I don’t often have an opportunity to speak in length with my very awesome college representative (counselor), but last week that all changed when it came time to discuss my impending graduation. He wanted to know whether or not I plan to pursue a master’s degree come 2015, something I’ve been mulling, but the inquire put more weight and reality to it.
Noting the mull, my counselor went on to inquire as to my current degree plans or, in short, what do you want to be when you grow up after Dec. 14, Royer?
Being the sky isn’t the limit type of individual still waiting on her one-way ticket to Mars, I shared some ideas when he inquired as to what I was doing right now.
“Right now?” At that very moment I was pulled off to the side of the road in the Orange Crusader as I had been on my way to take a picture of a rock, a story in itself, but I knew what he was really asking … “I’m a reporter.”
“How did you get into that?” He asked with genuine interest and I briefly explained my unusual path before voicing my frustrations over the lack of a degree stating I had earned that path. He was quick to reply that I should be proud of the road-less-traveled, after all, he’d a background in criminal justice but look where he was to be found.
What was interesting about this conversation is the reason behind my voicing frustrations over the lack of a journalism degree because, as I’ve often shared in previous columns, we have a tendency to hide our authentic selves from others so as to look better or fit in. I have called it an exchange of hats (Being one person with one group, another person with another group, etc.) but a recent study by Deloitte University calls it social covering.
In social covering we hide any of an assortment of things about ourselves according to company, and it is rampant in our professional lives, says the study. We may hide everything from our socioeconomic standing to education or lack thereof, our family obligations, even physical characteristics and health so as to blend in on the job. Examples include calling in sick at work, claiming to be ill, when in reality caring for a sick child. This is a form of hiding our parental status wherein the working parent feels they will receive less criticism from colleagues and/or the boss if they are thought to be sick as opposed to their child.
Social covering may be someone foregoing a much needed walking cane in order to blend in so as to not have assumptions made about their abilities, or downgrading, even hiding, an untraditional path. Sadly, we are losing our authenticness in the process, and worse, we lose getting to know those around us as they work to cover their authentic selves, too.
Stop and think about what we lose when the successful world leader hides their authentic story of coming from poverty or the colleague who hides the stress of raising not only three children on their own but taking care of an ailing parent. What we get in return is a homogeneity of worker bees who all look and sound the same. We lose the creativity and unique personalities because of fear to express ideas, or be one’s true self.
What we tend to forget is that the road from point A to point B is not a straight line, the proverbial picket fence is not pristine but sometimes a smoldering ruin in the Back 40. When we social cover we white-wash that misshapen path that has made us who we are; left to wonder why we feel cheated when things are far from perfect.
When we social cover we fail to tell our stories and fail to hear the stories of others.
It’s a shame.
To read more on social covering visit: www.deloitte.com
Bethany J. Royer is the mother of two munchkins and has a serious case of psychology student senior-it is. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org