“Sometimes standing out is the best way to fit in”

Standing out is the best way to fit in

“Sometimes standing out is the best way to fit in”

What a great lesson unexpectedly conveyed in the fabulous West End Musical – Kinky Boots. I am not entirely sure what I was expecting from such a flamboyant musical theatre production, however, it wasn’t an eye-opening confirmation of one of the fundamental principles of the Totally Me approach. Standing out to fit in, hit me in a very precise way – this is exactly one of the messages I have been attempting to convey. It’s a huge part of reclaiming your true self in order to live an authentic life as who you are meant to be. It took a drag queen in a sparkly dress and vertiginously high heeled boots in a London theatre to prompt me to speak out a little more on the subject.

Right now, you might be thinking the whole concept of a drag queen standing up for who they really are has no relevance to you whatsoever. I say exactly the opposite. Granted, it may be an extreme example, however, my view is that to a greater or lesser degree we can all relate to something in this story. My own personal experience concerns a work situation – one in which I felt unheard and largely invisible in a particular group of people, in spite of holding a significant management role with high visibility and responsibility in the wider organisation.

So, what was my solution to this situation? After looking around at my colleagues, my response was to adopt the same corporate uniform as everyone else – the suits in navy, black and grey, typical of that world and in colours that do me no favours at all. This was corporate attire at its best, It didn’t come cheap but it simply wasn’t me! What I didn’t realise at the time, was the more I struggled to fit in with everyone else, the more invisible I actually became. Looking back with hindsight is easy, but it is only with this retrospective view that I can see that all the effort of fitting in simply hid the real me. Consequently, my real visibility, impact and influence was negligible, especially in terms of achieving the support required to succeed in a role that focused on creating change and promoting innovation. You can imagine that this did not bode well.

Regardless of the personal insecurities and dented confidence, I gave great presentations, exceeded every target I was ever given, and delivered award-winning projects that saved millions of pounds. Still nobody noticed either me or my results. The more I achieved, the less they noticed and often my successes were claimed by or attributed to others. On one occasion after months of meticulous research and data collection my findings were simply stonewalled with an unbelievable, “I don’t believe you.”. Imagine the frustration! While this particular exchange signalled the beginning of the end of this era in my life, for a while I soldiered on with my desperate attempts at being corporate until inevitably I had all but disappeared into the background of my own existence and reached the point of no return.

I have been working on myself and for myself ever since. Each new revelation is a lesson in what happened and a marker for what can never happen again. Day by day, I see ever more clearly, every way in which I allowed my essence, my truth my self to be subjugated, suppressed and almost (but not quite) totally squashed. I share this part of my journey now as I am hearing the same story over and over, frequently seeing how others are going through similar experiences to mine – observing the many ways that people hide in plain sight. Everyone has the capacity to adopt a chameleon-like approach. We all have the ability to change who we really are to fit in with whatever is around us. Eventually, we get so good at camouflage that we forget who we truly are. Our thoughts, our words and even what we look like is no longer a true reflection of our individual potential and uniqueness,

So, what’s the message? My own experiences and the Kinky Boots narrative clearly indicate that in order to fit in, to get the attention, the respect, the love we crave, we have to do the exact opposite of what we perceive as the obvious route. If you attempt to fit in, you will not stand out at all. You can eventually make yourself completely invisible and actually repel what you are moving towards. So how do I justify this stance? It’s easy really, because on a subliminal level we humans are generally very perceptive and somehow we can pick up a level of dishonesty, a lack of integrity a sense of something not quite right and we respond accordingly. In reality, the response would be pretty accurate because if you are not being you it will be apparent in some way that you are hiding something – others will respond to that with a lack of trust towards you and the cycle begins. I don’t know if we give off different pheromones or something like that, because I’m not convinced that this even takes place on the conscious level. Once it has begun however, the slide into invisibility is often achieved without us even noticing and we may reside there in all innocence unless something happens to shock us out of complacency and into awareness.

My mission is to wake people up to the knowledge of their own brand of awesomeness, that belongs to them and no one else. To demonstrate what is possible when you decide to embrace who you really are. Being you in all your glory, in all your faults, in whatever attire you choose to wear, with whatever views you can claim as your own, with however you choose to behave, however you engage with others in all aspects of your life – that my friends is how you will stand out – how you will shine. When you truly shine through, that is when you will attract what you are looking for – people will trust you, they will be drawn to you, you will love them and they will love you. You will belong, you will fit in and stand out at the same time, because you are as you are meant to be – different, unique, honest and truthful. You will allow people to know you and you will no longer be afraid of showing who that is because standing out is fitting in!

Always remember – It’s good to be real, it’s great to be you, and it’s life changing when you can really be you – Totally You!

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