In November 2003, I was getting ready for a job interview that I had been dreaming about. While swiping my most flattering pink lipstick as I looked at myself in the mirror. I saw my sister in the corner of the glass leaning against my doorway, smiling. I asked, “Do you have any tips for me?”
She cocked her head and thought for a moment, then said, “Try not to be yourself. Just act normal!”
I laughed and shooed her away. “Bad advice!” Even though it may have sounded funny, she was serious. After she left, I thought about the implications of her suggestion. What is normal anyways?
Suddenly, I realized that all of my self-doubt was centered on fitting in and pleasing others. My sister’s suggestion to not be myself and to try to act normal meant that to be accepted by the interviewers, I had to put on a mask and uphold myself to an arbitrary ideal we like to call normal.
Well, there’s no such thing as normal. We are each unique in our skillsets, our personalities, our backgrounds, and our weirdness, and we should never compromise ourselves for the sake of acceptance. In the same vein, when we meet people who are quite different from us, we ought to welcome their differences rather than judgment. We never know what we might learn from someone who looks or dresses or acts differently from us.
In the workplace, many people lose touch with who they are in order to belong and have job security. But, what companies need more of is innovation, creative ideas, and differentiating themselves in the market. This does not happen if the employees limit themselves and seek to act normal.
To my sister, I want to tell her, “be who you are, it is what makes you YOU.” Lets accept ourselves and all the weird, unique parts of us. It’s the peculiar things about us that, ultimately, make us beautiful. Also, lets not miss out on the opportunity to connect with people because they are different, and realize the beauty and the value that they bring to the world.
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