. Even though this work comes from a place of deep knowing, if we don’t know how to do the deep work, it can take us decades to find our way out of the trap that is our fear.
I get the fear. Because I used to be that person — all the time, in fact.
In my early twenties, I remember being pulled aside by my boss. I had already proven myself in the non-profit world and was baffled to discover that administration had decided I couldn’t wear a certain type of clothing — a type of pants that, though in style at the time, I had only pulled reluctantly out of my closet, because they felt too conservative for me to feel authentic in. Ten minutes after I walked out of my boss’ office, I spotted a colleague wearing the exact same pants… which she continued to wear frequently.
But since that incident at 23, I’ve had 15 years to study the phenomena of not being able to be oneself in the workplace more closely. And what I’ve discovered has turned the common perception upside down.
About two years after the pants incident, I was teaching high school (yes, I had a talent for changing careers quickly before I became an entrepreneur — even when the new career involved getting yet another degree). I had a rowdy classroom in my 3rd period class. Though I’d never taken to the typical “classroom management” protocol most teachers religiously followed (I didn’t have to because I treated my students like human beings), I thought I would try it with this group — starting with how I presented myself. I walked into the classroom wearing a conservative outfit from the back of my closet, one I never wore because it was too stuffy for my taste. I turned around to write something on the board and heard a shout, “Miss! Who do you think you are?!” Baffled, I turned around, and all 40 kids proceeded to explain how what I was wearing was not “me” and they couldn’t pay attention if they knew I wasn’t being myself.
Out of the mouths of babes… or, 15-year-olds, at least.
From that moment on, I made a vow to be myself, and only myself, in the workplace. And here’s what I discovered.
1) We only ever get fired if we’re supposed to.
We’re already clear that fear is the thing that holds us back from being ourselves, yes? Well, what are we fearing? Though, ultimately, we fear not being loved more than we do not having a roof over our head, the fear of getting fired (or losing business) and, therefore, not having said roof over our heads, usually sits in the forefront of our minds when we think about being ourselves in the workplace.
What I’ve found, however, through working with hundreds of clients who have stood in their path to authenticity, is that when we’re doing work we truly love — work we’re intended to do — we will always grow in our career when we grow within ourselves. If ever being ourselves causes us to lose our jobs or that client we had our eyes set on, it’s because that job or client wasn’t right for us. And when this happens on our journey to true authenticity, the doors are instantly opened to something that is far more aligned for us. Being authentic can only ever cause you to lose the job that you thought was keeping you safe but was actually keeping you small and hidden from the opportunity that will truly have you feeling far safer (because now you can be yourself and make money).
2) Authenticity closes far more business deals than it loses.
Ever since I started honoring and trusting myself and my preferred way of being in the business world, there has been a shift. In my eleven years as an entrepreneur, countless clients, even mentors, have approached me stating that they chose me because of my ability to be myself.
I have a client who is a badass at closing large amounts of money for non-profits. For years, she thought it was in spite of her purple hair and deeply authentic way of being that she could close millions upon millions upon millions. Now, she truly gets that it’s an asset, and the more she owns this, the more powerful she’s becoming. (OMG I love my work!)
3) We humans are really good at making our fears come true.
All of the stuff we fear happening in the workplace will only happen when we cling to our own fear and believe it. Our psyches are constantly looking for ways to prove to us that the world is a certain way. Our fears only come true because of this phenomena. But it’s a phenomena that we have absolute power to shift.
By doing the deep work, we find our way through our fears and out to the other side where they don’t control us. In that world, the things we’ve feared stop coming true. And that’s where the world we always dreamt of as little kids starts becoming real.
4) The only reason the corporate world persists this way is because we all allow it.
For most of us, the little kid inside of us that knew fervently that it didn’t have to be this way gave up long ago. Most adults now don’t see that this world they have given in to “just being this way” was also created by them.
When we don’t stand up for what we know is right, we continue to create what we know isn’t.
Standing up for what’s right doesn’t have to mean making a scene or protesting. It means allowing the veil of perception to lift and broaden. The only reason that things are a certain way is because we have given into perceiving them to be that way. When we allow ourselves to re-open our perception to things being a different way, they become that way instead.
5) Loneliness and isolation are self-created.
When no one gets on the dance floor, we can’t see that almost everyone loves to dance (and even those who don’t, still enjoy watching). For each person who feels alone in the corporate world because they can’t be themselves, there are others in their workplace who are just like them — each individual just waiting for someone else to step up and be authentic enough to free them, too. And for each of us that steps up as a leader in our authenticity, we portray something that shows others they are just like us, or, at bare minimum, shows them they are not alone in wanting to be themselves, too.
Are you ready to get on the dance floor with us?