I would never sit across from a client wearing cut-offs and a muscle T. At the same time, I would never sit across from a client wearing a polyester, double-breasted, four-button suit, but for different reasons. On one hand, most would be in agreement that the first example would not be professional; however, I think its safe to say that most would say that a suit is appropriate attire for the workplace, and I would agree, there is just one problem – it’s not me. There are many styles of clothing of dress that are appropriate for the workplace, and I have found a style that works for me, and is professional.
While the topic of what one wears to work may seem somewhat trivial – and I would agree to a certain degree that in the grand scheme of things it may be, but what I am getting at here is actually a part of a larger area of personal/professional development. I might be a professional (in-development), but I also have a personality that both my professional and personal self have in common. Learning to navigate this balance is an important aspect of development and growth that many graduate students are faced with.
Moving on beyond what I wear to work, there are many aspects of who I am as a person that I navigate across my personal and professional life. For example, even as I write for this blog, I am intentional of what aspects of my life that I share in a public way, such as race/ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, religious and spiritual practices, etc. I cannot speak for others, I can only speak from my own experiences, but for me what I chose and what I do not choose to discuss, disclose, or share in a professional setting does not feel like a denial of who I am that I cannot tolerate. At the same time, there are aspects of myself that are salient and important to me, and I cannot – or choose not to – keep completely separated from my professional life. Again, I would like to reemphasizes is that this is what works for me, and the balance between personal and professional identity works for me – only you can know what works best for you.
While some might say that I may not be your typical professional – and I intentionally say that in a vague sense we all are unique individuals and in our own beautiful way are uniquely atypical – and at the same time I can walk side by side with my colleagues in the same professional settings – I just do it in purple suede Oxfords, and it works for me.