Sometimes even I catch myself trying too hard to fit in. Yes, me. The one who’s always gone on about being a nonconformist and doing my own thing. We all do it, really: we make ourselves a bit malleable so that we can get along with our employers, coworkers, neighbors, whoever it might be. Adjusting our lives in small ways so we can be a part of a functioning and peaceful workplace or society. And that’s a good thing! There’s really no good reason at all to be an active misanthrope other than to attract attention to yourself, and there’s no good reason at all to be actively terrible to people other than selfishness.
But sometimes, when I’m not paying attention to the situation, that malleability will take over and become the default. Always trying to be everything to everyone, as Art Alexakis once sang. In the process I’ll lose sight of my core self. And next thing I know, I’m feeling miserable and wondering how I let myself fall into this predicament. I’ll have lost sight of what I wanted because I hadn’t established my own boundaries.
So I need to remember to make my own music.
I’ve told managers that I might not follow their exact process of workflow, but I’ll prove that I have my own that work just as well (if not better, and still within their established regulations) for me and will achieve the same expected results. I’ve told them that I can’t do any off-schedule ‘on-call’ work because I have my writing career. I’ve told them that sometimes their role-playing training doesn’t work on me because I’m terrible at that on-the-spot “repeat what I just told you” style of learning because of the way my memory works — make me do it in a live setting and I’ll learn by doing instead.
What I’m saying is that I have to remember that the worst I can do is go into a new work situation and establishing an ‘I’ll do whatever you tell me’ malleability. I have to remember to let them know that my style is this: tell me why I need to do something and give me the context, and I’ll figure out my own way to make it work. That’s how my brain works best, and that’s how you’ll get the best out of me.
It might not be the musical score you’ve already established, but it’s a melody that makes sense to me and achieves the same goal.