132: Bringing Your Whole Self to Work

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Welcome friends to Episode #132 of the Own Your Best Life Podcast. When you start to feel disengaged, stressed or burned out at work or in your personal life – it often causes you to pause. You start to wonder what’s the point of doing this work or living life this way? Especially when the never-ending to-do list keeps growing and the problems keep piling up, we start to lose our motivation for sustaining life in this way. This is when we ask ourselves the question, “what’s wrong with me?” or “what’s wrong with the way I’m living?” Essentially, we want to know why life just doesn’t feel quite “right”. This is often due to a disconnection between who we are and who we are when we are working. Whether your work revolves around your personal life or family – or revolves around a business and organization – it’s the same. We want to bring our whole selves to work. Today’s podcast is about the ways we can begin to be more whole even in our work.

Bringing your whole self to work can often be seen as a privilege. Who are we to think that we should be our best versions of ourselves at work? Isn’t work just a place to work? Why are we asking our work to be an extension of who we are? This is true to some extent.

In the beginning of your working life, you’ll be working just to make ends meet and to sustain yourself or others. You are working to gather resources and share them with others. Work isn’t who you are, it’s a means to an end.

At some point, however, we become more engaged with our work. We start to think about the next level of engagement. We think about our work as an extension of our identity. It becomes a career. It may even become a vocation.

Yet, what’s the gap between the place where we’re just working and paying the bills and the place where we’re feeling fulfilled and as if we’re sharing our gifts? That involves bringing your whole self to work.

This includes diving into your inner life and your connection to oneself.

Self awareness is the first step to being able to bring your whole self to work. If you don’t know who you are, what you need and what your gifts or strengths are – it will be hard for you to identify if your work fulfills those aspects of yourself.

When I first began thinking about a job, it was about creating structural stability. What is a secure job? Where can I get paid a decent wage? Then it became about more learning, growth and advancing to another level. My level of awareness of my strengths and weaknesses were lower in the beginning of my career journey then they were later. As you learn more about who you are as a person, you learn more about who you are in the way you work.

It’s one and the same.

You might not even be conscious of the way that you want to feel differently about yourself and your work. Right now, things might just feel off. You know when something doesn’t feel right in your body but the difference is now you’re thinking that perhaps you can actually do something about it.

What makes you feel authentic in your work and personal life is when you feel congruent with what you know. If you know that yelling at others isn’t the best way to do work yet you are in an environment where that is occurring, you’ll often feel like you want something to change.

This is what I mean about authenticity and your whole self. It’s about an awareness of you in context of the environment. It’s about letting go of your personal preferences and seeing more objectively that this is or is not a good fit for you. It’s also about saying to yourself, “why don’t I be more honest with myself and others around me?”

I often think about the times in my life where I hide things that feel subtle. This looks like changing the music you listen to because you’re embarrassed about what others would think. This looks like not talking about topics that you find fascinating. This looks like being who others want you to be and instead of feeling like that’s aligned and an act of service, you resent it.

Even in our work, we have a space to be ourselves. This can look like knowing the way we work best and acknowledging that others may work differently. This can look like sharing that we have priorities that might be different from other people’s priorities. This can look like knowing that your failures, even at work, don’t represent who you are as a person – but who you are as a person trying to do this one activity or thing that is in front of you.

The beautiful thing about understanding how we connect ourselves to work, is that we can then disconnect ourselves and our worth from our work. When we feel safe to be seen as who we are – whether it’s the style of communication or your interests and passions – we feel safe to make work less about us. We don’t need work to become everything in our lives. We see ourselves as whole people outside of our roles and responsibilities. I believe that we are spiritual beings having a human experience so when we are able to be whole beings, we are able to find more space in our lives to feel freedom.

We find freedom because we can select which parts of ourselves to bring to work. We find freedom because we don’t have to bring parts of ourselves to work that we haven’t yet figured out. We find freedom because we see ourselves as imperfect human beings, learning in Earth school and finding meaning in the way we live our lives – which include our work.

Work is a microcosm of the identities we want to inhabit, the impressions we want to make, the beliefs we hold about ourselves and that which others hold of us. All of this can be traced back to our own decisions of how we want to see ourselves in our work. If you decide that work is for your spiritual, mental, physical and emotional development – it will be. If you decide that work is an extension of who you are and is effortless, it is. All of these require decisions that break the mold of what you have to do versus what is best for everyone involved.

You at your highest potential is when you can add the most value. When you feel you can bring all sides of you to work, you will access more experiences, wisdom and determination. You will see more opportunities and you will utilize your time here with more impact. It doesn’t mean you have to access all parts of you at work, it just means that you can and you’re able to do it knowing this is what is for the highest good for everyone. When we feel scared or worried, we get into fight or flight or freeze – our field of vision closes in, options look limited and we don’t become our best version of ourselves at work. 

When I coach clients on these topics, it will often look like deciding to not be so stressed at work. Bringing your whole self to work includes bringing your more resourceful version of yourself into play. We’ve been conditioned to think that we must be stressed to produce great results, yet that’s not the case. You can bring in your sense of discernment, humor, love, compassion and determination – and help you solve problems in a more neutral way.

When we’re not as stressed, we actually have better results and it’s also more sustainable. This means that bringing your whole self to work can look like bringing that knowledge of what fuels, motivates and sustains you – and being able to have a connection with yourself that leaves you with the space to help others around you and do your best thinking.

I remember when I knew I wasn’t bringing my whole self to work and when I was. I remember someone saying to me that they were excited that I was “going to be able to utilize my passions” and I just had an almost visceral reaction to that statement. One that was like, “no, I’m a serious person doing serious work – it can’t be tied to passions or fun.” In that moment, I saw myself edging away at that part of me that felt like doing something where I had a lot of natural interest and curiosity was wrong. That the struggle was necessary for success.

I understood for a long time that in order for me to actually experience something different in my life, I couldn’t just change the work – I had to change my relationship with myself, what I made success mean and what I tied to success. I had to change what my “whole self” looked like – and in many cases, get to know what that self even was without the need to do or be a certain way for others to approve of or value me. This is what brought me back to understanding my spirituality in a deeper way. 

Beyond rituals or religions, what do I believe about the world? How can I authentically be myself anywhere, let alone at work, if I was trying to solve a problem through distraction, whether it be through trying to attain goals or plan for the next thing? I was asking myself, “can I be ok being who I am right now?” That question was so simple yet disarming. This meant that I had to disassociate myself from the things I did. I had to love myself unconditionally. I had to accept everything and not try to escape it. It brought me back to what I feel is ground zero. The place where I begin and end.

From this place, things look more neutral. From this place I can be whoever I need to be. From this place, I can be curious and ask questions. Bringing my whole self to work wasn’t about what I wore or the music I listened to (although I did start with even just that) it became about the quality of person I was no matter what I did and where I went. To be one person to everyone, including myself. 

This is what has brought me the most inner peace, satisfaction and deep sense of joy. This sense that there is no one else to be but me, in all my imperfections and struggles. There is no shape shifting required. There is only the effortless action that comes from really seeing things as they are and trying to help and serve for the highest good for all.

This practice of bringing one’s whole self is just that. A practice. We see how throughout the course of our day, week, month or year we run away from ourselves. We are distracted. We try to be so busy so we don’t sit alone with our thoughts. We don’t want to connect because there’s nothing to connect to. Yet, I would offer that there is. Beyond the place of judgment, which is often the first wall to climb, there is non-judgmental awareness. There is presence. There is a sense of being ok that allows you to feel deeply alive, grateful and that you are supposed to be here on this planet, right here right now. 

My wish is that we all help each other climb those walls of judgment to see that there is something worth connecting with and to. That even if it’s the connection with ourselves, we are worth getting to know. We are worth learning about and helping out from time to time. We are worth being seen as we are, in and outside of work.

If you feel called to explore these topics in more detail, you will love spiritual achievement coaching – where we work to develop your intuition and energy so that you can achieve your personal and business goals with spiritual fuel.I invite you to join me by reaching out at www.mayempson.com/contact

That’s it for this week. Have an amazing one and I’ll talk to you next time.

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