Tips for Maintaining Self-Identity in the Workplace

self-identify Syrenia.jpg

Tips for Maintaining Self-Identity in the Workplace

By: Syrenia Johnson

As a young, Black woman, you have to constantly prove your worth and potential while defying myths and stereotypes. Battling microaggressions can also become exhausting and annoying. This can affect your mental and physical health significantly if you allow it to. Trust me when I say, ain’t nobody got time for that!

At the office, people will have misconceived notions and assumptions before they even meet you. They will expect you to speak in a certain manner or have a certain attitude. Little do they know; your code-switching is on point. Next, they’re looking at your hair, your body type, and how you dress. At this point, all you can envision at the moment is Solange’s Don’t Touch My Hair.

Constantly having to prove yourself and explain cultural differences takes a toll on your mental. Don’t let them see you sweat. Keep your favorite Knick knacks and snacks in your workspace. Take time to walk around and be active. Surround yourself with things that make you happy. Listen to your favorite music or favorite podcast during breaks. Make the workplace a safe space.

“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” - Shirley Chisholm

You may or may not work at a predominantly Black agency or location, so you might be in the minority. Having a tribe that you vibe with is very beneficial to your mental and emotional well-being. Gather with your coworkers of color both old and young. I call it the culture corner at my job. We always have the keys AND the tea. You guys will know who’s who, who to talk to, who gets things done, and office etiquette. 

There’s literally almost always an older Black person in the workplace. Look to them for guidance and advice. Chances are they know all of the ins and outs, so they can help with achieving upward mobility.

“If we celebrate, support, and nurture ourselves, we will not need anyone else to do it for us.”- Iyanla Vanzant

Bottom line, be you. Don’t alter your identity to please others. If your employer didn’t value you, you would not have been hired. Ok? Keep it calm and cute with colleagues because at the end of the day, you’re only there to make money then return home. However, your work environment has to be accommodating in order for you to thrive. Break barriers. Defy odds. Sprinkle that #blackgirlmagic everywhere without worrying about how you’re being perceived.