In my 20’s, I got a nose ring. I was fairly certain that management at my job wouldn’t be thrilled, since they hadn’t liked the fake one that I had been wearing for months. But I also figured it didn’t matter all that much since I didn’t work with the public. I was wrong. They hated it and told me so. It was just a few short months later that I found myself standing in the unemployment line, with nothing but stellar performance reviews in my employee file and a resume in my hands.
So why did I do it? Well, at the time, I hated my job. I hated the long commute. I hated the early mornings. I hated the long hours. I hated that the way I was expected to act and dress at work was nothing like the real me. I felt like I was being forced into a box that was going to suffocate me. I felt like I needed to do something to reclaim a small bit of myself. And, to be honest, I also hated the management team and wanted to annoy them. Note to self: Never intentionally annoy management.
Thankfully, over the years, I’ve come to realize that there are better ways to honor yourself. Ways that don’t involve thumbing your nose at authority or worrying about superficial things like piercings. Instead, they involve being true to the deepest parts of who you are. If you’re true to your core self, you’ll be miles ahead of everyone else in terms of both self-care and stress management.
There’s a lot of deep, self-examination that needs to happen in order to know yourself well enough to be able to do what it takes to honor yourself. I can’t give you any hard and fast answers, because each person is unique. I can, however, give you a few questions to start with:
Are you a Early Bird or Night Owl? – Studies are now showing that early birds and night owls have different brain patterns as well as different DNA. That’s right, whether you like to rise early or stay up late is written in your genes. Your tendency toward morning or night is called your chronotype, and there’s a whole spectrum that ranges from those who rise at 4am to those who don’t go to bed until 4am.
Does your work schedule honor your chronotype? Can it be shifted to honor your needs more? Will it help if you make the case to your boss that you’ll be more attentive, thorough, and accurate if you have a different schedule? How can you get a work schedule that honors your chronotype?
Are you an introvert or extrovert? – Please note: The terms introvert and extrovert have NOTHING to do with being shy or outgoing; instead, they indicate the ways in which you lose or gain energy and how you process the world around you.
Does your work environment honor you? Is your office/cubicle/open office plan best suited to your needs? Do you prefer thoughtful or spontaneous communication? Which type is the norm in your workplace? Are meetings a whirlwind of everyone talking over everyone else, or slower paced and methodically planned? Is that the type of environment you thrive in?
What about your family/home life? Is there enough quiet time or interaction/play time for you? If not, have you made your needs known? What changes can be made to make it better suited to your needs?
How much alone time do you really NEED? – You can’t possibly know if you’re getting enough “me time” if you’ve never figured out how much you actually need. Everyone, even an extrovert, needs some amount of alone time. Introverts, however, need much more down time than extroverts do. If you get too much or not enough, you’re going to be cranky and out of sorts. If you don’t already know how much you need, now would be a good time to start figuring it out.
What is your core belief system? – Are you Religious? Spiritual? Agnostic? Atheist? Are you pretending to hold one set of beliefs while really holding another? If so, why? How can you honor your beliefs while also honoring the beliefs of those around you? (That’s not to be “PC,” it’s just good manners. It’s also the Golden Rule of “Do Unto Others…”)
Are you a follower or a leader? – The world needs both, which are you? Are you currently in that role? If not, how can you transition into it?
How much autonomy do you NEED? – How much do you need and how much can you live with? Little will make you crazy faster than not having enough autonomy. That’s one of the biggest reasons I became self-employed… my need for autonomy.
What brings you joy? – Do you partake in joy-bringing activities often enough? If not, why not? How can you bring more joy into your life?
As you work on finding ways to honor yourself, notice how much better you feel and how much easier it gets with each successive step you take. But most of all, remember these wise words from the Bard himself:
“To Thine Own Self Be True “
~ William Shakespeare