Jan. 22nd, 2011

sarasvati: A white lotus flower floating on water. (Default)
I was talking with somebody at work a week or so ago, and the subject of working at home came up. She asked me why I would want a work-from-home job. I said that to start, I'm not a very social person, and she interruted me there with a little smile and said, "I won't tell you you're wrong, but I don't believe that." Little words, probably so inconsequential to her, probably said because she thought I was putting myself down somehow, really got me thinking.

Related is the concept of tatamae and honne in Japanese, or rather, the mask you wear in public versus your own private feelings. There, it isn't so surprising to hear that there are words and clear-cut concepts for such things, as it's no secret that moving smoothly through society involves, to be blunt, keeping your mouth shut about some things, hiding your inner self so that you can work with other people with as little friction as possible. That, I understand.

But here, it's almost like socially, these concepts don't exist. We seem to have the notion in our heads that the person we see on an everyday basis is the true person, and all of them, and that there is nothing else. Thus people don't believe me when I say I'm not a very social person, because they see me at work, floorwalking and helping people and being friendly and smiling.

This is the mask. It's the face I wear so that I don't alienate everybody around me, so that I don't get fired for being a snarky bitch, so that I can help people patiently, time and again, with concepts that they really should have learned by now. It's the persona I adopt so that I can make my workplace a touch more bearable.

It's something everybody learns in every training class, but when it's heard there, it's only ever in the context of employee-customer relations. Be nice to the customer, even if they're being stupid. Help them. Be patient. Don't interrupt. If they're abusinve, brush it off and keep trying to help them. We're taught to put on the mask for one group of people, but it's like it never occurs to them that we might wear the same mask with our coworkers, too.

It bothers me when people act like the mask I wear is my true self. I don't expect them to know who I am underneath the mask, but it would be nice if they'd acknowledge that I might not be entirely who I present on the surface, that I might actually have a personality that goes deeper than that. I don't expect that they're showing me all of themselves. I expect that they're showing me their Work Mask, the one that covers any attributes that might be less desirable in a workplace than, say, in the privacy of ones home.

I'm not a social person. I'd rather be left alone than have to deal constantly with a crowd of people. I want a work-from-home job so that I can be comfortable while doing what I need to do to pay the bills, so that I can interact with people in a manner that suits me better, so that I can go to work each day and know that if I want to retreat into a room to be by myself, I can do so without people looking at me like I've lost my marbles. And I don't appreciate being told that I'm something I'm not, or that I'm not something I am.

I wear my heart in my pocket, not on my sleeve. Most of us do. It just surprised me that most of us don't even know it.


sarasvati: A white lotus flower floating on water. (Default)

August 2011

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