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why i share my freak and you should too

August 7, 2009

in life,talent

everybody shake it
time to be free amongst yourselves

your mama told you to be discreet

and keep your freak to yourself
but your mama lied to you all this time
she knows as well as you and i
you’ve got to express what is taboo in you
and share your freak with the rest of us
cause it’s a beautiful thang

macy gray

a recent twitter exchange with beth harte and autom tagsa—people i’ve met only within the past few months—brought new thoughts on authenticity since i last wrote about it. through subtle manipulation (“i double-dog dare you,” tweeted beth), the two convinced me to share a photo of my getup for greeting my sister at the airport. donning a costume for any reason, or none at all, is normal for us.

in “real” life and with clients with whom i’ve worked for a while, i profess a love of practical jokes, sharing embarrassing personal stories, swearing, and kibitzing (chatting, not meddling…well, maybe meddling). but on a more general professional level, i’ve drunk the kool-aid that says one should present something akin to a blank slate to others. not offensive, deeply professional. i’ve been steadily whacking away at this notion which creates dissonance between my personal and professional selves, but this! this was uncharted, very public territory.

i tweeted, shared a link, then took cover. what exactly i thought was going to happen, i can’t tell you. dead silence from beth and autom? followers fleeing? people tweeting behind my back? (how exactly would one do that without using the @femelmed?) or even harsher consequences: a lowered perception of my professional capabilities and loss of potential business.

seth godin argues, enough with the “being who you are” angst. just do what you promise and you’re authentic. i agree it’s important to do what you promise. and that may make you authentic to the outside world. what about the inside world—you? being authentic also means being true to one’s personality, spirit, or character.

keeping our real selves hidden limits our ability to fully relate to our workplace and colleagues, and they to us. if company culture and relationships are key engagement levers, it stands to reason that feeling like you don’t fit in will affect your attitude, performance, and investment in sticking around. that’s bad for business.

gen y gets slammed all the time for wanting to shape their jobs to fit their lives rather than adapt their lives to the workplace. they’re not interested in this dissonance i and others regularly experience. they don’t buy into the argument that their clothes or any other outward manifestation of their personality says anything about their ability to do the job. they want a job that fits their values, life, interests, their personality.

instead of criticizing, perhaps we should listen—they’re talking about employee engagement. better yet, maybe we should join in and let our freak flag fly. cause it’s a beautiful thang. f

P1030723p.s. you didn’t think i would write this entire post and not share the photo, did you? you may recall the tights from an artfully-cropped photo for the red shoe project. the bunny ears were because it was easter, whatever you were thinking.


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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

frannyo August 7, 2009 at 9:58 am

I knew I liked you! That is FANTASTIC! And good points, too.

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melmedc August 7, 2009 at 11:01 am

Love it! My style: let the freak flag fly, but unfurl it slowly, over time.

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jillSM August 7, 2009 at 11:36 am

Fran, another great post. And so timely, at least for me. I always struggle with how much of my “authentic self” to show clients (and even peers and colleagues)–fearful they may judge me to be less knowledgeable and professional than if I'd kept the mask on. (Love the photo, btw. Adorable!)

It's not just about who I am in terms of having an outgoing personality, but being curious and questioning and slightly over-achieving. I want to know. I want to understand it all. I want to be expert. I want to apply well and excel. Badly.

And so, it's always a toss up — do I repeat the conversation in my head, tell that joke, end an email on a slightly perhaps too-familiar note? Do I ask a question even though I'm supposed to know the answer (and do), but seek validation and collaboration? Will these things reflect badly on me in terms of appearing technically incompetent or will they present me as confident and thoughtful?

It's because I lack hard answers to these questions that I usually unveil my authentic self to people gently, feeling out how much they want or can handle and letting out small doses of my “freak” accordingly (think IV drip). Seems wasteful, though, in terms of having the connection you talk about–and all the benefits. Hmmmm….

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autom August 7, 2009 at 7:06 pm

love this piece! and since you only do tutus and not colanders, i'll have to speak to one of my buddies who is an ex-member of the Ballet Trockadero to see if he still has his toe shoes…then we can play.

so the question is: WILL you wear a tutu when you next go to a philly tweet-up with beth?

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bethharte August 8, 2009 at 7:22 am

@Autom, if Fran can wear a crazy get up to the airport she can surely wear one to a tweetup!! 😉

@Fran, great points. I think as corporate citizens we've been “trained” to think we need to operate as blank, impersonal slates in the name of being “professional.” It's unfortunate because there are people we work with that are just truly fun, caring, maybe a bit crazy and who are still intelligent, ethical and professional. I truly we think we can have a balance of both.

This is the world I live in now and I am not going backwards. I can't imagine abandoning conversations and relationships with customers OR other marketers. Actually, that seems ludicrous now that I just “said it out loud.” 😉

Have a great weekend!

Beth Harte
Community Manager, MarketingProfs
@bethharte

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lashawnda August 8, 2009 at 10:31 am

I loved this article! Ive slowly started letting my freak flag fly, which means being happy at my job… and the weird part is that some people think im being fake with it. I like what i do and it makes me happy. When im happy, that i talk to are happy… its a circle people… dont keep it all bottled up! unless you are negative all the time.. keep that to yourself.

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fran August 10, 2009 at 8:24 am

frannyo, seems we share more than a name 😉

carey, of course, you are my inspiration and guide in all freak flag unfurling.

jill, i hear ya! i too have put a toe in, sensed the shock (if any), found it wasn’t too bad, and have continued wading in.
also, i draw upon a woman in my early career days who was the first to demonstrate the intelligence involved in saying, “i don’t understand that. can you explain it to me?”

autom and beth, my tutu has become my signature look. of course i’ll wear it to our philly tweetup! how else would you know me?!

beth, yes, yes, yes! there’s a clear link between the desire to be oneself and tear down these false barriers and the rise of the enterpreneur outside corporations and the free agent within.

lashawnda, sounds like we’re starting a movement.

thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts,
f

f

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Chris Hall November 23, 2009 at 11:23 pm

I love it. The personal / professional self dilemma isn’t going anywhere now that we friend our co-workers on various social networks. I’m a fan of being able to be myself wherever…

Lately I’ve been thinking of using “authenticity” as a filter. If people are put off by me being me, then would I really have enjoyed working with them / for them in the first place? It’s easier to just find out in the first place, isn’t it?

Flip the script, ya’ll! 🙂

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fran November 24, 2009 at 8:46 am

chris, totally agree — and am starting to use the same filter w/greater confidence and abandon!

f

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