Why We Need Authenticity and Vulnerability in the Workplace | Fierce

authenticity and vulnerability

Let’s talk about how we are doing in this new normal during the coronavirus pandemic…I’ll stop you right there. Let’s talk about how we are really doing.  I’ll go first…

As the days and weeks drag on and I continue to question “what day is it? Did I shower yesterday? No wait, that was Monday…or was it? How many days has it been since I washed these sweat pants? Or how is it that a human can inhale that many Oreos in the course of one meeting, the reality of this ‘new normal’” has done nothing more than saddle me with a solid case of the “crazies”.

While I’m still trying to find some semblance of myself in this not-so-new normal, I can’t help but notice that others are coping far better through this ambiguous time than me. Or so it seems.  

My house isn’t “cleaner than it’s ever been” and my garden definitely has more weeds than plants. And no, I haven’t found my life calling even though I’ve had plenty of quiet, reflective “me time” in the last few months to search my soul to the heavens and back.  

Yeah, nope, nothing even close to earth-shattering or life-affirming to share. Why, now that I have so much more time on my hands, have I done nothing worthy of it? Why do I feel less accomplished, less “together” than ever before? 

The Importance of Vulnerability in the Workplace

I was reminded today, by an amazing individual, that life is round. As human beings, we’re built to hold the good with the bad, the organized with the messy, the joy with the pain. We don’t have to choose between them, we don’t have to be all of one and none of the other, we get to have them both. Actually, life requires us to live with both, daily.

This revelation evoked two competing responses in me – a great big sigh of relief and a resounding “huh?” 

While it feels validating and refreshing to know I don’t have to have this all figured out, that I can be messy and “normal” at the same time, accepting imperfection is one of the hardest things for me to do.  

I grew up believing that successful people, people who are living life “the right way” are the same people who have it all together.  Together-people don’t have to question how clean their clothes really are, they take showers every day, and those favorite pair of jeans in the closet always fit (because there is no Oreo-binging…EVER.)

I grew up believing that messy is bad. You can and should control the mess. There is guilt, shame, and embarrassment associated with not keeping life so tightly controlled.  And this messy = bad equation has been reinforced tirelessly throughout my life:  

At home, at work, in school, with my peers, and within my community. It’s a conversation I have on a loop in my head and something our current culture continues to validate for me. It’s exhausting: “Put on a good show, fake it ‘til you make it, just be happy, what do you have to be worried about? Don’t air your dirty laundry”.  

I’ve taught myself to shelve the hard stuff. Keep it safely out of sight. Instead, I’ve worked hard at reframing how I am feeling. I’m not overwhelmed, I’m not scared, I’m energized, I’m ready to take on the world!  

I reframe my life so it appears I have it all together. I spend so much time focusing on how the bad isn’t so bad, I try to force-fit my life into our culture’s definition of “perfect”.  

While that all seems well and good on the OUTSIDE, what I have realized as of late, is that by role-playing a “together person” every minute of every day I pay a huge price. I end up ignoring a very important part of myself. The part that makes me human, the part that makes me “round”. I ignore the struggles.  

I pretend I have it all figured out and I suffer greatly because of it. Why?

Because you can’t actually shove the messy out of your life. It doesn’t work that way. It’s like trying to cram a closet too full of the things you don’t want anyone else to see.  

You stuff and you stuff and you stuff, and eventually, you open that door to put one more thing inside and the items give way and come tumbling toward you like a tsunami. And yes, you get clocked in the head with those favorite pair of jeans that no longer fit.  (Darn you, Oreos!)  

There is no ignoring or wishing away the underbelly of life.  Life is curly.  Life is messy.  Life is light and dark, order and chaos, joy, and pain. All wrapped up together. The key is to accept it all, invite it all in, acknowledge all of it. 

Then and only then can you decide how you want to move forward.  By trying to ignore the mess, we lose our “roundness” as human beings.  We lose our authentic selves.

Why People Need Authenticity In the Workplace

A dear friend of mine told me recently “I want the magic you seem to have. You imagine something to happen and it just happens.” When I heard this, I wanted to drive the 2 hours to her house and sit her down and confess.  “No! You have it all wrong. I’m sorry I misled you. I don’t have any magic! I barely have the next hour figured out, let alone how I’m going to get my life from point a to point b. I do not have it figured out, I’m hanging on just like you.”   

And then I had another epiphany.  How am I showing up with those around me?  Am I allowing those closest to me to really KNOW me?  Or am I choosing to show a limited side of myself – to prove I’m normal, worthy, “together”, even when I feel far from it?  

Dan Pearce once said, “Share your weaknesses. Share your hard moments. Share your real side.  It’ll either scare away every fake person in your life or it will inspire them to finally let go of that mirage called “perfection,” which will open the doors to the most important relationships you’ll ever be apart of.”

What I’m recognizing is while acknowledging the messiness and accepting it is great, it’s not enough. I need to be willing to share it with others. That kind of authenticity and vulnerability is what allows us all to relate more meaningfully to each other.  

There is something that resonates deeply in us when people are willing to share their imperfections. It gives us permission to take a deep breath, let go of unrealistic expectations of ourselves and just be. 

Thus, here I am sharing my truth, being vulnerable, and confessing to you that I don’t have it all figured out. I am messy in so many ways and perfectly imperfect. I am human.

Now it’s your turn. How are you really doing in this new normal? Be brutally honest with yourself and then find someone to share it with. Give them permission to do the same.

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