I have been doing some research on Cultural Diversity and Racial Equality as defined by today's standards and found that there is no standard offered that would be consistent across all races and cultures. There are ideas, perspectives, and opinions, but how does someone create an environment of racial equality in the workplace when no one can agree what that would look like?
I was looking at Ted.com for some context on the subject and ran across Jodi-Ann Burey: The myth of bringing your full, authentic self to work. As a woman of color, she compares going to work like being invited to a costume party with friends and when she arrives she sees they are all dressed up in superhero costumes and she is dressed in torn jeans and "a shirt you've worn all day." She asks the audience how they would feel when they are not even mentioned for consideration for the "best costume" contest. She says, "That anxiety you feel" is likened to how she feels when she goes to work where her authentic self is not accepted by others and prevents her from getting the raise or the coveted assignments.
So, I began to wonder what does it mean to be authentic in the workplace and how could I allow others to be more authentic? These are some of the questions I asked myself:
What does it mean to be authentic?
Do cultural fashion trends and hair styles make you more authentic?
Does the use of profanity or cultural colloquialisms make you more authentic?
Does the car you drive, the house you live in, the neighborhood where you live, and your job make you more authentic?
Do your friends and those on social media make you more authentic?
Does money and fame contribute to authenticity?
Does authenticty require acceptance, appreciation, and acknowledgement from others to affirm you are being authentic?
I looked at the list and realized all my questions were geared around the external person who is presented to the public. Then I looked at people who are successful in business, finance, and politically and they all dressed the same, spoke the same, and presented confidently in conversation the same. Women wore pantsuits, dresses, and "sensible shoes" and men wore "power suites." It didn't matter what race or country they came from they all dressed in the same "costume." So the question came up, "Are they being authentic even when they all looked the same?" In other words, in the scenario above did Jodi need to win the costume contest in order to feel she was being authentic? Wasn't the fact that she went to the costume party in torn jeans and a shirt and chose not to wear a costume her choice? And if it was her choice, was she being authentic in making that choice?
Many people today, young and old, are saying, "I don't even know who I am anymore." They say this because they have been bullied, shamed, and judged by others. They have tried to "fit in" and instead they stand out, alone, and are unaccepted. I tell them that in order to be true to themselves they must know who they are apart from the crowd. They must first accept their uniqueness in order to be truly authentic. It reminds me of the T-Mobil commercial where the woman goes to a business dinner meeting in costume: https://youtu.be/TzYDaqeMejw Even though she is dressed different from the rest of those in attendance she sits at the table and offers, "Does anyone want to split a turkey leg with me?"
I believe to be your true authentic self goes beyond the things people see about you. It is your character that matters. It is the humility, love, and compassion you possess for others offered as empathy. It is the openness and willingness to be vulnerable, transparent, and sincere. It also requires taking a risk that you may not be accepted, appreciated, or even understood. The opinions of others who may judge you might hurt, but don't let their words diminish your authenticity. You don't need to get even or take revenge on a person who does not believe the same way you do. They can be authentic even in their ignorance. Be strong, be unique, and be authentic because that's who you are.