Embracing Both Our Physical and Mental Individuality at Work

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The days of being trapped inside a box are over — it’s time to be free and loudly embrace our individuality, especially in the workspace.

If the COVID-19 pandemic taught us anything, it’s that what we thought was “normal” and worked in terms of productivity no longer fits the new reality — and this includes work myths like efficiency and the supposed “dress code.”

From now on, our brightly colored dyed hair, our piercings, our style, and our tattoos are more than an expression of our personality — they are our rights as individuals.

But this change goes beyond body modifications once considered “eccentric;” it’s about abolishing the pressure of society, the outdated “should be” that pushed us to self-isolation, to cover our natural hair or hide our partner to avoid embarrassing questions that are now unnecessary.

This is the time to rewrite society’s expectations and finally allow ourselves to be who we are without a second thought.

Here are two reasons why this push toward individualism is so important for the near future.

Freedom of expression 

Without this unnecessary pressure of fitting into a cookie-cut ideal figure of corporate America, more freedom of expression will have our creative juices flowing and ultimately propel ideas. It means simultaneously representing individuality and creating a new type of role model that reassures our next generation to do whatever they want in life without changing. It means destroying the ancient and negative connotations that certain modifications like tattoos and piercings may have and overriding them with positivity.

Easing your mental health

Individuality is not only what we physically perceive; it is also what we deal with inside. By not actively having to hide certain parts of ourselves, such as our depressive moods, we will have more time to channel this energy into our work. During COVID-19,n a wave of compassion has highlighted mental health and the importance of not stigmatizing it in the workplace. As we prepare ourselves to go back to IRL work, we should reflect on this because our mental health is, too, what makes us the individuals we are. 

It is extremely hard to talk about mental health, but we can start a conversation with compassion. In a Harvard Hillel discussion entitled “Mental Health as an Invisible Dimension of Diversity’,” the director of the office of race, equity, and inclusion at the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health Joy Connell expressed: “There’s a lot of reasons people are fearful or hesitant to disclose this,” reasons such as fear of diminished expectations around work performance, fear of pressure to resign, and fear of how disclosure could affect social interactions with colleagues. “We spend so much of our waking time at work at these jobs, and to have that happen has got to be awful,” according to the same article based on the expert panel. Little by little, we can diminish those reasons and stigmatized fear at the workplace and make it easier for our future generation. They don’t need to carry that pressure.

So, as we ease back into our busy lives, let’s work on rewriting society’s outdated rulebook with what we’ve learned during this dreadful pandemic. Let’s flourish our individuality in a healthy and compassion-filled way and use our voices to make sure we’re being heard at our workplace — advocating for both our physical appearance and mental health.

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