Meet Jeromme, Young, Black, LGBTQ, and FABULOUS.
Read his story below, and get to know what “I AM” means to him.
“I remember getting hired to work for one of Canada’s most prominent LGBT media companies back a few years ago - I was so excited and pumped to work in an environment where I could fully be myself. Very rarely were there other out co-workers at my past jobs, so I was thrilled at the prospect of being part of an organization that was predominantly LGBT staffed. Things were great at first. I was given a warm welcome by my department, there were a lot of parties (A LOT) and I generally felt supported.
What I hadn’t known is that there was another gay Black male from my department that had left the company shortly before I came on board. Suddenly everything became a subject of comparison between us. When making small talk in the lunchroom, the conversation would get directed back to their fun memories of that former employee. While working, the other members of my team would compare how I worked to how he worked. Even when dishing about dating or personal matters with a teammate that I had started to open up to, things would eventually circle around to the colorful dating life & escapades of that former employee.
Admittedly, it did get to me and as a result, I started to clam up. I began to feel a little inferior for not being as flamboyant or immediately exhilarating as my predecessor. Rather than opening up or engaging beyond surface-level pleasantries, I focused on overperforming at my tasks in hopes that I would get recognized for being my own person that way and that didn’t feel good either. It dawned on me that we can’t please everyone and trying to do so would be futile. Going through life with a metaphorical mask on and tamping down who you really are in the hope that you’ll be embraced or liked is ultimately a losing game. It’s when I decided to fully be myself, stood in my truth and stopped worrying about gaining their validation that I felt like I truly started to feel like part of the team at that organization. It’s the parts of us that we try to hide or feel insecure about that make us unique: our awkward bits, moments of vulnerability and our flaws. Pretending to be someone else or a lesser version of yourself is a waste of the time that you could be expressing yourself and flourishing.
As the old saying goes “comparison is the thief of joy.” The only person that you should be in competition with is yourself, specifically who you were yesterday. Ultimately, what I learned is: don’t change yourself so people will accept you; change & grow on your own terms, be true to yourself and let people see who you really are. The people who truly matter will appreciate you”.
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