An Interview with Anaïs Bock
We all wear professional masks to work. Every one of us knows the drill. In the morning, you don’t just put on a fancy shirt to go to work; you also wear your mask of professionalism. It’s a metaphorical accessory. It makes us sit up straight, contain the childish giggles and put our daydreams in their place in order to interact with other very grown up human beings and talk about grown up things in grown up ways.
We are so used to our professional masks that we sometimes forget to take them off after work. We might notice this because it is really hard to unwind in the evenings or because our loved ones remind us that we are speaking in a “job lingo” that they do not understand.
When we begin to identify with what is in fact our professional mask, we forget that we are all just improvising on this journey through life, that nobody really knows what they are doing and that we are all living breathing human beings with needs, desires, dreams and (in my case) an insane appetite for chocolate.
Fair enough. What is wrong with wearing a professional mask?
The problem with the professional mask is that it does not encompass all that we are. It basically only represents a very structured, professional, results-oriented side of us that lives on adrenalin and testosterone. You could say that the professional mask represents our masculine side, which is a hormonal bummer especially for women, who may end up feeling even more drained and stressed than their male counterparts.
Beyond that, we live in a world in which we spend an incredible amount of time at work – and shouldn’t it be possible, even mandatory for us to be ourselves fully for the majority of our days?
That sounds great. You say that you are all about bringing feminine wisdom to work. What exactly does that mean?
When we speak about feminine wisdom, we are not talking about stereotypically “girly things” like pink and gossip. Rather, we are talking about feminine qualities that each and every one of us has, regardless of what gender we identify with.
Examples of male qualities are competition, goal setting, performance, having and doing, logic, the pursuit of certainty, independence, planning, control of future and cause and effect thinking.
In contrast, feminine qualities are cooperation, caring, being and giving, the ability to hold ambivalence, interpersonal skills, independence, faith in the future and synchronicity.
Wouldn’t it be fantastic if your workplace were a context in which you could be structured, outgoing and organized but also quirky, dreamy, creative and intuitive?
We are not either or but the sum of all our parts and to put it bluntly: the work place has been catering to our male qualities for very long and it’s time to play it another way.
We are with you. How can we achieve feminine wisdom at work?
We believe the solutions can be many (see how we are being inclusive and holding space for ambivalence?). Our approach consists in applying four principles:
Since I know you are going to ask me anyway, I am going to go ahead and explain each of them, ok?
Openness means that we are more transparent and emotionally expressive about what drives us. For instance, most of us do not speak about “dreaming” in the work context, right? It’s something you do in the privacy of your home or after hours.
Well, we think it is important to speak about dreaming because dreams are what drive innovation. Every successful business or work project that is now changing lives and making millions of dollars once had to begin as a person’s individual dream.
And yet we pretend that businesses spring into existence out of nothing. When we share our successes we tend to leave out all the ups and downs, the fact that we thought about quitting at least 27 times, the self-doubt we have and continue to have regardless of how “successful” we are in societal terms. Driving forward a project is a roller coaster of excitement, heartbreak, euphoria, learning, stillness, courage and reflection, sometimes all at once.
If we all communicated about this openly, we would all feel less crazy and we would all be more likely to begin projects that are important to us.
So it’s about accepting the complexity and chaotic nature of life and simply sharing openly, without judgment or that pressure to impress others.
Because guess what? Most people are impressed when you dare to be simply you. It tends to give them permission to do the same…
We love the sound of this. What is wholesomeness about?
Wholesomeness ties in with what we expressed before: that we are the sum of all of our parts. We do not just all have both masculine and feminine qualities; we are complex holistic beings.
It is very important that we live in harmony with our body, minds, emotions and hearts. When we accept that everything is interconnected, we are able to make decisions from a space of “what is good for me as a whole” rather than weighing the pro’s and con’s of having “something great for the CV” versus being miserable.
That makes sense. What about collaboration? We already collaborate at work, right?
Yes we do, but we believe that we could be doing much more of this! Somehow, there is still this belief engrained in us that we have to do it all on our own. The lone wolf mentality comes out especially when we think of starting a new project or founding an own business. Rather than sharing our dream, we keep it to ourselves out of fear that it might be stolen or copied.
We are not saying you shouldn’t watch out for intellectual property theft, but the case is that most dreams die off somewhere in the land of “maybe tomorrow” and “as soon as I learn how to design a website”.
We believe that dreams need supporters in order to become real (work) things, so the sooner we can communicate about them and attract the right people, the sooner we will learn to fly.
We need to stop pretending we can do this on our own and get into an energy of co-creation and sisterhood instead.
We can’t wait to hear what magic is all about!
Well, it is pretty simple. Think about something that really makes you happy. Something that lights you up and makes you grin contagiously.
Does that thing have anything to do with work? Most people will answer “no”. We believe that magic is an emotional cocktail that includes love, appreciation, gratitude, awe at the beauty of the present moment and at least one other secret ingredient that we have not identified yet.
We all know what magic feels like to us personally. We believe that just by setting the intention, more magic will show up in your every day. Sometimes it is just about what lens you are looking through.
We love everything you have been sharing with us. Where can we find out more?
I happen to be in love with Egypt and work closely with the wonderful Nūn Center in Zamalek. We are putting together an incredible retreat this coming November in El Gouna.
The Work Magic Retreat, 16-20 November 2016.
Check http://nuncenter.com/work-magic-retreat/ for more info or contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.