Apparently I like structure, and systems, and I have my own little ways of doing things.  I say apparently because I used to think that I was quite the opposite – freewheeling, spontaneous, sort of a go-with-the-flow kind of guy.

That perception started to change when I got into some DISC and Myers-Briggs assessments, and began really pondering their truth. In DISC, my type popped up as heavily Steadiness. So according to the assessment, I like doing things in a slow and steady manner. 

My perception started to change with two main events.  First, I recently got my own office at work. Having shared some cube farm existence for much of the past three years, I had unknowingly modified my style and behavior to fit the setup around me. So I was quieter, less “weird,” and just kind of corporately acceptable.

When I got my own office, and returned somewhat to the state of spending lots of time alone working on projects, I remembered several things that I had previously been stifling. For instance, I like to sing. A lot. I also talk to myself in weird voices. A lot. Perhaps these are remnants of my prior career as a stage actor, but I noticed that when I allow myself to let loose with singing and my Ian McKellan as Magneto impressions, I just enjoyed my time more and more.

Second, my boss recently told me that if there’s one thing I could work on in my job, it was asserting my own opinions and beliefs. In my attempts at being respectful and being a good teammate, I had actually been depriving my colleagues of the full spectrum of who I am, and what I bring to the table.

Other people likely don’t have the same little quirks as I do. But your own quirks are likely what gives you a unique and therefore valuable perspective to contribute on a day-to-day basis.

So I say this: Own Your Quirks.

To own them, you need to know what they are. Most of the time, your quirks surface prominently when you spend time alone; in that context, you can just be yourself, as you don’t have to worry about perceptions or reactions. So I’d recommend the following three things:

  1. Schedule time alone every day. No one is pure extrovert — no one. So I block off several small chunks of time to do things by myself every day. 30 minutes to work out, 15 minutes to write and stretch every morning, etc. You’ll be in better touch with yourself, which is why people hire you.
  2. Weekly, examine your needs. You might need to solicit help for this. This might sound very new-agey, and I think that’s ok! But about once a week, you should carve out time to really ask yourself whether there are activities that you need, but aren’t getting. My wife can spot when I’ve not given myself permission to be weird. She’ll actually say, “You need weird time, don’t you?”, because I start acting “not like myself.”
  3. Own those Quirks, and Show them to others. Believe it or not, other people will remember and respect you more for your unique little qualities than for the things you do that are exactly like everyone else. So bust out that Magneto voice, plan your day down to the minute, proudly show off your knitted hat collection, or do whatever you need to feel like yourself. As long as your quirks don’t become the sum total of all you are and do, I think you’ll be better off.

So I’m learning to own my quirks. The people who sit outside my office no longer look at me askance when I let loose with a refrain from a Sondheim show. Colleagues and clients now know me as the guy who not only is on top of my work, but whose voice on conference calls is soothing, interesting, and reminiscent of the Movie Phone guy. 

Discover and cultivate your own idiosyncrasies; each of us have some, and they’re what makes our differences compelling.

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