Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

Do you bring your whole self to work?

Many of us work in companies that promote bringing your whole self to work. A few of us have been part of teams within those companies that succeed in making it a reality. I’m lucky that I have.

Most of us work in organisations that don’t consider the individual. Where expectations are role-specific. And the idea of getting the most out of people by putting their wellbeing first is alien.

What does bringing your whole self to work mean?

It means you don’t waste energy being someone you’re not.

It’s acting, speaking and dressing in ways that are natural to you. Ways that make you comfortable. That make you, you.

It’s what frees your mind to do what you were chosen to do. And enjoy doing it.

You shouldn’t feel the pressure of expectations beyond what you’re there to do.

Knowing you, knowing you

Different versions of you step forward depending on the situation you’re in. Shifting how you act or how you look to suit the moment shows awareness. It shows respect for the task at hand and to those around you.

This is okay.

You’re different with different people. Your partner versus close friends. People you’ve just met versus close family. It doesn’t mean you aren’t being you.

You’re not selling out. You’re being human.

Not bringing your whole self to work is having to change or hide who you are.

You believe that’s your only option. So you fake it, to make it.

It’s not sustainable.

An unproductive seed

It doesn’t take much to stop being you. To prompt you to leave part of yourself at the door as you enter work.

I was given some feedback on how little I said during some conference calls.

I’d always taken a great deal of pride in my considered and thoughtful approach. I wouldn’t seek out a reason to speak, just to be heard.

Was this feedback a result of workplace culture, you must be heard to be seen? Or a personal belief based on their own experiences?

Most likely both. The seed had been sown.

The price of not being your whole self

I spent every call trying to be more vocal. It meant I moved from listening to understand to listening to respond. That’s not me. That shouldn’t be anyone.

I didn’t do my best work.

Worse still, I gave into a false truth. I believed I had to be this way if I was going to survive. Eventually, I ran out of energy, lost confidence and grew anxious.

If you feel you have to be someone else to keep your job, something is very wrong.

If it’s caused by the culture, your manager, their manager or all of them. And you believe you can’t do anything about it, you need to get out.

But you need to be careful that you’re not cutting your nose off to spite your face. In my case I let external forces change who I thought I had to be at work.

The reality is that I made that choice and I allowed it to happen. But it wasn’t a conscious decision, so what could I have done to avoid it?

Trust your gut

The best way to make sure you’re bringing your whole self to work is to recognise when you’re not.

You’ll feel tense. You’ll be checking and controlling everything you do. What you wear, how you behave, and what you say.

You’ll need self-awareness to recognise when you’re doing this. Being aware of how you feel when you are not being you can make all the difference.

It takes a lot of energy to behave in a way that isn’t natural to you.

You have limited energy. It’s criminal to waste it on being anyone but you.

Other selves

When it comes to others, remember everyone’s individual. If you don’t like the way someone is behaving. Or feel they should be doing something in a different way, ask yourself two questions:

Are they having a negative impact on anyone or anything?

If they are, you need to find a way to deal with it. Bringing your whole self to work isn’t an excuse for inappropriate or harmful behaviour.

If they’re not, you need to get over yourself.

Am I judging this person by my own beliefs?

You have no right to. They have their own beliefs.

Embrace different. Celebrate interesting. Be kind.

Need help?

This piece was written in support of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England #MyWholeSelf campaign.

Find out more and gain access to free resources here.

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