Ever feel like you don’t fit in, like people around you expect you to be someone different than you are?
I remember when I first felt like that at work. I was about a year into a job with a global consulting organization. As a consultant, I needed to get certified to advance my career. For someone starting their career or coming in from another consulting organization, the structure provided a clear and logical path. For someone joining with a doctorate in industrial and organizational psychology and deep specialized expertise and experience, the on-ramp was not at all clear. I recall telling a friend that I felt like a ‘weirdo’ because I didn’t fit in, and it was uncomfortable.
I’ve noticed that feeling arise at various points in my career, especially when embarking on something new. I’ve noticed it showing up again recently – not surprising really given the magnitude and speed of change in the workplace. Now, with the wisdom of experience and the gift of awareness, I’m more prepared. I’ve let go of the notion of being weird and embraced being unique. I’ve learned that what makes me different can be the richest source of my value.
These ideas are reinforced with the focus in many organizations on inclusion and the value of diversity. In the business environment, data about the benefits for innovation and productivity are key. In my heart, it’s simply the feeling I get when I truly see someone for who they are and when I feel seen for who I really am.
I’m learning to find the line between healthy conformity and being in integrity with who I am. Leadership training, coaching, mindfulness, and life experience have increased my awareness and compassion. It’s still a work in progress, although I am better able to listen to that quiet voice inside that asks ‘are you sure?’ and to pay attention to that part of me that that knows when something isn’t right. Being in integrity with who I am and what I value has become essential to my well being. Each time I am challenged to fit in, the need to be in integrity strengthens, and I let go of a little more of the fear that in the past would push me to be like everyone else.
I’ve found that when I wake up to something – like the importance of acknowledging who we are and what makes us each unique – so many signs and supporting mechanisms rise above the noise to point me in the direction of my truth. This is Me is one of those things – may it inspire and touch you.
I offer a few questions that I’ve been reflecting on to help me explore my personal truth. May you find value in reflecting on what matters to you and how you respond to the circumstances of your life.
- When do I feel like I have to be someone other than myself?
- How does that make me feel?
- Are the expectations to be something else real?
- Is there some ‘add-on’ story that I’m making up?
- How might I be confirming my own fears?
- What’s the tradeoff of behaving to fit in?
Let me hear from you – What helps you be strong and confident and alive to who you are?
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* I took this photo on Highway 151 in Iowa coming home for a ski trip in Galena, IL.