Organizations and teams each have their own culture and unique dynamic. Some are positive and constructive while others can be negative and destructive. The key for success and fulfillment is finding where you fit.

Here’s what I’ve noticed can happen when people try too hard to fit in or stand-out in either setting.

We try to fit in so we:

  • Go along with everything – even bad ideas, because if it were truly bad, someone else would have spoken up by now. If they don’t, I won’t either.
  • Avoid rejection and follow the herd.
  • We join in the discussion with mediocre ideas because we want to be seen as a contributor.

We try to stand out by:

  • Finding the flaws because someone needs to point out the downside.
  • Challenging every idea to keep those in charge on their toes.
  • Looking and acting different because we don’t want to be like them.

Be authentic:

What if rather than fitting in, or standing out, we were simply ourselves? Many people fall into the “beige” category, and blend in and “go along to get along”. (I realize sometimes we need to lay low and do our job to make rent or car payments and pay bills until we can make a break for it and find a new opportunity.)

What happens when we’re not in that situation though, why don’t we bring our authentic self, the real us, to work? I believe this happens when we don’t reflect and self-evaluate and know what’s under our hood. We need to know what type of engine we have – gas, electric or hybrid and are we 4, 6 or 8 cylinders? Once we know our power source then it’s a matter of identifying where it is best suited to operate.

Being different or unique in a manner that is constructive, positive, and healthy means we must strive to be ourselves. We can’t be anyone else and expect to live with integrity, joy and feel grounded.

Clues for finding your real self-include:

  • Noticing what friends, family and colleagues compliment you for, keep saying you’re a “natural” at, and deeply appreciate about you.
  • Being aware when you’re asked to do something beyond your values, comfort zone or skill set and your gut screams – “Don’t do this, it is wrong!”
  • Noticing when you’re in a job you’ve trained for and realize you don’t like it, struggle to complete the tasks and don’t care anymore. That’s likely not what you should be doing.
  • Realizing when you are doing something and time flies by and you don’t feel tired or fatigued. That’s likely when you have flow and are working in your sweet spot.
  • Completing personality, strengths, and aptitude assessments to discover what talents and abilities you have that are currently underdeveloped or perhaps in your blind spot.
  • Being honest with yourself. Pay attention to your self-talk and inner voice. What is it trying to tell you? Are you listening?

The pressures of work, relationships, financial commitments, not to mention living through a pandemic, can add pressure for us to try and be someone, or something, that can cause us to lose sight of who we really are.

Strive to be your best self. You and the rest of us will be better off for it.