When I named my coaching business, The Corporate Rebel, I wanted to throw up. The name resonates with my spirited personality and the work I do with clients. I wanted my business to reflect my beliefs: that within the competitive corporate landscape, kindness, connection, and radical self-care are vital to personal and business success. I was terrified to speak those values in public. I was sure that corporate clients who wanted to “win” would reject me, and I would fail before I started. This terror is what swimming against the current feels like. At least at first.
Humans are social creatures, and we want to belong. Our species’ survival depends on the group, so you are hard-wired to conform. You are also a creative, unique person with a conflicting drive to push back, challenge, question, and do things your way. So how do you belong and be unique? How do you swim against the current with power instead of nausea? Here are four strategies you can implement in your life today:
- Start small: When stepping out of your usual swim lane, start small. Say you want to move to Wyoming when you’ve spent your life near family and friends in New York. You don’t have to put a “for sale” sign in your yard and start packing boxes (unless you want to). Instead, talk about Wyoming, look at properties online with friends, and take vacations with your family. You can prepare yourself and your people. I barely whispered Corporate Rebel for months until I finally told a focus group of 5 people. Then I said it at Thanksgiving, progressively growing braver until I became proud to discuss it.
- Bring others along: Swimming against the current is easier if other people swim with you. Let’s say you want to change the family holiday tradition from a meal and gifts at your home to a sunny beach destination with time together as the gift. Float the idea with the child or sibling who will be enthusiastic. Enroll them in your vision of surf, ease, and margaritas. Now two of you are swimming upstream together as you influence other family members.
- Know yourself: When swimming against the current, you can’t rely on outside reference points to determine your values, how you feel, or what you want. You must rely on your inner knowing and wisdom. If your family experiences conflict, and you value connection, then be conscious of approaching your family with love and refusing to take the bait on arguments. If your friends are puzzled when you decline an invitation to stay home to read, know that you need alone time to recharge. When you feel confident in your choices, you won’t feel guilty or the need to justify yourself to others.
- Own it: If you are the one with the colorful wardrobe, the loud sense of humor, the quirky love of snakes, or a taste for sea urchin, great! Simply do the thing confidently. Never apologize (unless you hurt someone, then always apologize). Be transparent when necessary so you don’t surprise or shock others (unless you love that, please, surprise and shock others). Owning it means you don’t have to justify or recruit other people to love sea urchins (because, remember you are not relying on outside reference points). It does mean unapologetically do you.
In today’s divided and stressed-out world, being kind to the barista or calm in traffic is an act of swimming against the current. Being real and showing yourself vulnerably in an armored world is swimming against the current.
The pull of the broader culture is strong (consume! compare! argue! hate! strive! perform!).
Guess what?! YOU ARE STRONGER.
When you decide to do your life according to YOU, not only do you feel alive, but the world responds with validation and admiration for your courage.
Christina Boyd-Smith, PhD, is the Corporate Rebel Coach and mom to two teens. Christina’s no-nonsense and spirited style has helped business leaders, individuals, and teams in companies like GE, Target, Boston Scientific, Gilead, Northwestern Mutual, United Health Group, and US Bank embrace their quirky selves, take a stand for their innovative ideas, and contribute to their company’s success while keeping an eye on the integrity of their souls and their personal and professional goals. She specializes in communication, career strategy, and the deep transformative shifts that enables leaders to find joy, calm, and power in all areas of life. Christina is accredited as a professional coach by the International Coach Federation and has completed Master Coach training through Lucid Living. She bakes a pumpkin muffin you would travel across the country to eat.