Bringing Your Authentic Self To Work

As individuals we have many different identifies that shape who we are as a person.  

From our cultural or ethnic background, gender identity, sexuality, disability, or health, we are all unique. These identities combined with our experiences influence how we view and interact with the world around us.

Bringing your authentic ‘whole’ self to work brings many benefits to both you and your employer. 

Research suggests that ‘when we experience authenticity…we feel a greater sense of wellbeing.’  When you feel like you can be yourself at work, you feel more comfortable to share your perspective, values, and beliefs. This may result in new innovative ideas, more diverse and inclusive conversations, and ultimately higher productivity.  Feeling empowered to be yourself is also a great way to form meaning relationships and deeper connections with your colleagues. 

So why, when there are some many benefits to bringing our ‘whole self’ to work do many of us have a ‘work self’ identity? Why do we feel it necessary to offer our work colleagues a limited version of our self that often hides important parts of who we are?

Sadly stigma, fear, and judgement can often form part of the answer.  

More than a third (36%) of UK adults in a survey conducted by CIPHR feel they’ve been subject to discrimination in the workplace.  On average, one in six people report having suffered ageism, one in ten say they have been the subject of gender-based discrimination, and around one in twelve feel that they have been on the receiving end of prejudicial treatment because of a disability, their race or sexual orientation.

Experiencing discrimination or judgement relating to a part of your identity acts as a major barrier to authenticity. It can also have a detrimental effect on an individual’s mental health, self-esteem, and performance. 

For individuals experiencing poor mental health fear of discrimination and feelings of shame are among the top reasons people give for not telling their colleagues about their mental health problems.

In the 2021 Education Support Teacher Wellbeing Index,  44% of staff who chose to remain quiet about their poor mental health at work, listed “it would negatively affect the perception of me” as their reason. With the Centre for Mental Health estimating that 10 million people may need mental health support as a result of the pandemic it is important we address these feelings of fear and shame. This can be achieved through open and honest conversations with colleagues, reassuring them that mental health is a valid part of their identity, and they should not feel a pressure to hide this.

Each year on the 18th of March, Mental Health First Aid England runs a ‘My Whole Self Day’ campaign. This day encourages organisations to hold conversations about culture and identify barriers that prevent people from having the safety and freedom to choose which parts of their identity they share at work. 

There are many ways you can get involved as a school and a campaign toolkit with ideas and activities can be found here.

One of the activities that Kent- Teach will be completing is the fun ‘My Whole Selfie’ challenge. It is a great way to help colleagues feel connected and to show your support. It can also highlight to parents and the wider community your commitment to empowering employees to bring their whole self to work, and support their own and other’s wellbeing

To join in simply:

1. Take a selfie, add ‘This is #MyWholeSelf’ and words to describe your whole self. You can write on a piece of paper and hold it in the selfie, or you can add the words using your phone’s photo app or in your social media app.

2. Share your selfie on your social media using the #MyWholeSelf. You can also tag @MHFAEngland

To get some selfie inspiration why not visit the Kent Teach TwitterFacebook and Instagram pages on Friday 18th March  to find out more about our team.

Culture transformation requires changes to beliefs, behaviours, policies, and practices. This is a slow gradual process and cannot be rush. Consistency is key so whilst celebrating ‘My Whole Self Day’ is a fantastic step, this is just one initiative that should support a wider commitment to positive transformation in the workplace.

Having a comprehensive staff wellbeing programme is a key foundation block in workplace transformation and if you are struggling to know where to start our helpful Wellbeing Advisors are on hand to support you with your next steps. 

For some further helpful tips on leadership and creating change why not read our recent blog by a Headteacher with over 10 years expertise in the Independent Sector on The Importance and Power Of Strong Leadership to Create Sustained Change With Respect to Inclusion and Diversity

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