Welcome to another edition of my Weekly Journal! I use this space to share a bit about jewelry, and a lot about my journey from lawyer to jewelry business owner. This week I want to talk about authenticity at work. It's so important to find work that is in alignment with who you are -- work that makes use of your given talents and natural gifts. When you do work like that, things just flow. The converse is true, too. When you work in a field that either isn't in alignment with who you are or, even worse, forces you to change who you are, the Monday to Friday grind can feel like a real uphill battle. Have you ever thought about whether your job or career is in alignment with who you are? I hadn't, until long after I quit my lawyer job. I didn't know it at the time, but a lot of the angst I felt working in the legal profession stemmed from the fact that I wasn't doing work that was in alignment with my personality. In fact, I sometimes felt like I had to betray my own personality in certain ways to be a "good lawyer." If you find yourself in a similar situation, you might want to read on!
Many people who meet me cannot believe that I was once a lawyer. They can't picture me as an attorney. I'm on the quiet side, I'm friendly, and I tend to have a warm and comforting disposition about me. Lawyers tend to be loud, aggressive, unfriendly, cold, and uncomfortable to be around (not all lawyers... but the stereotype exists for a reason). People used to make the same comment back when I was a lawyer too, and this should've been a huge red flag. Why do people I just met always say they're surprised I'm a lawyer? It literally was that obvious that my personality didn't "fit" the role of attorney.
My body also told me that something was off. For the majority of my 11 year career as an attorney I experienced stomachaches. Every day. I tried different things to address the problem, but nothing worked. Magically, and I say this with absolutely no exaggeration, my stomachaches seemed to disappear about a week after I quit my lawyer job. I'm not kidding. It's an amazing thing what stress can do to you. Sitting here now I think to myself, what if I had continued on? I'm sure 40 years of persistent stomachaches from the stress of work wouldn't have faired well for me. I most likely would have ended up with a much more serious illness or medical condition.
My spirit also told me something was off. At times I was told, either implicitly or expressly, to change things about myself to fit more into the role of attorney. My spirit didn't like this, but I tried to fit into the role anyways because I was young and didn't know any better. For example, I remember this one article that circulated around the law firms that addressed the use of exclamation points and flowery language in emails written by females. Cease the use of exclamation points! They are over-used and diminish your authority, the article said. The article also cautioned against the use of filler language or flowery language. For example, instead of writing "Just checking in on the draft brief I sent you last week. Please let me know if you've had a chance to review it and if you have any edits." you should instead write, "Please provide a status update on the draft." As someone who likes to use warm and friendly language in email communications, this didn't sit well with me. It seemed like I was being coached to write and speak more like a man. What in the world is wrong with the woman's way of speaking? Absolutely nothing. In fact, I think it promotes a greater sense of teamwork and workplace camaraderie. I'd be far more likely to quickly respond to the nice email than the status update email, wouldn't you?
I also didn't have a great fondness for the clothes I was "supposed" to wear as a lawyer. Pant suits and blazers that were plain and simple, and DARK. Very dark. If you see my Instagram Stories, I rarely wear black. But as a lawyer, you almost always wear black or navy. The clothes I wore felt stuffy and too proper. I often felt like I was trying to look more like a man than a woman in my lawyer suits, as if looking like a man would somehow make me more credible to the judge or client. I sure didn't realize this at the time, but looking back now, that's exactly what a female lawyer's wardrobe is meant to convey. I mean, that's the reason pant suits for women were invented! To mirror and model a man's suit.
And most importantly, I didn't like the way I needed to betray my own natural personality in order to fit the role of lawyer. How I needed to become more argumentative, more aggressive, more more more of the things I just WAS NOT. It was stressful to put on an act, and pretend I was someone I wasn't. This is your biggest clue that you're out of alignment with your job or career.
I wish someone had coached me back in high school or college to take a look at my natural gifts, skills, and personality traits, and to pick a job or career that meshed with those. I sure wouldn't have ended up a lawyer. In fact, if someone had said to me back then, "If you become a lawyer, your entire life is going to feel like one big argument", I would've said, "Stop right there, that's not me and I'm going to find something else to do with my life." If you're currently feeling angst, unhappiness, and tension in your current job or career, take some time to examine whether your work is just out of alignment with YOU. And if it is, that's ok. Know there are a lot of things out there that would be in alignment with who you are. You don't need to change yourself to fit into a role that you weren't born to play. And please don't let anyone make you think that you do. Examine how your body feels about your work - is it constantly stressed out, uncomfortable, and sick? Examine how other people react when you tell them about your job - do your friends and family and maybe even strangers tell you that your personality doesn't seem to fit your career? Examine how your spirit feels - do you feel like you're constantly being beat down or coerced into changing some aspect(s) of yourself in order to fit a role? Take an inventory of these things, and if they're not in alignment, find a career coach. There are so many available on the Internet these days - interview a few and pick one that can help you work through your traits, gifts, and skills and help you list a number of jobs that are in alignment with those. Changing careers can be difficult at times, but coming up with a list of potential good careers for you is not as hard as it would seem. Take that first step. It'll probably make you feel more at ease to compile a list of careers that would serve you well! And then maybe the excitement of finding a career in alignment with who you really are can propel you into the journey of actually changing careers!
Cheers to doing work that's in alignment with who you really are!