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How Inauthenticity Increases Work Stress

reducing work stress can mean taking off the mask of inauthenticity

A few years ago I participated in a series of career workshops. These workshops were, ostensibly, aimed to make me… in retrospect, I’m not sure what. More professional? More palateable? The marketing was to increase leadership skills and network, but it really just looked more and more like breeding a homogenized society. But one of the most enduring takeaways was in the results of a personality test we took. I can’t remember what it was called now. But it essentially gauged the difference between who we are at home, and who are at work. And the work stress that comes along with having to do a high level of ramping up for our work-selves.

Probably unsurprisingly to anyone who knows me, the difference between my work self and home self was almost non-existent. And this was back in 2012. I wondered again about how authenticity at work as evolved since then. Particularly as more boomers age out of the workforce and millennials and Gen Zers age into the workforce. Perhaps, also unsurprisingly, there’s quite a big field of research out there on this.

Work Stress Impacts Motivation and Wellbeing

Most of the research utilizes a theory on self-determination, as this study details:

Since authentic behavior refers to the degree to which a person acts in agreement with their true self (i.e., one’s own core values), high levels of authenticity at work should relate positively to more intrinsic types of motivation regulation and negatively to more extrinsic types of motivation regulation. Moreover, high levels of authenticity should be associated with higher well-being at work (i.e., higher work engagement and lower burnout).

Ralph Van den Bosch and Toon Taris

The key findings of the study were that authenticity is indeed positively associated with self-determined actions. Those actions that we *want* to perform vs. introjected regulation (things that we feel do not reflect our authentic selves). Another theory–self-presentation theory–also suggests that we “package” ourselves to fit into some predisposed model of what we think a job or career demands. I know they mean this metaphorically but I can’t help but think of the Wall Street financiers in their Patagonia vests. And it’s this kind of packaging that persists in various areas focused on career-path shaping.

Speaking as someone who 1000% bought into all the models that existed in the early 2010s declaring that “hustle is hope” and others whose central thesis was that work-life balance is incongruous with success. I read all the books. Even wrote articles on the value of long workdays and 3am inbox shuffles. But weathering a pandemic, facing imminent climate collapse, and unsustainable economic challenges has lead me to redefine my perspective. I work to live, I don’t live to work.

A Reading List to Counteract Bootstrap Broseph Culture

Here are four books designed to instigate, titillate, but most importantly, reinforce the concept that the most important thing you can bring to the table is yourself.

1. Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

Kurt Vonnegut

It might be weird to kick off an anti-broculture list with an author whose works like Slaughterhouse-Five often appear on them (albeit for the wrong reasons), but Mother Night is a particularly dark take. A little less parody than his other works, this short, near-novella length is packed full with reminders to be true to ourselves from the ultimate humanist.

2. Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay

“It’s hard to be told to lighten up because if you lighten up any more, you’re going to float the f*ck away.”

Roxane Gay

Do you ever get the urge to stand up and clap when you read a book? That was me, about every other page, reading Roxane Gay’s collection of essays. These essays discuss how women are not only portrayed in modern media, but trained and treated due to those portrayals.

Timely when it was published, and just as timely now as a plethora of made-for-streaming-services biopics hit the small screen focusing on women in the media. From Britney Spears to Elizabeth Holmes to whatever is coming next, Gay’s collection of essays casts an interesting light with a “not-all-women” approach.

3. Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters

“That’s who is now, he reminds himself, someone who makes decisions, who doesn’t let life just act upon him. Wasn’t that the big lesson of transition, of detransition? That you’ll never know all the angles, that delay is just form of hiding from reality. That you just figure what you what you want and do it? And maybe, if you don’t know what you want, you just do something anyway, and everything will change, and then maybe that will reveal what you really want. So do something.”

Torrey Peters

Speaking of TV miniseries, Peters’ first novel is not only the first novel by a trans author to be published by a big name publisher, but also to be made into a miniseries. Time will tell if Peters gets the Sally Rooney treatment, but for now, this work definitely stands apart from other lit. It’s chaotic and sexy and messy, following three women: cis hetersexual, trans, and de-trans (aka former trans and now living as a male) brought together by a pregnancy.

The book explores the Venn diagram of femininity, masculinity, and the in-between with an insightful eye. It’s a book that knows it’s polarizing but makes no attempts to steer away from it.

4. This World Was Made For Me! by JR Becker

“Skeptisaurus then explained,

‘It just looks that way right now:

that this world was built for us,

but it’s the other way around!

You’re thinking like a puddle

Who sees the hole he’s in,

And excitedly declares

How its shape was made for him!”

JR Becker

The Annabelle and Aiden books are a mainstay in my house. While my toddler isn’t quite old enough to grasp a lot of the concepts presented, it’s important to me to build the foundation of a lifelong ideology. Like building a house where she can shuffle around the furniture and redesign as she grows, to create an extended metaphor.

So how might a children‘s book address bro culture? The very title is a tongue-in-cheek reference to life on Earth, from the beginning of time, believing that the planet was made for them to survive and thrive. And yet, generation after generation is culled and a new species rises, believing the earth to be created for them. And over, and over, and over, they die out. See the metaphor?

Be Yourself.

One of my favorite ways to end yoga classes is with a metta meditation, or the loving kindness meditation. It focuses on the self before expanding to all creatures, but expressly wishes these things:

May I be happy, May I be healthy, May I be peaceful, May I be free from suffering.

Notice this does not wish work stress on to anyone. Please remember that you can be yourself, and wish well upon yourself, without changing who you are or how you present yourself to the world.

Learn more about my yoga classes and philosophy, I’m alway available for a cup of coffee!

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