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Bologna Sandwiches, Latinidad and the Pitfalls of Bringing Your “whole self”​ To Work

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I remember feeling embarrassed about the food I brought to school for lunch.

The chorus of “yucks!” and “gross!” that carried across my school cafeteria when I broke out my platanos maduros made me feel like I would have been more accepted if just sat in the middle of the cafeteria floor and picked my nose.

Meanwhile back at home, my family would crawl over the top of each other to get the last slightly charred and deliciously sweet maduro.

I didn’t want to feel different because of the food I brought to school.

I still remember the heartbroken look I received from my Mom when I asked if she would make me a bologna and mustard sandwich on white.

After seeing her pain ie the way she put her hand on her heart and said “Ay dios mio Denise!” – something she said and did often as she parented me through my assimilation.

I knew I could never share with her how much joy I got when the highly processed Wonder bread would stick to the top of my mouth while eating said bologna sandwiches at my friend’s house.

The journey to finding your authentic self begins when you find yourself trapped in what I call “The Crunch.”

What’s The Crunch?

It’s when you experience feeling squeezed and pressured by both sides of your identity. You often feel like by choosing one identity over the other, you’re going to let someone down, so choosing one feels like betraying family, choosing the other feels like a betrayal of self.

The Crunch is the reason why so many Latinos have such a hard time feeling comfortable in their own skin at work and also at home. In both places, we are leaving behind parts of ourselves in order to better fit into our environment.

Here’s how this plays out in corporate if you lean into your Latinidad and leave the bologna sandwiches at home:

According to the Center for Talent + Innovations breakout study “Latinos at Work” by Noni Allwood

“For Latinos who cannot or will not repress their heritage, the workplace is a minefield of slights and snubs. When introduced to clients, a longtime colleague mispronounces their name. At a quarterly meeting, a top executive misremembers their title. New hires confuse them with admins. Over time, such micro-aggressions chip away at Latinos’ confidence and amplify the message that they are outsiders. As one Latina observed, “Can my colleagues possibly take my ideas seriously if they don’t take the time to learn my name or credentials?””

It’s a classic case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t – so it’s no surprise then to hear that Latinos have a hard time bringing their full selves to work.

So what can we do?

Stay tuned for more…

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