Being your true self at work | why is it so important for your mental health?
Many businesses’ focus on creating an environment where employees feel free to bring their whole self to work.
I remember thinking to myself when I started as a graduate in a Major Australian Bank — will I fit into the culture? Will I be able to make friends? Can I add value?
As a Turbaned Sikh, standing tall at 5 foot 6 inches and a devilish smile — I looked distinguishably different from my colleagues to my left and right. It gave me flashbacks to my secondary schooling where you seek to bring yourself to be the version that is accepted by people around you. What I find happens in this environment is that we begin to lose who we want to be. This is where bringing your whole self is important because it creates the need for you to accept your true self. This is incredibly empowering when you realise that, you, yourself, regardless of your ethnicity, education, sexual orientation, religion, gender or any other characteristic, are valuable. There is power in being different. There is power in thinking different. There is power in accepting and learning to flourish in an environment with peoples differences.
3 reasons why its so important to bring your whole self to work.
Compartmentalising your life is exhausting.
If we put aside any of the benefits to your workplace, first and foremost, living multiple separate lives is tiring. People may not always agree with your life choices, but by hiding who you are, there is more for you to lose than the company. Firstly, your mind works in overdrive to ‘triage’ your thoughts and only speak about the ones you feel are appropriate. Your brain is a muscle, the more you expend energy here, the less you have to use elsewhere. Secondly, by not sharing, you’re not taking advantage of your network. You are at risk of falling into confirmation bias. This is where you share your thoughts around people with similar backgrounds and characteristics. Unless you share your ideas, thoughts and ‘yourself’ you are not contributing nor open enough to receive contributions to develop. People around you can be great soundboards and have life experiences that can drastically help you recognise where and how you want to grow and improve.
You have the power to influence your environment, rather than your environment influencing you.
It is common to say that the people at my workplace tend to ‘drink’ regularly, so I had to drink. Or they have lots of banter, so I jumped in. There are boundaries you need to set that characterise who you are. This is where you need to define are you someone helping the culture or diminishing confidence of those around you.
If you are practising behaviour that you’re not proud of, you will take it home. We spend 40–50 hours a week at work, and we tend to be validated when we do what is expected of us by a group of peers. So if we take time and positive validation, we get operant conditioning, which means that our brain associates that action with ‘reward’ from the encouragement of our colleagues. In all honesty, it’s not the culture to blame, and it’s us. We came to work and chose not to set our boundaries and set of values. If we do not set a strong foundation of values, it may impact our socialisation both inside and outside of work, our leadership, and our development.
The more you condition yourself to values you are unhappy with, the harder it comes to ‘unlearn’ and to reorientate.
Allows you to be imperfect.
The first benefit is by being honest about who you are, your work and workplace relationships starts to reflect this personality.
For example, if you are someone who has a keen design eye, you can see this whether it be, how you format your email, your PowerPoint or something as simple as the way you dress at work. On the contrary, being open about your weaknesses, the more people will start understanding things about your personality you can’t express regularly. For example, if you are open that you don’t understand a particular system, but you are learning how to use it, it illustrates that you are honest, a forward thinker and self-teacher. Thus, your work can start being an emblem for who you are. People can recognise the work as yours just as they can recognise you.
The second, your growth and development can be catered to the real you.
By being transparent about what you seek to achieve and what you’re not so good at, you can get opportunities to help you thrive. For example, people are often ashamed to admit they have a fear of public speaking. While there is a range of tips and tricks, the only way to fix this is to do more public speaking. It is, therefore, essential to be open to achieve the best outcomes.
There are several essential benefits of being the real version of yourself at work. While the list is non-exhaustive, it is a great way to start shaping your way of thinking to achieve better results.