Taking pride in who you are – and finding a workplace that does too
It’s a worthy thing to seek out a place where you fit. A place you can be yourself (or at least as much of yourself as you choose to share). That’s really true for all humans, but it gets exponentially harder if you’re LGBTQIA.
I’ve been thinking about this because it’s June, and it’s Pride. And I’m at a place in my life where it’s not about just finding a place where I fit but creating a place where other people feel like they too can fit.
I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to warp myself to be what other people expected of me. Conforming to jobs and work expectations that tied me up in knots even as I was successful at them. Feeling yucky inside but being publicly praised, rewarded, and promoted does weird things to your head and your sense of self. As I supervise others and lead a company, I’m conscious of not doing this to other people.
I came out as a lesbian at 27, but it took many more years to feel like myself at work. Some of that had to do with being gay, and some of it had to do with needing to figure out what I truly wanted and finding workplaces that had it.
Is your workplace a fit?
The journey is not over even when you are out. I’m definitely a work in progress. But here are some things I’ve come to believe are important about being yourself at work and taking pride in who you are:
- Can you dress in a way that you feel like yourself? (Within a spectrum that’s appropriate for the type of work you do.) Ditto for your hairstyle. This is something I’ve struggled with my whole life. I’m not sure it will ever be easy for me, but I can say in my current job at Pixo, I’m the most comfortable I’ve been.
- Can you share as much of your personal life as you want to? Do same-sex relationships get equal airtime as straight ones? Is your family supported and considered? Since I’ve come out, I’ve been very lucky to have colleagues who have always shown an interest in my partners and haven’t shied away from asking about my private life. And I was exceptionally fortunate to have many Pixonauts at my civil union (remember those?) in 2012. I believe it’s very much worth finding a workplace where this is the norm. We spend so much time at our jobs, that hiding who we are is just not worth it.
- Do you have a voice? If you notice something wrong or something that could be better, can you speak up? Will anyone listen? This is especially important if you’re coming from a different perspective. You want to work someplace where your colleagues and bosses see your differences as a strength, not a liability.
- Does your job make you sick? I’ve had a few of those. It wasn’t the stress of the work. It was the stress of feeling like I didn’t belong. Part imposter syndrome and part wondering if anyone was going to realize I was not like the others — in a bad way. And I definitely stuck with some of those situations too long.
If any of the above is a problem for you, I think it’s a signal that you should re-evaluate. It may mean the workplace is not right for you. It may mean your workplace has room to improve and you’re willing to try expressing yourself more or differently. Or maybe you need a good therapist who can help you sort through your feelings and figure out the right next step. (Shout out to all the therapists who’ve helped me at different points.)
With the benefit of hindsight, I can definitely say it gets better if you keep seeking opportunities that allow you to feel comfortable being yourself. The more you learn about yourself, the more you can be clear with yourself and others about what you need. And, hey, we’re always looking to stay in touch with people who may fill a gap at Pixo someday. If we sound like your kind of workplace, drop me a line.