Is it dangerous to be sincere unless you are also stupid?
One Friday afternoon in early April, during a scheduled 1:1 with my boss, I expressed frustration and concern about another colleague yelling at me, yelling at me constantly, and lying about my work to myself and others. I felt bullied and harassed. I was crying daily after any engagement with this coworker and I was starting to have panic attacks at work. It wasn’t a formal complaint with HR but it was action that I needed to take. I wanted to stand up for myself.
The following Monday morning, I was fired. Clearly, he had made the decision shortly after the call where I made a complaint about another coworker. It was a lot to take in, but as soon as they said it, I literally felt something lift off me. Just as I did when I quit CMSD. Instantly, I knew that I did not want to work somewhere that would fire someone who complained about bullying in the workplace, without asking my side. And I knew I didn’t want to – nor could I – work anywhere that was going to suffocate me with feedback.
Throughout the two years I worked there, I was given a lot of feedback. I very rarely got negative feedback on my actual work. While some of the feedback was true and helpful; most of it was not. Instead I got feedback on my hair, my bra strap, my face, the tone of my voice, and my positivity (lack there of).
Despite not having a formal position of power, I frequently pointed out areas where the team can improve. I tend to get very task oriented and get straight to the point. I never targeted a person, I was never outwardly rude, and I never yelled at anyone. I was being authentic and honest to who I am and what I saw. But I was told to be more positive, gentler, softer, but what they really meant was quieter.
I tried to counterbalance my strong voice with vulnerability. I tried to be relatable by being open and honest about areas where I needed to grow. I was always receptive to my feedback; I was self-reflective and agreed with their observations. I told my bosses how committed to self-development I was and how I was ready for their feedback. I read books. I went to workshops. I took the feedback and changed. I thought this would help. But it didn’t; it created an opening for others to criticize me. Because the more self-reflective I was, the more I was criticized.
I knew getting fired was the right choice because I knew that I could not change anymore. I had spent two years at this job, and two years before that at another toxic job, trying to change who I am. But I can’t change being a woman with a strong voice. It’s who I am.
When it comes down to it, people/organizations don’t like to be challenged. People will be threatened by your strength and will see you doing brave and exciting things, and be envious of this. Maybe unconsciously. That envy comes from a place of insecurity. Envy will turn to anger. And they will direct it towards you. They do this by taking advantage of your open heart and will exploit your vulnerability, making it seem like a weakness.
I don’t agree with George Bernard Shaw. You can be strong and vulnerable. That is courage. But when you live this way, with strength and vulnerability, you expose yourself. Completely. It’s like Brene Brown says, you can’t have both courage and comfort.
I was too vulnerable. I wore my heart on my sleeve. I am self- aware and sensitive. And this is superpower, not my fatal flaw.
This is where I leave you for part one of this essay. Because it is long but also because I could not eloquently figure out how to string the two together. Stay tuned for how this same principle shows up in my personal life.
Stephanie DeLacy unapologetically shares what it’s like to navigate the world as 20-something white girl, with humor, profanity, and raw vulnerability. Stephanie recounts stories of her travel, mental health, and the journey to loving her body. Her descriptions of dating are bawdy but incredibly relatable. She courageously describes her dysfunctional childhood, healing from trauma, and how she’s evolved as a survivor of sexual assault. At times, heart wrenching, her stories will evoke raw emotion and connect to you on the most guttural level. She hopes to inspire authentic living and human connection. Stephanie lives in Cleveland with her dog and two cats.