It has long been thought that to succeed professionally, you need to blend into the culture of your workplace, you need to mute your differences and not “shake the pot,” especially as a woman or member of a minority group. But a recent article in the Harvard Business Review has revealed that there can also be many benefits to sharing your cultural differences and being your whole, unique self.
When we don’t hold back or hide our true identities, we can offer a unique perspective. As a minority or a member of a different gender group than others in similar roles, often you have different life experiences that provide a different view on a particular subject area. For example, a woman is going to know a lot more about designing a training bra than a man. Someone who grew up in a poor family is going to understand public aid better than someone who never needed it. Someone who struggled to fit in as a child because of racial differences is going to understand minority issues better than someone who didn’t face those circumstances.
Your unique perspective can also help to identify any racially insensitive marketing or features that might have been overlooked. By being open with your thoughts and observations you can help to prevent serious issues from taking place. If you are willing to share details about your life or culture with others, you also have the potential to help bridge differences and create a more conducive work environment. People are naive to differences and often rely on incorrect stereotypes to classify those around them, you have the potential to open their minds and change that perspective by sharing a bit about you.
Being true to yourself and sharing your identity with others can help to build rapport among colleagues or clients. When similarities are discovered in people of different nationalities you have created a bridge from one culture to another. As humans, we tend to connect over a common interest or life experience, like being a mom, enjoying a particular hobby, or experiencing a similar life event.
Benefits vs. Risks
As with all benefits, there are also risks. When you stand out or relate to a specific cultural or gender group you might find yourself getting stuck with the same projects over and over again. You may also be faced with resistance from management or colleagues who don’t agree with your degree of difference. They might be uncomfortable with you getting noticed or pointing out a different path they had yet to consider.
In the end, it is your self-confidence, creativity, and work ethic that are going to get you noticed. Being yourself and having the ability to feel like you can truly be you are going to contribute to your overall happiness and self-confidence and likely your success.
People come and go out of our lives, friendships change and evolve, and new people fall into the role of best friend. When this happens there is often a series of thoughts that go through our heads — what do they need to know? What should I tell them about my past?
There is no hard and fast rule. There is not necessarily a reason why you need to tell but there may not be a reason why you shouldn’t. If this person is your new best friend chances are things will come up over time as your comfort level and different situations present themselves.
If you decide that you should tell him, her, or they about something that happened in your past you first need to figure out why. Why do you want to tell your new best friend this thing? Is it part of who you are? How does it align with your personal compass? Does it impact your current life? Is it something that you just feel you need to get off your chest? Whatever the reason, and there are a million different scenarios, make sure you are comfortable with your purpose for sharing. Once you share, you can’t take it back.
After you decide to confide in them, you are in control. You decide when you want to tell, how, and what. The ball is in your court. You don’t have to divulge more than you would like. Be clear with the person about how it aligns with your personal values. Let them know why you are telling them these things. Maybe you were in an abusive relationship and now you have trouble entering new relationships, maybe you were in a bad car accident that makes it hard for you to drive, maybe you lost a family member in a tragic way and now avoid certain situations, whatever it is, why you want to tell, it is all up to you. Don’t feel pressured to share anything you are not comfortable with.
How much do you think you should divulge about your past?
You are walking down the street with your partner, having a conversation, and you notice their eyes as you pass another woman. They move up and down, maybe you even spot a smirk on their face after they are done checking out the other woman. How does that make you feel?
You might brush it off and laugh about it, or you might internalize it. You might start to think— what makes her so special? What am I missing that she has? Why is she better than me? You might let it take a toll on your self-esteem. The reality is this other woman says nothing about your identity, about who you are as a person, as a partner, as a woman. She might be attractive, which is why your partner is checking her out, but that does not mean that you are any less attractive.
You also don’t need to condone this behavior from your partner. It can be hurtful and bothersome. Stand up for yourself. Tell him/her/them how you feel when he/she/they checks out another in front of you. Explain that while you understand they likely do find other people attractive, when they acknowledge it openly in front of you it can be hurtful. Depending on your comfort level, you can also present it in a jokingly way, for example say — “hey I saw that, you think she is pretty huh?” At least that way you open the doors to communication.
Regardless, the bottom line is the way you talk to yourself is crucial. Stop putting yourself down because of others. Stop letting other people impact the way you see yourself. You are your own beautiful self, no one can take that away from you.
Have you ever caught your partner checking out another woman? How did it make you feel?