We all long to belong.

When we feel a sense of belonging at work, we’re more likely to perform to the best of our abilities, more likely to thrive and more likely to stay.

Research shows employees who feel like they belong are three and a half times more likely to be engaged in their work.

And yet, so many people don’t feel truly seen, heard and accepted at work. Sadly, one in two people are not willing to be vulnerable at work, two in five people say that they feel isolated at work, and one in three people feel that they can’t bring their whole selves to work and that they cannot be truly open about themselves.

The problem, of course, is that working life can feel like one long masterclass on how to fit in by fixing or hiding the many ways we are somehow inadequate, inappropriate or inconvenient. The unspoken rule in many workplaces is some version of: ‘Around here, it’s smart to fit in.’

This means that many of us have two jobs. We have our regular job, which is hard. And then we have our second job, which is even harder. It’s the job of pretending ‘there’s nothing to see here’, when inside it’s a very different story.

The demands of this second job include suppressing, disowning, fighting, denying, hiding, numbing and ignoring the parts of ourselves we feel afraid to reveal at work. The parts of us that feel unsure, overwhelmed, different, frustrated, alone or afraid. Psychologists call this second job ‘surface acting’, and over time it takes a heavy toll on our health, our relationships and our performance.

Prolonged surface acting has been linked to depression and anxiety, decreased job performance and burnout.

In the words of award-winning researcher Francesca Gino, ‘going against our true selves by forcing ourselves to conform is exhausting and hinders our ability to perform well and fulfil our potential.’  The good news is that there is an alternative to this inner battle.

We can all be more ourselves at work by learning and applying practical, evidence-based tools that support us to stay connected to our true nature and take care of all the different parts of ourselves.

The model that underpins my new book Bring True and my work at The Centre for Self-Fidelity is the Internal Family Systems model – also known as IFS.

IFS is an evidence-based, paradigm-changing model of human consciousness that has been transforming lives for over three decades. The model was created by Dr Richard Schwartz, a faculty member of the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr Schwartz began his career as a systemic family therapist and an academic.

Grounded in systems thinking, Dr Schwartz developed IFS in response to clients’ descriptions of the various parts of themselves.

One of the foundational assumptions of the model is that the human mind naturally comprises many different sub-personalities or ‘parts’.

All of our parts have positive intentions, wanting to keep us safe and connected; however, our parts can be misguided in their strategies to achieve these outcomes.

To learn more about your parts and to understand more deeply how they affect our sense of belonging at work, grab a copy of my new book Being True here.