I often talk about the value of ‘Wholeness’ and then find myself giving possibly bland explanations about RIO wanting people to feel that they can be themselves, creating safe working environments and how unattainable a work-life balance really is in the modern age so we just have to do our best in these difficult times. More recently, however, I’ve started to question what wholeness and balance really means and what I can do about that at work (and in my life more widely) and have come to the conclusion it is about embracing vulnerabilities and striving for authenticity.
I try to be authentic, to live to my own values and move to my own tune but it is fraught with contradictions brought on by socialisation and the desire to balance the myriad of personal and professional roles I have, complicated by the fact that I’ve been living with anxiety and depression for the last 20 years.
As a ‘leader’ and responsible manager in a complex, confusing and at times contradictory organisation, I’m well aware that there are lots of things I don’t know, fully understand or am just not very good at. It takes courage to be honest about my own limitations and to stop pretending to be something I’m not. This in itself creates vulnerability which is both enlightening and challenging in equal measures
I don’t see asking for help or admitting fallibilities as a sign of weakness or incompetence, it’s about being honest and having courage in a world of uncertainties where many are exposed to ‘imposter syndrome’ (believing we’re going to get ‘found out’ one day and that we’re just making it up as we go along – over the years I’ve come to believe that ultimately we’re all making it up as we go along, some are just better at it than others)! I have no particular desire to be the smartest person in the room, but I do have skills, knowledge and expertise and a role to play which is the basis for why I’m part of RIO and do the job I do. Honestly, it does feel sometimes that my skills and experiences aren’t always fully recognised or appreciated – which causes frustration and increased anxiety levels (are they not asking me because they don’t think I’m very good) which, if not managed, leads to concerns about job security and an unhealthy desire to ‘prove’ my worth. Sometimes I have to dip deep to remind myself I’m OK and that we’re just all really busy and trying our best. (For anyone who hasn’t come across it, check out ‘Transactional Analysis – I’m OK, You’re OK’ and ‘Games People Play’ both have had a profound influence on my thinking and it particular how I communicate with others).
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want sympathy, to share my woes, sit in a corner a cry (although it does sometimes feel like that) or necessarily expect RIO to do anything about it. I’m not ashamed to say I’m proud of what I’ve achieved and that I am on a voyage of discovery. What I’m aiming for is to be part of a movement and organisation which wants to create an empowering place of work, is forward thinking, treats people as full human beings, recognises we’re all on some sort of voyage and can help each other as we go and that we all have our vulnerabilities. In equal measure it’s also a place which encourages and promotes personal responsibility for actions and decisions, with an understanding of the impact that these have on others and the outcomes we achieve.
RIO is a great organisation to work for. It’s known for being upbeat, enthusiastic and a positive force for change (although we don’t always get it right and I sometimes wonder if we need to reflect a bit more than we do on this). However, and directly because of this push for change and positivity, it can also be exhausting, particularly for someone who tends to err on the side of caution, who likes to stop to ask why and who sees the sense in checking the bottom of the quarry before jumping in. It can also feel like a pressure to feel as if we should always be upbeat and that we should love every day we’re at work. Working for RIO is often hard, and if we don’t take care, it can and does have a detrimental impact on mental health – but talking about that with each other is perhaps the simplest thing we can do to make it better. I remember being told once that it is not selfish to put ‘me’ at the top of my priority list – but it’s hard in an organisation which is all about helping others help themselves.
I can pretend to be thick-skinned, supremely confident or immune to criticism, but ultimately, I’m a human being with all my flaws and foibles and I have my off days (or weeks or even months). However, if we are creating an organisation which recognises that we each have our vulnerabilities and that its ok to be off the mark sometimes, then we can be more honest with ourselves and others and subsequently we’re more likely to achieve a sense of wholeness, and the type of positive change we all want to see.