At a recent event of women lawyers, the issue of women being unable to have a voice and be their authentic self at work raised its horrid head once more. One woman felt her male colleagues would close rank on her if she dared to be herself and that she would be ostracised from the club. It would be less painful for her to stick pins in her eyes, it seemed.
The question is this, however: 'If you can't be your authentic self at work then who are you going to be?'
The guy you bumped into at the coffee machine? The fella who sits at the desk opposite? Your boss? You can't be them. You don't want to be Jack, Jeremy or John, you want to be you. Your voice is what you stand for. It's your personal brand. If you don't have a voice at work, then that's your brand too. Your brand will be that she has no voice.
Here's the other thing, when you try to be anything other than who you are in order to fit in, people will smell your fear. It's like being fearful near a dog. If it gets even the slightest whiff that you're nervous, it'll sense it and bark its head off. It's a spiritual thing. That's why being among someone who is their authentic self, feels so beautiful.
Persistent subliminal and overt stereotyping, and toxic cultures leads to the strangulation of our voices. As a result, women and millennial's are leaving male-dominated jobs in their droves. In seriously oppressive environments, their self-esteem gets impacted too. Without a major culture shift within the organisation, with all the personal development training in the world, they will never be able to express themselves fully or realise their human potential. Often it takes a crisis for them to finally say, that's it no more.
From today, instead of waiting for a crisis to ultimately be yourself, however, take at least one small step towards unbuckling the straight jacket on your voice every single day, by doing or wearing something which expresses your individuality.
Three quick tips on how to find your voice at work.
1. It takes time to reverse your negative thoughts to suddenly saying it's okay to be you so that the world knows who you are and what you stand for. Making a small change one step at a time, however, will move you slowly but surely. Remember even small steps will trigger your fight or flight response mode, but it will be to a more bearable level. It can be as simple as wearing a small item of clothing you've always loved but had never had the courage to wear, for example. Do whatever empowers you while separates you from the rest.
2. Ask yourself if the situation is true. Maybe you would be seen as a refreshing change as opposed to being ostracised from the club. After all, when you are yourself it's when you are at your most creative. Ask yourself how can you think about the situation differently?
3. Better still, start your own darn 'club.' Why do you want to wriggle into their dead, fuddy duddy way of doing things anyway?
Have an amazing day and remember, there are always two stories, the one written for you and the one you write for yourself.
Ingrid M - The Empowerment Gal
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