Finding Your Authority At Work
Even if you don't love your job.
As someone who is on this planet to grow as a person, and use my personal growth to serve others in their personal growth, my life and work experiences have been… confusing at times. My orientation to life is pretty existential and most modern workplaces don’t really get, or value that way of seeing things. Let’s be honest, it doesn’t always serve the bottom line. But I would actually argue that it does.
My first job out of college was as a middle school Spanish teacher, I started implementing yoga, which at the time, was still pretty “out there.” I remember being scared that I would get in trouble, but I also remember knowing in my bones that my students would benefit from experiencing that. So, I did it anyway. And my students LOVED it, and they loved being in my class.
After a lot of trial and error, I’m finally learning to lean into and embrace the things about me that are different and don’t necessarily fit in, especially in the context of work. Because let’s be real, there’s really no other alternative.
This choice to lean into my gifts, as different as they are, led me to leave full-time employment in 2020 and start working for myself. Interestingly, the first big contract I landed came from the students I was advising in my last full-time role. They demanded that the higher-ups bring me back in on a contract basis because, well, they knew how much I cared about them. How did they know that? Because I was just doing my thing, being who I am, and I’m a person who deeply cares about empowering and helping others. My boss at the time didn't know, or value, the level of care and service I was providing my students. But I did it anyway because, for me, there was no other reason to be in that role. (P.S., this part-time contract ended up paying more than my full-time salary.)
This same contract was recently renewed and with the renewal came new policies, procedures, and people. I was asked to share my opinions and expertise with the group regarding how we can do better. When I did, my suggestions were all but completely ignored. Instead, they listened to a new consultant, who created even more forms, spreadsheets, and questionnaires to be filled out by the students. My suggestions were centered around how to serve our students best. Hers was to add even more layers of data collection.
Now, data is powerful, we all know that. But I believe that collecting data from clients can either enhance or hinder the relationship, and to me, the relationship is everything. There are ways to collect data that allow our clients to feel seen and supported, and there are ways of collecting data that can feel formulaic and annoying.
Needless to say, I found myself feeling frustrated and a little pissed off, when I was explicitly asked for my opinion, only to have it completely ignored. (For me, frustration is always a sign that I’m not acting in alignment). So, I sat with these feelings, meditated, journaled, and did all the things that help me process. What came out of that was a reminder of why I do what I do, and it always comes back to being of service and empowering others.
So, I chose to focus on that. I kept it simple and decided to start offering my students optional, free workshops and resources simply to benefit them in their personal and professional growth. I asked them what topics they wanted to cover, started offering them way more value, and gave them more access to the tools I have available. I’m not sure why I didn’t do this earlier, maybe I thought I needed to stay in my own lane and only offer the things I am contracted to offer them. But the subtle mindset shift I made, which feels really good, is to use my gifts almost as an act of rebellion against the status quo. To share and offer what I’m here to share and offer in order to make small cracks in a system that doesn’t want us to know our own power.
So, what lights a fire under you? I dare you to start bringing that into your work. Sign your own permission slip, you’re needed.