I would like to thank my colleague Marsha who has given me permission to share her story here in the hope that it inspires more people to be true to themselves at work. I would also like to acknowledge that as a white, cisgender woman, the perspective I share here is coloured by privileges and assumptions that are invisible to me. 


Marsha has a very busy and demanding job, yet she always seems to have a smile on her face and time for a chat. I don’t believe that she has ever walked past my office without saying a cheery hello. Despite our office being quite a big one, she seems to know everyone’s name. I can’t say I know Marsha well, but I can say that she’s someone who lights up our workplace.

But Marsha has not always been this way.

During one of our recent chats, she shared that for many years she did not feel like she belonged in her workplace. She worked in a culture that worshipped ‘toughness’. Because of the unspoken rule that to be vulnerable was to be weak, Marsha did not feel safe to really be herself at work, so she never felt like she belonged. A big part of feeling like she did not have permission to be herself related to her gender. Marsha was assigned the gender of male at birth, but from a very young age knew she was transgender.

When Marsha transitioned, she felt she had no choice but to quit her job and walk away from her profession and the industry in which she had worked for many years.

Marsha’s story is unique, but her experience of not feeling free to embody who she really was at work is an all-too-common one.

It’s convenient for leaders to believe that most employees quit their jobs for more money or better career prospects. But often, this is not the truth.

Many good people leave good jobs because they do not feel seen, heard and valued – they don’t feel like they belong.

As the research of Dr Brene Brown reveals “True belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world.And for employees to have permission to be real and imperfect at work leaders must go first. Changes only happen when individual leaders find the courage to do the inner work required to change the way they relate to themselves – and therefor to all others.

This inner work involves cultivating a deeper appreciation of who we really are at our core and practicing news ways to care for, and ultimately lead the parts of ourselves that have lost connection with our best qualities. I call this practice “self-fidelity”.

The ripple effects of the simple, yet powerful practice of self-fidelity should not be underestimated.

Beneath all our protective layers, we are all caring, connected, and compassionate beings. We just need to learn how to get out of our own way and remember who we really are, to trust that we are the seed and not the husk.

The practice of understanding and reconnecting to our essential nature empowers people to be better leaders. It guides us to treat ourselves and each other with more acceptance, more care, more kindness and more respect. This means that more people can embody a truthful, vibrant expression of who they are  – just like Marsha does every day at my workplace.

I see your true colours shining through and that’s why I love you.

So don’t be afraid to let them show because your true colours are beautiful, like a rainbow.

Cindy Lauper

I established The Centre for Self-Fidelity to help make the working world a better place by supporting more people to be true to themselves. I recognise that there are no simple solutions to the complex challenges we each face in honouring who we authentically are – at work and in life. I also believe that empowering and enabling more people (especially leaders) to be true to themselves is key to the cultivation of workplaces where people and performance can thrive. If you’re curious to learn more about how to bring the the practice of self-fidelity to your workplace, you’ll find more information here.