Remember back in high school when your goal was to fit in? The last thing you wanted to be was a misfit. You’d do almost anything to be invited by the cool kids to sit with them at lunch. Hang out with the jocks or, even better, be nominated, prom king, or queen. We’re conditioned from toddlers up to fit in. Well, I call BS on that.
So we’re clear I don’t encourage people that go out of their way to be different. I also
don’t expect anyone to go out of their way to fit in either. Be respectful, be mindful but always be yourself. To me, there’s no bigger crime committed to oneself than not being true to who you are.
As a black woman, I believe this is a more sensitive topic to me than my non-black counterparts. I am immediately burdened with the need to fit into a world that immediately sees me as different. It’s consistently disappointing to me when I speak with one of my white colleagues or friends that tries to convince me to be more like them. Basically begging me to fit in, simply not understanding that I never well, nor do I care to. And that isn’t wrong. I’m comfortable enough in my own skin to allow others to be who they are and, more importantly, to be who I am. That is no easy feat as a professional black woman.
The million-dollar question is, why does it make so many people uncomfortable to be around people that are different? Why can’t the cheery salesperson and the controller be besties? Why can’t the creative director and the IT genius be friends? They obviously view things differently, but both contribute greatly not only to their company but likely to their communities and their families. Why do we need to change that, change them?
Maybe it’s because of how I grew up, in a poor predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhood, bussed into an all-white neighborhood to attend grammar school. Being a misfit was normal. It was an entire neighborhood bus full of misfits. Were there some learning curves and cultural differences? Oh yes! Some were hilarious, some not so much; in the end, we learned none of us really fit and were ok with that.
I’m always shocked at how necessary professionals find it to fit into a box in the corporate world while claiming they think outside of the box.
This, my friends, is an opportunity for diversity to meet inclusion. Celebrating people for being their authentic selves creates true inclusion. It also creates some of the best experiences and opportunities to learn, and what’s better than that? So I ask you, as you celebrate Black History Month, how important is it that everyone around you be like you? Look like you? Think like you? Act like you? I think it’s long overdue that we stop forcing people to try on other skin and let them be comfortable with their own. Let’s be honest fitting into a mold should be left for making cakes for everything else dare to be different.
I realize personality is important, especially in the professional world. I am a businesswoman, after all. Authenticity is equally important, and when people feel like they can be themselves, they tend to give you their best, and that’s what I want each time, the best. As we enter into this new business era, I can’t help but feel hopeful that more misfits will speak up and stop allowing others to determine what is normal and what isn’t.
I end this encouraging speech with be you. Be SAVAGE. I promise there’s no better fit than being you.