About 12 years ago, I wasn’t even AWARE that I wasn’t bringing my whole self to work.
Then, there was a conversation I will never forget. A work colleague (turned very good friend) casually mentioned that I was so much different at work than I was in life.
Two Different People
I was intrigued, so asked for details. I can’t remember the exact words but she said something like in life I was soft and loving, relaxed and flexible. She is an extremely kind person, so she didn’t mention how I was at work. But, deep inside, I already knew.
At work, I could be very intense, direct, unforgiving, unrelenting, results-driven and risk-averse – and the more pressure I was getting from those managerially above me, or the politically charged colleagues around me, the more those traits intensified.
I was the product of a top-down, bureaucratic, competitive, power-play culture that wins at any cost. I was learning from those most successful around me and playing along — too well, as a matter of fact. And, fear was the emotion that motivated me the most – fear of reprimand, fear of getting fired and fear for my team. Lemme tell you, none of that was f-u-n.
Until this conversation with my friend, it honestly didn’t occur to me that I was one person at work and pretty much a completely different person in life.
At the time, I thought I was only doing what was necessary to survive and be successful in my current work environment. And I wasn’t aware of how all of this was slowly chipping away at my soul.
Waking up sometimes takes time
I would like to say I made some dramatic change after that conversation with my friend, but sadly I did not. I remained caught up in ambition and fear for several more years to come.
I had my second wake up call about 5 years later.
I was at a work event and trying to have a casual conversation with someone who had been doing work for my team.
This person was literally frozen in fear while speaking with me – I could see it in this person’s eyes. I thought somebody must’ve been standing behind me because I couldn’t imagine that I could provoke actual fear in someone – the exact emotion I had been running from my entire career.
That is the day I decided to take action and start bringing my whole self to work – I’m pretty sure nobody ever feared me in life and I wasn’t going to allow it to continue at work.
The Five Steps
These are the 5 steps that I took – and you can take — to slowly integrate the whole you at work:
1) Observe yourself.
Learning how to observe yourself in interactions — and coming face-to-face with your underlying emotions — is life-changing both in life and at work.
Next time you go into a meeting, take just one moment and imagine you are hovering over yourself. Remain completely neutral about what you are about to see. Then, observe. Watch your body language, your tone of voice, your facial expressions and your mannerisms.
Note to yourself that it’s not about the other people in the room, it’s about YOU. And, it’s not about judgment, it’s about observation. Ask yourself the question, “are you being the whole you in this interaction?”
Now think about the one emotion that is motivating you in this moment. This is the ultimate truth-teller.
2) Practice the phrase “that’s interesting.”
Go ahead, say it out loud. That’s interesting.
My first teacher, Donna, taught me this phrase 15 years ago as a way to stay grounded when in observer mode and not be so hard on myself.
Basically the idea is that if you become aware of something about yourself that is jolting, try not to judge, shame or berate yourself. Instead, just observe the new piece of information … “that’s interesting.” And then let it sit for a while.
I said this phrase A LOT over the years as I was finding the courage to make these big changes.
Try it. I promise it’s a game changer.
3) Think about one part of your soul that you are hiding at work.
Often, the reason our whole self doesn’t show up at work is because we are hiding something big and wonderful from others and ourselves.
Think about the most authentic, soulful thing about you … that you are hiding at work. For some, this exercise will be easy. For others, more difficult.
If nothing is coming up for you immediately, take some time alone in nature – in a park, by a tree, at the beach. Put your device away – COMPLETELY AWAY! ☺ Sit quietly until you are relaxed and your mind is still.
Then ask yourself two questions — what part of my soul am I hiding … and how can I bring my whole self to work?
4) Now, take the leap.
A big step is to start slowly sharing parts of the whole you at work while also being mindful that it IS indeed work.
For example, I had to find the right formula and the right moments for being the whole me. I had to learn how to merge the ambitious, results-driven, perfectionist side of me with the compassionate, loving, and intuitive side of me. This took time and experimentation.
You can start by practicing to be parts of the whole you at work with just one person you trust or in one interaction that feels safe. Change can be incremental, you can take baby steps, you can go at a turtle’s pace…. Just start!
5) Every day, set out to repeat steps 1-4.
Your whole self will be so happy you did!
I love coaching people who want to reconnect with their whole selves. Please join me, the world needs the whole you now more than ever.