I just started an internship in a large project management firm back in Germany and I am not going to lie, one of my biggest worry before I started was, what should I wear? How would I not stand out, how would I fit in? It was hard especially because I didn’t know the place and what everyone else was going to wear, plus, yeah I wanted to fit in but not for any price, I wanted to still feel comfortable and for me being someone who has not the best relationship with dresses and owns barely any blouses it was a complicated decision (I know it is stupid, but I am sure you have all been there at some point!)
Same with my hair, I was worried in a way that because my hair is usually quite curly and gingery, so in Germany I stick out like I had people on the street mention it to me and stuff, but going into a new working environment where I am a simple intern I was afraid of sticking out too much, to draw too much attention to me. Why? I don’t really know.
I think for me sticking out and being memorable can be really good things, but as I was also worried whether they had high expectations of my knowledge and abilities, that if I am sticking out I would struggle more. Also meeting new people yes being memorable is generally a good thing but I, personally, hate sticking out when you come into a place where everyone else knows each other, but you barely know the social structures within that group and I feel that if you seem too confident and too individualistic it can be much harder to fit in in some groups, which sucks.
Luckily, it all worked out and the people I work with are super nice and I certainly overdressed on my first day, but I’d rather have it that way than the other way around. But it made me wonder, why do we fear sticking out too much when we come into an existing social structure. I mean I can only speak for myself, but I hope some of you can relate to it. When I am meeting a group of people and no one has known each other before I don’t mind being loud and talkative and to take the lead, but in existing groups I sometimes struggle finding my place quickly enough before I get put into a category and then I go really quiet and I will be afraid to break out of that box and to potentially be made fun of, to be found irritating or to face criticism. Which, again, I know is ridiculous.
The reason I am telling you all this is to ask you to take a chance with me, to be yourself from the beginning no matter how scary it may be, to show the world your true potential. It is a shame that the fear of sticking out may hold us back and prevents us from showing the world, or even just some employer, what you can really do. Yes, of course there are norms and rules you need to follow, but I am currently learning that within these structures there is still a lot of room for each of us to prosper and to find our place. Also everyone was in our situation before and they will understand and for some of them it might not have been that long ago. ( Most of my superiors are barely 10 years older than me, I am sure they still remember and I think that is why they are able to make me feel so welcome). In the end Aristotle already knew what I, and you guys, will have to take to heart at some point in my/ our life/lives: ‘There is only one way to avoid criticism: Do nothing, say nothing and be nothing’ and what I definitely know is that I don’t want to do nothing, say nothing and be nothing. I want to grow, learn and become the best me I can be and I can only do that by facing criticism and not being afraid to stick out!
So happy facing criticism and standing out, because you are all incredibly awesome human beings!
Lots of Love,