Archana or Arch as we call her is more a dear friend than a colleague from Infosys.
To introduce her - Prolific Writer. Amazing singer. Meticulous and Organised. If she commits to something, you know the result is going to be nothing short of awesome.
An absolute Star at work or otherwise.
Of the many things I have admired in her, the most striking one is her authenticity. Never felt the need for validation, no masks and always true to her real self. She has so many layers to her personality that you'd think you know her but she'll still surprise you.
I have the pleasure to share her writing with you. Thanks Arch for sharing this amazing experience and learning. Here's her take on authenticity.
“There’s one Archana at work and then one outside the office”, said my ex-boss, mentor and friend a few years ago. This was in response to someone saying that I was super fun when out at a bar but equally serious when at work. My knee-jerk reaction was to defend myself and say, “Uh, no, I’m the same wherever, in whichever environment”. But I took a moment and realized, maybe she was right. Outside work, you could hear me laughing loudly and having a ball, but within the office, I was always looking at my laptop, rarely cracking a smile at meetings. Only my team and a few close colleagues knew what I assumed was the “real me”.
That comment would come back to me time and again in the years to come. In a world where there’s an increasing importance on authenticity, should I reconcile me at work vs me at home? Why does the divide exist? How does it make me feel? Do we really bring our true selves to work, no matter how inclusive and accommodating company culture is? I brought this up with a mentor, and she said, it’s hard to be your best self when versions of you are in conflict. This was true in a sense, ‘Work Archana’ would suddenly emerge in exacting to-do lists for the weekend, taking the fun out of it, while ‘Home Archana’ would burst out in laughter or a sarcastically roll her eyes in defiance of authority in meetings. Leaving the unassuming audience wondering who it was that slipped through! But I carried on, not thinking too much about it (which is my coping mechanism, no matter which version of me :D).
Fast forward to 2021.
Our lives have been laid bare on multiple Zoom calls – pets, parents, partners and help making their appearances, loud conversations without hitting mute, pyjamas swapping in for fresh pressed corporate attire. There has never been a more opportune time to merge the Me at work and Me at home. I made big strides in the direction for sure. Yet, I still couldn’t manage a complete transition for many reasons – fear of being excluded, oversharing, recognizing the burden of how women are perceived at work – the list goes on.
And then, a few weeks ago, I was in a session with colleagues discussing the importance of allyship and culture. We were asked if we bring our “true selves” to work and if not, why. Responses varied across the board and one colleague responded that he used to struggle to reconcile versions of himself, but now, his authentic self IS the multiple versions. And most importantly, he is ok with this.
This was a breakthrough moment for me. Maybe the reason I never felt internal conflict was because I was comfortable with the multiple ‘Me’s. Maybe we all have facets that we show to different people, in different situations, at different times. Maybe…
• These aren’t “versions” but just facets of your personality in different combinations, all of them making up who you are.
• You can have multiple “versions” and still be authentic to who you are. Conflict arises when you put on a façade and mimic traits/characters that aren’t your own.
• We increase the “versions” that we show people, based on comfort, intimacy and situation.
• There will always be one complete “version” that only we know, our innermost selves, the last layer of the onion.
Ultimately, people and situations will determine how you react and which version you exhibit, but true authenticity arises from your knowledge of yourself. Choose the path that works for you – reconcile your versions or live peaceably with multiple ‘you’s.
For me, I’m floating along comfortably with the multiple ‘Me’s you may get to see.