I often feel the need to separate my personal and professional identities. They are not necessarily inconsistent; however, I fear that my quirkiness and eccentricities might bemuse, offend, or alienate some people with whom it is important for me to maintain a professional relationship.
I have several close personal friends who I initially met and got to know on a professional basis. When these relationships start to cross that line, I always feel a bit of anxiety as I start to slowly reveal the ‘real me.’ The risk of destroying a professional relationship because a trial friendship has gone awry is one that merits careful consideration.
As I mature and experience exploring a variety of interpersonal relationships, I increasingly understand the value of being sincere and genuine right from the beginning and at all times. Does anyone really care that I am a socialist cat lady who occasionally enjoys listening to thrash metal?
In fact, these distinguishing characteristics may make me more intriguing and appealing to those trapped in the mundanity of 9 to 5. My uniqueness and individuality set me apart from the crowd and provide cues for others to remember who I am. And for those who find me offensive, that’s just too bad.
Hiding my true nature would be wasteful. Eventually, most people will find out something personal about me through the grapevine. If a colleague finds this information to be unsavory, we can cut to the chase and terminate the relationship before it gets too complicated – if that is the other person’s true desire. Sharing all aspects of my personality, beliefs, and activities may help another person learn something or develop a new interest. Withholding personal information limits opportunities for people to get to know wonderful me – and for me to get to know wonderful them in exchange.
When we piece together the many aspects of our lives, it is like melting chunks of cheese in a pot. It all combines to make one sauce that is our unique essence. Our spirit is the heat that melts the cheese which we use to flavor life by pouring it over everything we taste. Before pouring our sauce over someone else’s bread, we ought to let them know what they are about to eat.
Appearances can be deceiving. Bleu cheese, which looks moldy and smells like something unsavory, is widely considered to be a lovely delicacy with many culinary uses. I may appear to be a stuffy, serious organizational leader from afar, but inside I am a dynamic woman with extraordinary passions, hopes, and dreams. My fear may manifest as confidence; my insecurities as competencies. Taking the time to experience and develop a deeper understanding of others usually reveals many wonderful surprises.
I also have a few skeletons in my closet which most people do not know about. They all represent a learning experience that strengthened my character, expanded my capabilities, and fueled my growth. There is a direct and concrete application between difficult personal experiences and my ability to effectively lead. Yet, our society does not encourage sharing these stories. There is a stigma associated with abnormal experiences – yet anyone who has truly lived has had a preponderance of them. By exploring and sharing these experiences with others in a safe environment, perhaps with others who have had a similar experience, we can expand our understanding and develop deeper connections with others.
Our experiences, which include those that we may not be so proud of, make us who we are. They shape our goals, motivations, and values. Being honest with ourselves and others about where we are coming from and where we hope to go channels our collective energy into strategies and activities that directly support our deepest desires and dreams.