Why Do We Put On a Different Persona At Work Than at Home?

October 3, 2022

If you were an orange (stay with me) and I took you to work, and put you on the boardroom table, are you still an orange? What about if I took you home and put you on the kitchen table, are you still an orange? Would you be more of an orange if I put you back on the tree where you came from? Ok so we all know the answer. I am an orange no matter where you put me.

The same goes for yourself. You are the same person whether you are at the cinema, on the sports field, at the shops, at home or at work. You’re still the same human. Your outside self might be different, based on what you wear and you may change some of your character traits but you’re still you.

Yet why do we often have a different persona at one place compared to another? I’ve been asking, and researching this for years now and here’s what I know.

Our self-control kicks in, or not
Most people find that how they react to circumstances and people is different at home than it is at work. People are much more likely to react with their true nature, warts and all, at home compared to work. They might argue more voraciously at home, they might let things go more easily or even let the tears flow more naturally.

Yes we might get more wound up at home but that’s not the main reason the difference exists. It’s that we exhibit more self-control when we are at work. We tend to manage our reactions in a more healthy way and take responsibility for the ripple effect we have. Not always, but mostly. This is a good thing too. We have a responsibility to treat people well at work and we know this.

We should all over ourselves
Many of us live in a place of obligation. We feel obliged to do things and say the ‘right’ thing. It leads us to saying things like;

  • I should not say that
  • I should be working harder, or smarter
  • I should have seen that coming
  • I should have reacted differently
  • I should act a certain way.

When we live in ‘shoulds’ we end up being something others expect of ourselves rather than who we are. So we become that persona, based on what we believe those around us want and need. With that also comes a whole lot of guilt. It’s not a pretty place because you’re always trying to please others and it can leave you mentally and physically exhausted. We become more experienced at self-punishing than self-approving.

We believe we don’t have permission
Most people feel like they are not able to be themselves. We don’t ‘feel safe’ enough to be ourselves at work because the consequences of judgement, missed out career opportunities and damaging our reputation hold us back. Many have never had anyone say this; it’s just a feeling. It’s interesting if the majority are feeling this then maybe we are also contributing to it. Something to ponder anyway. If we continue to judge others, inwardly or explicitly then this drives that type of culture.

What could change this?
The pursuit of being truly human is discombobulating. We are so damn tough on ourselves. Learning to be enough with exactly who you are is not an easy journey. Many of you believe that to be whole you should pursue, not just being better, but being perfect. Either perfect at your job, your parenting, your partnering or your physical self. We need to find our inner flawsome.

Flawsome is not just making peace with your flaws; it’s knowing that without them, you would not be you. It goes beyond surrendering to your flaws; it means owning them, understanding them and knowing that admitting them gives you your power. It doesn’t take your power away.

It requires courage yes. The courage to be open to others and to yourself. So that eventually you are not hiding from anyone. Your orange becomes the same inside and out no matter where it sits.

 

- Georgia Murch, author of Forgive Your Damn Self

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