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How You Don't Bring Your Whole Self To Work

Do you genuinely believe that you bring your whole self to work? You may even tell me that you already do. But if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you are starting to doubt yourself.

I used to think that I was showing up 100% authentic all of the time; in the office and out. But there were still these tiny nagging parts in my head that reminded me that I wasn’t. At the time, I was working for a law firm that told me it didn’t matter if my hair was purple or if I had tattoos showing, as long as I dressed business casual and performed well. However, I saw the looks of doubt and criticism as I walked the halls with a fire engine red pixie hairstyle. I was even asked by my boss if I planned on continuing to color my hair that way.

I knew I would essentially need to water myself down, lest being the outcast of my fellow professionals in an office of 20 people. I gradually started wearing sweaters to cover my tattoos, grew my hair a little longer, and went for a more “professional” hair color. I was in my late 20s at the time working as the Assistant COO, and started feeling the pressure to look the part I was playing. If I wanted to be taken seriously by my peers, I would need to dress the part. I kept hearing this saying in my head, “Dress for the position you want, not the position you have”.

It wasn’t until years later that I recognized that this stifling I allowed to happen was only the tip of the iceberg of what I wasn’t showing at work. That creative side and flair I wanted so badly to show, was being watered down which led me to remain stiff and unhappy in the office. I was living a double life that was essentially draining me bit by bit.

It wasn’t until I started working for myself, that I realized how much I had to offer the professional world. I just wasn’t taken seriously because of how I looked, and I believed it! I shrunk myself down and it took a toll on my confidence as a professional. Which is quite a shame considering many others experience the same thing for having an afro or dreadlocks or piercings or for looking different than their colleagues. We either face the challenge of criticism or the tedious task of finding a place to work that allows us to be our whole selves.

I recognized I needed to heal that wound so that I could grow as a person and as a professional. Others would see my value no matter what I looked like. I just needed to stay true to myself.

Ways In Which You Don’t Bring Your Whole Self to Work

  • Splitting Up Your Attitudes: Some of the biggest reasons why we may find ourselves burning out easily and quickly are because we tend to hide parts of ourselves from our work environment. When you do that, you run the risk of becoming detached from your jobs such as separating emotions and attitudes. Because of that, our attitudes towards our achievements shift in a way that leaves us less motivated to continue striving for more achievements.

  • Strengths: When we hide parts of ourselves from our work environment, we stifle parts that may be an asset to performing our jobs. Your quirky love for all things related to your pets may come out as empathy, compassion, and patience when it comes to your peers and colleagues.

  • Hobbies and Interests: Do you have a passion for cooking flan? Or how about singing karaoke? Take those parts of yourself and see if there is a way you can apply them to your job. Maybe you can add a little something to your next work social hour? Or maybe your step-by-step flan recipe requires you to follow directions to a T. That can easily be applied to something you do at work that requires precise accuracy.

  • Family: One of the biggest lessons we’ve all learned from the pandemic is that nothing is more important than the family we have created. Whether that is biological or community-based, we need our people. Learning how to set boundaries with your office surrounding the times when your family needs you is crucial towards fulfilling your life with more balance. Don’t be afraid to recognize when it’s important to be there for your loved ones and speak up about it.

Now, more than ever, we have begun to see a shift take place within the scope of what we deem important in our lives. The Great Resignation wasn’t just because of stimulus checks and the retirements of Baby Boomers. It included Gen X, Millennials, and even some GenZers who got tired of not being able to truly be their whole selves in the workplace. It was due to not wanting to be glued to desks that were no longer serving us. It was because we found ourselves getting a taste of what bringing your whole self to work might look like during the lockdowns of the Pandemic.

Tips On How To Start Bringing Your Whole Self to Work

So how do you bring your authentic self to work? The biggest first step you can take is to think of how you may hide from your colleagues and peers. Is there something you love to do outside of work that nobody in the office knows about? Is there a tattoo or hairstyle you would love to have but fear judgment? If it goes against your office dress code, I’m not encouraging you to break all the rules. However, in what ways can you add true happiness to the workplace? Is it setting new boundaries with your team? Is it adding a photo or trinket into your cubicle or office that reminds you to be true to yourself? I challenge you to daydream about what you would look like, be, and do if stuffy work rules were null and void. How would you be your whole self at work and home? Integrating the two is exactly how you begin the process of a healthy work/life balance.

I will leave you with that journal prompt. Because no matter what I say, only you can truly determine if you are hiding parts of yourself from work or if you’re bringing your whole self to work. And if you are struggling to meet yourself where you are, that’s okay, too. Only you know how to make yourself whole at all times.


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