A celebration of that little something that makes us feel like ourselves at work

Celebrating tiny things that make us feel like ourselves at work

In an episode of How I Met Your Mother, Marshall, a lawyer who gave up his eco-friendly values to go and work for an unscrupulous multinational, said that his old car, a Fiero, was one of the only things that helped him remember who he really was at work. Adrift in the corporate world, he needed his “lucky charm” in order not to lose sight of his true identity.

We all have that “little something” that makes us feel good at work – or, more precisely, that makes us feel like a version of ourselves that we like. Whether it’s an object, a passion or a way of presenting ourselves to the world, we hold onto it tightly so we don’t feel like we’re losing ourselves in our professional environment. Can you identify with that? We talked to four employees who told us about their own personal Fiero.

‘My 5in heels have given me the power to express myself’ – Marie, 37, HR manager

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I stood up straighter and looked taller, which boosted my confidence considerably. It’s like I had put on a superhero cape.

Before I started working in my current job, I was the HR manager in a tech company where, in terms of numbers, men dominated. There were only two women on a team of more than a dozen people. So, of course, meetings could get a bit rowdy. It was very much “Who can talk the loudest”. In that context, it’s hard to make yourself heard.

Over time, I noticed that when I wore my high heels (and not just any heels: 5in heels), I felt more imposing. I stood up straighter and looked taller, which boosted my confidence considerably. It’s like I had put on a superhero cape. So I started consciously wearing them on days when I had important meetings. I would wait outside the meeting room until the session started, then, when my colleagues got there, I’d stand up – and they only came up to my shoulder! When it was my turn to speak, I wouldn’t hesitate to stand up, to seem even more imposing.

I’m not sure they noticed a change in my confidence, but I think I was doing it more for myself anyway. I was proud to be imposing without having to adopt any masculine behaviour, such as talking in a loud voice or looking “cool” in jeans and trainers. I used my own technique. Wearing heels wasn’t necessarily “me” (although I got to buy gorgeous shoes, and I was fine with that), but it did give me the power to be myself.

Since then, I’ve changed jobs, and in this new one, I no longer feel the same pressure. My heels have been gathering dust for months and I don’t feel like putting them on. I’m more focused on how I appear when speaking in public, because I feel like I’m on the same level as my colleagues. I no longer need that extra push to feel like myself and share my point of view – which is so much better. But at the back of my mind, I know that they’re there, and I can slip them on if the need arises.

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‘My crystals make me think of my loved ones’ – Benoît, 28, consultant

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When I’m stressed before a meeting or a client presentation, the gems draw me into a warm, family world and they’re a symbol of our closeness.

I’m not a crystal-therapy expert, but I’ll admit that I am intrigued by it. One day, when I was on holiday with my parents and my girlfriend, we went to visit a gemstone shop. I brought back three stones: black tourmaline, to turn negative energies into positives; blue kyanite, which works on anger; and amethyst, to calm the mind. When I went back to work, I took them with me to test them out. Ever since then, I’ve always had them in my pocket or on my desk. I can’t say whether they’re actually working or not, but it doesn’t matter. It’s a shared curiosity I have with my girlfriend and my family, and the crystals’ presence makes me feel like they’re with me at work. When I’m stressed before a meeting or a client presentation, the gems draw me into a warm, family world and they’re a symbol of our closeness.

I work in a sector that’s not only very formal, with client meetings every day, but also very rational: all my decisions are based on figures and analysis. In the middle of all this rigidity, I think my stones infuse my daily life with a little magic. It’s as if I have magic powers. Ever since I’ve started bringing them in, and especially since I decided to tell my colleagues about them, they’ve seen more of my open-minded, wacky side (which my loved ones know well), and I like that. It’s helped me to discuss more personal subjects at work, and show them what I like to do in my real life – even if some of them still don’t quite get it!

‘My unique make-up shows off my creativity’ – Alice, 27, journalist

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Maybe I’d look more serious in a grey suit and “natural” make-up, but that’s not my personality.

Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve loved doing my make-up. But at work, I always thought that quirky make-up would make me look immature and unprofessional. So for years, I kept it as a little pleasure for the weekends… that is, until the second lockdown. I was working from home and I started using make-up in a more artistic way to kill time during my boring lunch breaks. And, contrary to what I had thought, it had a positive effect on my work. It motivated me to turn on my camera at a time when I was mostly in pyjamas on Zoom meetings, bored. I liked showing my colleagues that I had put make-up on for them, in spite of the distance between us. I ended up sticking with it when I went back to the office: from multicoloured sequins to colourful eyeliners to beads around my eyes. I love the indulgence. And surprisingly, I’ve never felt more like myself at work.

Maybe I’d look more serious in a grey suit and “natural” make-up, but that’s not my personality. And even though it started out as something personal, it has since become my trademark. I like the idea of showing the people I work with that I’m a creative person and I’m not afraid to be myself. I don’t want to sacrifice who I am or what I like to advance my career. If, one day, I reach my professional goals having been true to myself in every way (which doesn’t only involve make-up, of course), I will be all the happier for it. For the moment, I’m lucky enough to work in a very open-minded company, where the dress code is relaxed, but if I were to change jobs one day, I’d make sure they would accept the way I look. Otherwise, I’d probably end up deciding that particular company wasn’t for me.

‘I decorate my office to create my own private space’ – Pauline, 33, CMO

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For me, it was also a security barrier. It made my space private and discouraged colleagues from setting up at my desk or using my computer.

On the first day in my previous job, I was given a big, empty and frankly sad office. So I brought in a few personal items: a little cat statue, a plant and a mug with my astrological sign on it (Aries, to scare the hell out of my colleagues), but also personal objects that were relevant to my job – a Pantone colour chart, a big book of photos, some stationery samples – that show who I am and say a lot about my tastes, my passions, but also my skills. It let me not only show who I was, but also create an inspiring environment to work in. In fact, many of my colleagues followed suit by bringing their own offices to life after that.

But for me, it was also a security barrier. It made my space private and discouraged colleagues from setting up at my desk or using my computer. It created a clear boundary between them and me, and I needed that distance. It’s worth noting that before, I had been working freelance for a long time in the comfort of my own home, and now I’m working independently again. I know that I need to work in my own cocoon, one that’s familiar and reflects who I am, even in an open-plan office!

Translated by: Kalin Linsberg

Photo: WTTJ

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