How “Code Switching” Can Trip us Up in Corporate America
Being your whole self is vital to your self-care and development… even in corporate America. It can also be a key to success in business. If all your focus is spent trying to be someone else you cannot be focused on doing a great job.
“If Oprah was afraid to be herself when she started in the 80’s, we would not have Oprah today”
This is not new information to us. We have been hearing “be yourself” since we were kids from one well-meaning adult or another. If you are like me, I never thought I needed this advice as a fully grown adult.
How does faking it, show up as an adult? You don’t speak up when offended by co-workers because you pretend to be “easy going” or don’t want to be the “Angry Black Woman”. Also, you just find yourself performing for people – trying to make sure they think you are perfect and have “it all”. It happens. This kind of self-editing is automatic and happens far into adulthood. We are all trying to seem together. We want to know if “they” like me.
This realization hit me, like a ton of bricks in the most unexpected place. I was attending a co-worker’s baby shower where one of the girls invited a medium. I had never encountered a medium and kind of thought it was all bullshit. Well, I asked her to read my energy (I was full of snark this day). We sat down, she took my hands, closed her eyes…and when she opened them she told me “shift but don’t edit”. I looked at her and my eyes welled with tears.
So backstory – At the time I was working at a company for maybe 8 months (new but not really). I was one of maybe five other black people in the company and the only black person in the entire marketing department. Everyone was blonde, republican and perky. Imagine working in an office full of Tomi Lahrens’. I felt like no one liked me (this mattered to me back then).
“I thought it didn’t bother me but in reality, I was performing every day and it was killing my confidence.”
I was tap dancing around myself and trying to give off signs that I am “cool” to be accepted into this little click. But after the encounter with the medium and I finally dried my tears, I began to shed the weight of needing to be anyone but me to impress anyone else.
I started the process by being honest with myself and first admitting that I needed to get back to my center and find my own baseline again. I surrounded myself with people outside of work that knew and loved me. I made time to access my own heart and mind when I was feeling anxious or out of sorts in any way about anything. I would (and still do) stand in the mirror and talk to myself/ask myself questions out loud like:
If I wake up sad or heavy...How are you really feeling today and why?
If I am concerned with being liked at work...Your only responsibility is to be who you are and do good work.
Meeting new people/interviewing…Stop wondering if they like you, Do you like them?
When I need to apologize or backtrack… Did what you said/did speak to who you are?
When I find myself performing…Pedestals and perfection are a trap, so be you.
There are many ways to get centered, this is just mine. And like everything, it’s a process. It’s been years since a medium took my head and heart into her hands and set me on a path back to myself. But I never forgot her words and I share them to people often – shift into professional you and leisure you but never edit who you are for anyone.
P.S And if you find yourself in an office full of Tomi Lahrens’… just quit.