The Ultimate Work Mask!

Hiding My Chronic Illness at Work Nearly Killed Me!

An ex Wall St Trader, Jim Curtis, recently shared with Fast Company how he really paid the price for hiding his chronic back pain at work, as the headline says, it nearly killed him. In the article he shares; ”I was definitely depressed. You don’t realize what a toll that takes …I was more charming .. I learned quickly [to be] charming to manipulate people into not asking what was wrong with me, and because I was happy–seemingly–and the best at what I was doing, no one really questioned me.’’

Wow – an extreme version of masking at work, however, we know that being a different person at work v’s how you are at home is all too common.                                                                              

Our research shows that on average 70% of us are more ourselves at home than at work.




When we first work with clients we ask them to score out of 10 the question: “I have one me – I know who I am – I am the same person at work and at home”, the majority of people score this as low. We can all mask at work, due to fear, wanting to fit in or fit the mould, to be liked. We do it both consciously and un-consciously and choose to hide aspects of ourselves at work.

In Jim Curtis’s case, trying to live up to a perception that isn’t true, ”…(the) perception of who I was, was this macho guy; I was an athlete and I had a plan to work on Wall Street, so I did it. It couldn’t have been a worse choice.’’

A kind and thoughtful boss eventually got Jim to open up, and he shares his story to help others be themselves. He now works for a company that has a culture of  ”non-judgmental kindness that is fostering basic human qualities…”, and he advises: ”…connect and see the human side of everything, including yourself…be authentic.”

Bringing the ‘whole you’ to work has been discussed this week at the Good Day at Work conference in London (reported in HR Magazine), and been highlighted as an important factor in people being happy at work.  On the discussion panel, Jo Hunter, co-founder and CEO of creativity social enterprise 64 Million Artists said; “People often turn up to work with a certain persona that they’re wearing and when everyone does this we don’t know how to relate to each other. If the work environment doesn’t allow us to turn up as ourselves, rather than these personas, this can shut us down.”  Also, Robert Winston, renowned professor of science and society and fertility expert, shared his own experience:  “In my lab I’m probably one of the least intelligent people, but what I’ve done is create an environment where we can be ourselves… and I think that is one of the most important things.” 
We know that when we bring more of ourselves to work we take control of our motivation & engagement. Putting the real you at the centre of your success gets amazing results:

An 88% impact on your positivity and happiness!
Here are some of our top tips to bring the whole you to work:

  • Do you always try and present the perfect you?  Get over yourself – it’s a façade. Being authentic is accepting the real you – warts and all.   
  • Be conscious of your strategies.  Most of us are different people at work and at home.  Notice who you are in different environments. 
  • Stop looking for external recognition to create your confidence.  The world is rampant with the need for feedback and recognition at work.  
  • Find out who you are at heart, talk to us about discovering your iAM values.
  • Build a stronger relationship with yourself and believe in yourself.  Recognise yourself. Write a list of three or four things that make you great at your job, frame them as iAM.  E.g. iAM great at talking to people, they love sharing their ideas with me.
  • Stop waiting for others to make you happy.  Make yourself and others happy instead, in equal balance.  If you say yes to everything, what are you going to start saying no to, to make yourself happier and more effective and efficient?
  • Stop seeking approval – be honest and say what you really think. Stop trying – just be.
  • If someone really knew the real you – what is it they would know about you?  That part of your personality that you are not currently showing.  Be brave and share this part of yourself with your co-workers and team.
  • Finally encourage your business to put the following at the centre of their HR & People and Culture Strategies;
    ”Be yourself here, bring your whole self to work, it’s OK to be who you are at company x y or z.”

Follow Jim Curtiss’s example;
”If you share something and people don’t accept you for it, it’s not the right place for you. Judgment doesn’t bother you when you feel adequate. It’s when you are not loving yourself that you are not your own best support, and you end up sympathizing with the person who judged you.’’ 

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