I’ve been stumped for a while on what my next blog post would look like. I wrote this post in October and never published it. So, here it goes….
I was super inspired a couple of weeks ago to write about filters and the idea of filtering our lives via social media and other tools, i.e. filtering out all the bad, the struggles, applying filters on all of our pictures so life looks much prettier, filtering out what we don’t want others knowing about us, etc. And then that inspiration left me, and I thought, “Now, what?”
Well, happy to report, I think the inspiration came back this week after reading Peter Bregman’s newest article for The Harvard Business Review “The High Cost of Conformity and How to Avoid It.” I realized I’ve been struggling with this a lot lately. I have a lot of fear about truly being myself- whether that means wearing what I want, or saying what I want, or doing what I want, it’s been a challenge.
WHAT I WEAR:
With wearing what I want, I wrote a piece a while back on why I was wearing all black to interviews, which boiled down to that I didn’t want to be recognized for my funky fashion sense and flare, I wanted to be recognized for my skills and abilities. Well now that I have landed a job, that has somewhat changed, in that I feel like I got the job for my skills and abilities and can now dress how I want, but that’s easier said than done. I feel women are held to different standards than men, and I feel what we wear says a lot about what we want, our values, and what we are working towards. So, for example, a lot of the men where I work wear jeans and casual clothing. However, most of the women wear more formal business attire. I have always loved dressing up and wear jeans occasionally, but I have noticed when I wear jeans at work, I feel like a bum or like I don’t take myself seriously or like if I had to take a meeting, I’d be looked at like the “young kid” in jeans, and people wouldn’t take me, my work, and ideas seriously. Now, this may all just be me and my projections, but I have a feeling it’s not all in my head. It’s not like the men at work glare at me when I wear jeans or anything, but something doesn’t feel right.
HOW I AVOID CONFORMING:
I also realized I should take a moment to acknowledge some of the positives I am doing. Peter mentions the idea of practicing not conforming:
“Courage — is the most difficult. Difficult because it requires that we go against the norm of what is going on around us. And, while that might be something we’re born with, it doesn’t come naturally to us as adults. It takes practice.
Practice in small ways. Keep common workspace clean when everyone around you is leaving it messy. Work every day even when the people around you are taking sick days. Act or speak differently than the people around you. Choose not to eat dessert or drink when everyone else is. Make different choices than others.”
I realize I do practice not conforming. I do, do what I want in small ways. I often do not eat dessert or drink when everyone else is; I often wear clothing others don’t; I cut off all of my hair; I have stopped shaving my armpits; I often work hours that others don’t; I often go after what I want when others don’t; I often, in my career, have gone with what I want over what would provide me the most financial security when others might not have done that. So, overall, I do, do a lot to not conform and stay true to myself and values, but as I said, recently I’ve been struggling.
WHAT I SAY:
What’s holding me back? Fear & shame. Fear that if I open up my mouth and say what I want, my emotions will get the best of me, and I will never shut up, or I will end up arguing with people in my life the way I would if my Mom said “no” to me. Shame- the shame of being rejected. If I do open up and say what I really want, I may not get it, people may think I’m crazy, or I could hurt my reputation. There’s a lot of things that could happen. I don’t know what to say.
But Kamala Harris, the California Attorney General does. In an interview with Lenny Letter published this week, she said:
“Innovation is the product of a commitment to not accept status quo. Not for the sake of aborting the status quo, but because the point of innovation is to pursue that thing that is more efficient. More effective. Faster. More accurate. That’s the point of innovation. So when it’s achieved, it’s never really achieved. It’s aspirational. I know that those people who are engaged in innovation are curious people. I’m curious.”
This is exactly how I feel. I’m curious and committed to not accepting something as true or the best way to do something just because everyone else thinks so. Both Peter and Kamala, strong thought leaders, believe in the power of not conforming. Kamala also shares the following sentiment:
“You got to take care of yourself…If you really want to rise to the top, you need to figure out what those politics in your workplace are. Then, you hook it in. You decide what conforms and what does not conform to your personal code. Always have a personal code. Don’t break it. Deal with it.”