Almost two years ago I went to the clothing store and bought three sweater-dresses for work. The office life has its dress code and I didn’t want to spend too much money on my Monday through Friday 9-5 life so I bought what I called a series of 40 hour uniforms.
Over a short period of time I realized that these sweater-dresses were affecting my work life. I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin so my work life suffered. My hair is naturally big, my jokes are darker than most people can handle and I like taking fashion risks. I wasn’t able to be myself in most of my life during that time. Ask yourself; What do you spend 40 hours a week on other than work? Most of us don’t even spend that much time sleeping. We even see our coworkers more than our loved ones, then waste our post-work time stretching out our personalities that have been confined in a cell for 8 hours or more. It’s not fair to not be yourself during that time. I refuse to go to after-work happy hours out of obligation or take lunch with co-workers for the same reason. And when asked what I am listening to while I work I no longer come up with a random popular band, but say that I am listening to Sword & Scale, a true crime podcast which shows us that the worst monsters are real.
Some of my co-workers occasionally wear jeans and sneakers as an act of rebellion, but at the end of the day, they are still walking around as toned down versions of themselves. The jeans are dark, the sneakers are bland and the shirts are buttoned up to the neck. There was a time where I too felt like rebelling against the dress code. But we sometimes forget that in small acts of rebellion we give a part of ourselves away to the one thing we refuse to give our power to. It’s a catch 22. Also, why get in trouble for being our half selves, when our full selves need that paycheck? By finding small reasons to be 50% of ourselves we start to lose who we truly are as a whole.
This year I refuse to break the dress code, but I also refuse to fit in. Instead I am wearing bright print jammy pants, tribal shirts and boots that would look good with any tight black leather cat suit. There is a way to be myself without rebelling. Not only am I better at my job, because I am more confident than ever, but others respect me more because as a result of my confidence, my work is no longer questioned. Another effect of being my full self is that I no longer hate my job. Surprise surprise! Would you look at that?
In our over-saturated, ego-driven society we constantly hear people preach about leaving their jobs to be happy. What they don’t tell you about is the part time, under-the-table-paying night job they have to work in order to pay the bills. They don’t tell you about their outstanding credit card debt. They also don’t tell you that the reason they are constantly diving deeper into spiritualism, yoga, crystals, chakras, meditation, self-healing retreats and all other self-calming tools that are trending at the moment is because the daily stress of instability requires them to do all the work above in order to keep calm. It is a push and pull of the ego and the spirit. The ego quits, the body feels the outcome and then reaches for the soul. The fact that these mindful leisurely activities are trending also allows their Instagram followers to grow, causing their false sense of success to grow as well. It’s a push and pull of constantly having to kill two birds with one stone. Not to say that I am happy at my job, but I am content. Content is what we search for in Buddhism, so why knock it when you have it? My higher purpose in life has become a lifestyle, not an activity. Never will I allow work to mentally confine me or exert me to the point that I am not able to do what I love, keep growing or feel happiness.
I know what I am doing and it shows. If who you are someone who prefers to fit in, then by all means do what makes you happy. We are not all born to be in the spotlight, regardless of what modern society tells you. Attempting to be a star when who you truly are and feel most at peace being is a fly on the wall, is also a form of watering yourself down. And if you plan to fake it till you make it, then fake a little harder. However, if you are toning and watering down who you truly are for most of your life then ask yourself, whose life are you living?
Make a decision. Every day we wake up and decide who we want to be. The reactions we make, the clothes we wear, the words we say, the smiles we fake and sentiments we stand for. I haven’t gone shopping for clothes in almost a year and my outfits have been more fabulous than ever before. Much like my closet, I already had everything I was looking for.
Very original! Never made the connection between all these different elements – dress code – self=-confidence – work effectiveness. Now I need to think how no dress code affects my work!
Thank you Vesna! It’s a similar concept of how uniforms take away the autonomy of a person. Style is important for many, because it is the way they express themselves and gives them freedom. 🙂
LOVE THIS! It is so important to feel like ourselves and to be able to be comfortable in the things we do. Something as simple as wearing our clothes. We used to have a dress code at our employment, however, it was recently been changed! Now we are able to dress for our day, essentially you have court you need to be in a suite, if you are in the office then you can wear jeans. Of course we still need to look professional/nice, however, we are able to be comfortable and wear the things we like and love. I was actually going to write a post about my work and how I am more comfortable now then I ever was before!
Yes to that Kelsey! It can change the work environment when everyone feels free to be themselves and or course keep it professional. Small things in our daily expressions make a huge difference in the long run.
I worked the same job for 15 years. Every day I wore the same company wardrobe: black polo shirt, khaki pants, dark shoes. Everyday. 45+ hours a week. For FIFTEEN years. I’m not going to lie, sometimes I’d wear a belt with studs on it or something as a small act of rebellion, but mostly I learned that I am the one wearing the clothes, the uniform doesn’t wear me. It doesn’t define me. And…I learned not to get so hung up on fashion trends in my away from work clothing, to own classic pieces that mix and match with everything so I always have something to wear, something I love and fits well on me. I got rid of almost all of my slouchy/frumpy clothes. Got rid of anything stained or ill-fitting. Got rid of any clothes with busy patterns. Sleep pants are now only for sleeping in. LOL
When you wear the same uniform for 15 years, you get used to people seeing YOU, not your clothing. This can make some people feel uncomfortable if they have insecurities (like I did). But over time, I changed. Now I want people to see ME, and not so much my outfit because that is what I’ve grown accustomed to. Think of a classic Audrey Hepburn movie. She wore simple clothing that fit her body, not a lot of patterns or too many colors. Not everyone feels comfortable using this kind of restraint on wardrobe choices. I get that. But, it sure is a lot more economical in the long run and super easy to pack for vacations.
Thank you for sharing your story Juli! I mentioned in the article that what matters is how comfortable someone is in what they are wearing. Everyday is different for me and I like that I no longer feel like it’s wrong to be myself in a work environment. It is part of what keeps me feeling creative the way I can put clothes together in the morning. It is also great to have plain pieces that go great with a lot. I applaud you for knowing what you want and why. Some people dress in a wardrobe, because they feel like they have to. As long as we know why we do the things we do then it’s always the best choice.
I loved this post. Being me and being okay with being me has been on my heart lately. I am one of those who left their job because even though I was allowed to be me I wasn’t happy. Now I just need to believe that I am good enough for wherever I choose to go and what to do. I will never stop fighting for the right to be me, especially when the person I’m fighting is me!
Thank you for sharing your experience Danielle! I found myself doing the same. I currently work in a place where being different is frowned upon and had to get rid of my own restrictions on top of that. Why were you unhappy in the previous open environment?
! It is so crucial to smell like ourselves and to be able-bodied to be easy-bodied in the things we do.
Such a wonderful read!
Thank you! Keep on writing and inspiring.