During our time underground, many of us have had a great deal of time to think. Perhaps too much. Separated from the lives that made us who we were, it may have left us wondering who we’ve become.
It’s March (huge sigh of relief). Generally, March is a month we welcome with open arms. It signifies the start of spring, and this is a spring like no other. There is hope of us resurfacing from the involuntary and extended hibernation we went into last spring. We have since only appeared for brief moments of light before disappearing back into our burrows. This spring, we can finally see a more permanent future in the gleaming light of the outside world.
During our time underground, many of us have had a great deal of time to think. Perhaps too much. Separated from the lives that made us who we were, it may have left us wondering who we’ve become. How are we going to adapt to this unfamiliar environment? How will we reconnect with the people we once held so close?
Before your emergence, I highly recommend reading You Do You by Sarah Knight. You will learn, in a very straight-talking and incredibly humorous language (a little humour is currently non-negotiable), that being yourself really is the best way forward. You’ll understand the difference between good selfish and bad selfish (I would actually see the former as self-care), how to turn your weaknesses into strengths and how putting your own happiness first is a much better approach for all involved.
We may all be feeling a little lost right now, which is more than understandable. But being guided by what others expect of us, rather than what is right for us, is only going to add to the confusion. This is a chance to look at what you (with an enormous emphasis on YOU) want from your (YOUR) future.
It’s not surprising we need a handbook on how to be ourselves. Western society created internal conflict from day one. We’ve been conditioned to believe we should ‘be’ a certain way, which you can read more about in Just be yourself. If we don’t fit into these strict parameters, we should adapt accordingly. At long last, we’re questioning this archaic belief. But there’s still a long way to go. Hopefully, we’ll teach future generations to catch on to the idea a little sooner.
Back to lockdown (it’s hard to stay off the subject for too long. Seriously, what did we used to talk about?). A whole new challenge arose in the form of an invasion into our personal lives. There was a time when we could close the front door, give the brave face a rest and leave the outside world, well, outside. When this option became unavailable, the only way to stay connected was to virtually bring it in with us. Suddenly, and completely unprepared, we were being viewed and judged in our most sacred space through the beady eyes of Zoom.
So of course, the brave face couldn’t be tucked away anymore. In fact, it was staring right back at us in the most unflattering reflection of ourselves imaginable. On that subject, why do we need to see ourselves on Zoom? It’s not like we’d usually deem it necessary to bring a mirror to an actual meeting/drink with friends/family occasion. Anyway, our top-half-only image was just the start of our worries. Our chosen Zoom location was also on display. The through-the-keyhole view into our once-private abodes. We were so concerned about this brutal intrusion we felt the need to invest in a home library.
Naturally, an element of professionalism is required here. We can be more relaxed with the friends and family online gatherings, but general household chaos isn’t a great backdrop to a team meeting (in the same way a pyjama top isn’t the best choice of visible clothing). Even if the evidence of not being able to keep up (again, entirely understandable) is redistributed off-screen, a little thought into the background is a good idea to show we mean business (literally).
But is there a danger of trying to be someone we’re not? Rather than focussing on an honest representation of our professional selves, are we more concerned with how we think we should be seen? If a colour-coded bookshelf makes a working space bright and inspirational, I’m all for it. If we’re becoming a nation of more avid readers, that’s got to be a good thing. But if we’re installing an instant bookshelf of William Shakespeare, Jane Austen and Charles Dickens classics (the more rustic the better) because that’s what ‘we’ do for Zoom backgrounds, then who are we fooling? We’re bowing down to those who dare judge us.
As we cautiously pick up and bravely rebuild the lives we left behind, we’re more likely to find contentment if we embrace our individuality, stay true to our beliefs and resist the temptation to please others. It’ll also help us attract the right people along the way; people who accept and love us for who we are.
No one knows what to expect as the country reopens once again (and once and for all, please). But what you expect of yourself, minus the outside influence, is something you can start working on now. Set your own expectations. Step outside triumphantly with your newfound freedom. And when asked what you think, want, or would like to do (however big or small), pause and ask yourself what is right for YOU. When concerned about what others think, remember whose opinion matters the most. Yours.