Keeping work and personal life separate is one thing, but that is not what I am talking about when I say de-compartmentalize. What I mean is that notion of feeling as though everything must fit into a neat little box. We've all done it. We had school friends and camp friends and church friends and neighborhood friends and family friends. And it was rare when these groups overlapped. There was one side of yourself you would show to one of these groups yet a member of another group would have no idea that you enjoyed a particular show or hobby. That friend group saw only one part of you.
Why is that? Why is it that we feel it necessary to break ourselves into pieces?
Don't get me wrong. This is something that I definitely struggle with. I am this person and this person and this person. All of them are me, but I feel like I am not all of them at the same time, as though there is this facade I put on in front of certain groups and on certain platforms. I am not a social scientist. I don't know the terminology or the case studies, I can't look back into my memory and just say "This is why," but how many of us can? How many of us can say without a shadow of a doubt why we compartmentalize? And who knows at what age we begin to do it, as though we are unsafe if we are our authentic selves?
I do this. And for most of my life I can honestly say I just didn't realize I did it. Or perhaps, I lacked the verbiage to talk about it. I had 3 Instagram accounts! 3! And true, one was and still is for my nonprofit, the Women of Color Writers' Circle, the other two were both personal. One was for the Christian part of me and the other was for the writer and everything else part of me. But they are equally important. And most of my friends and all of my close friends are Christian, so why did I feel the need to have two accounts?
Have you ever done something similar?
When all is said and done, there is only one you. And all the various aspects of one's personality make them the whole. In my own life, I have found that trying to force myself into this box and that box, acting as though I must mold myself for this audience or that platform has left me drained. Mentally and physically, it is a taxing undertaking. Say for example on Instagram, you're more personal but on Twitter all you post is updates on your career. What happens when you post an update on Instagram or something a bit too personal on Twitter? Do you think about what your followers expect? Do you wonder if things will turn out right?
Just existing can be hard work alone, why add more to it by compartmentalizing. True, there is code switching and that is sadly something all people of color seem to be versed in. Having to whitewash yourself because that is what is seen as professional will never sit right with me, but that is a conversation for another time.
I think that maybe I will try an exercise and try to be my whole self everywhere. I may lose followers here and there, I may get unwanted attention, but I may also get people asking questions and doing something similar if not the same thing. I am a whole puzzle and when there are only a few pieces here and a few there, the total image can never be represented accurately. So, maybe it is time for me to show the whole me, everywhere.
And if you are interested in doing something similar, why not start with your friend groups. If your childhood friends that you catch up with on a monthly basis don't know you picked up a hobby in the last few years and are really into it tell them Ask them about themselves as well. You may be surprised at what you find out!