How different is the Weekday You from Weekend You? If you’ve crafted a unique persona for the office to deal with the demands of work or to better fit in with your company’s culture, you’re not alone.
I once worked with a young woman who confided in me about having created two very distinct identities – a professional and polite weekday persona, and a political and social activist weekend persona – which she went to great extents not to mix.
I asked her why she kept her lives so separate, and was struck by the conviction she expressed in explaining why cultivating and maintaining a weekday character – one that was extremely subdued, smiling and compliant – was essential to her survival in Corporate America. I understand why she felt the need to make microscopic adjustments to how she ‘showed up’ at work in order to survive her different professional experiences, but couldn’t relate to some of the more extreme measures she had chosen to take to conceal her true personality.
So I talked to more people who felt similarly to better understand why they felt that they had no choice but to hide from office-view, the versions of themselves that only family and friends had the joy of experiencing – their Weekend selves. The reasons given were extremely nuanced and complicated, so I’ve tried to extract from their stories the most common themes:
- There are right and wrong ways to present yourself – or at least this is how you feel when you are given subtle messages every day that suggest this to be true, depending on the culture of the company or team that you’ve found yourself in. Everything from the way the majority dresses to the topics of conversation at the lunch table, cue what is acceptable and unacceptable in implicit ways.
- It pays to change because non-conformity can affect your pocket. Sometimes the retaliation you fear will come to you when you share anything personal about yourself, is financial in nature. It may manifest as the absence of, or reduction in, some monetary incentive that you were expecting, and your gut tells you that this did not result from poor performance (although you don’t have any tangible proof). Unfortunately, for many of us, this is too much of a risk to take.
- Fear of being judged. This is one of the more prevalent underlying reasons for not revealing our Weekend personas to our co-workers. Oftentimes, ‘being yourself’ or being ‘authentic’ sound more like cute catchphrases – nice to utter, but few understand what the terms really mean or how to approach it… and even fewer actually put authenticity into daily practice. So we end up being starved for real-life examples of people (above and around us) who bring their whole selves to work while still being successful. And so we’re left with a lingering question – if no one else is shedding their superhero mask at the office, then why should I?
- You were taught that concealing your true self is a prerequisite for success. And this is the toughest one because as adults, the hardest beliefs and attitudes to undo, are the ones that were handed down to us by our elders when we were children.
But being yourself at work doesn’t have to be a binary concept.
Although going all the way to having split personalities doesn’t seem like the right way to go because of all the emotional energy that one has to use to maintain two distinct personas (think about how stressful it is to keep a secret about yourself from someone you see every day), I recognize that if you haven’t been practicing being fully yourself at work for a long time, then making an abrupt change can seem like an enormous task. So why not start slowly and take some baby steps?
- Reveal something about yourself to a co-worker you trust. …nothing too personal if you’re not comfortable or a solid and trust-worthy working relationship has not yet been established. It could be as simple as sharing a little insight into what you like to do when you’re not working. Start there and see where it goes.
- Try dressing a wee bit more like your weekend self at work. …nothing drastic if you’re not into this or are already feeling very much like yourself in your work attire. But if you feel like you have to put on a straight jacket every day of the week, and that translates into an outside-in transformation that you’d like to revert, then (within reason) try literally loosening up a bit if you can. Lose the tie! Add some color! Wear those comfy flats! (Ladies, check out Corporette for some fashion ideas that straddle the worlds of uber corporate and weekend chic.)
- Find an office inspiration. Be on the lookout for someone at work who looks like they’ve already got things figured out. Well not ALL things, but at least this tricky idea of bringing your whole self to work … and invite them out to tea/coffee to ask them how they managed to pull it off.
If you have more tips to share based on your own experience, I would love for you to share them here. [Please comment below.]
Also, I’m so FAR from being an expert on the topic and am only seeking to help by sharing my own thoughts and experiences. So please check out Brené Brown‘s inspiring TED Talk on The Power of Vulnerability to learn more about why it’s better to bring your true ‘Weekend Self’ to work every day from an expert who has studied the topic and spoken prolifically about it over the years.