What you can learn from Grayson Perry about being yourself

Posted on: December 13, 2016

The other week I had the good fortune to meet leading British artist (and notable transvestite) Grayson Perry, at a talk he gave on mental health for social enterprise Talk for Health.

He came dressed as Clare, his transvestite alter ego, and spoke very candidly about his difficult childhood (his father left when he was 4, growing up as a transvestite in working class Essex) and his journey to healing and self expression, becoming of of Britain’s most successful artists and social commentators.

At one point he said “Don’t be afraid of ridicule – I’m living proof that you won’t die from it” as he gestured to his dress, tights and stilettos.

I know that I spent most of the first half of my life trying to fit in, wear a mask and work out what others expected of me, and I’ve spent the last 15 years dismantling the masks I’ve created and taking more risks to show people who I really am.

As leaders we are now encouraged to be authentic, to show people our true selves – yet this can feel scary. Finding small ways to step out from conformity and show more of yourself is very powerful.

When I was a lawyer in the City I put inspirational pictures and quotes up on the walls of my office.  I was regularly teased for it (and burning incense was definitely a step too far!) yet when I was leaving I was touched by how many people came to tell me that they appreciated the different point of view I brought and they would miss it.

In truth we’re all just trying to fit in and belong.  This week I invite you to take a tiny risk to show a part of yourself that you keep hidden and see what happens.