Body PositivityCommunityOpinion

Bears at the Office: Body Dynamics in the Modern Workplace

Picture yourself working in a corporate office. As you go about your typical work day, everyone watches your every move. It feels like an overwhelming nightmare, but you can’t escape. And even if you are distracted by your work, you can’t recover from feeling perceived negatively.

As a Queer bear of color working in a traditional corporate setting, this is how I have felt. I don’t always have these thoughts. Even though I’ve never been confronted about my body at work, I still feel like people judge me on it. I don’t know if that feeling will ever go away.

I know some of these fears and biases are internalized, but I still don’t see people like me in the many places I’ve worked. I will rarely find someone who resembles a fraction of how I identify. I am used to this experience, but seeing more powerful executives or even employees at my level with similar body types would be helpful. It would make me feel less like an imposter.

Imposter Syndrome is a popular topic, but I don’t hear many people discuss how their bodies resort to feeling excluded. Being the biggest person in the room doesn’t feel good. Discussing body issues in the workplace is still taboo, and it isn’t easy to be open about something personal like that. But I want to start somewhere to change that. I try to bring personal issues forward and look for ways to create a more friendly and thoughtful work environment.

A bigger body in any corporate setting shouldn’t be unorthodox. When you see no one in a leadership position who is bigger, an unfair dichotomy is created. It sends a message about who deserves a promotion or a high-level position. It may be unintentional, but this is the message an organization may subtly announce when making specific hiring decisions.

I didn’t always feel anxious about how my body appeared in my career. During the pandemic, I felt less worried about my body because I was allowed to cover it. I didn’t have to show people how I looked from the waist down. This was a common experience for other communities who felt judged or experienced discrimination. The virtual landscape eased my anxiety.

When everything slowly started returning to normal, I didn’t want to leave the comfort of my university peers and coworkers, only seeing my face and chest. It felt like I was equal because no one could see how my entire body was shaped. I felt anxious about showing people what garnered so much shame (at the time in 2022).

But as I re-entered the real world, I learned quickly that people don’t necessarily care what your body looks like. The size of my body doesn’t correspond to my professionalism. And in any context, it shouldn’t. If I worked for an organization or was led by someone who made me feel uncomfortable being a bigger person, it would be time to seek a new workplace. I will not let anyone hold me back from reaching my potential. There is no reason I need to be worried about my body or feel pressured to conform to what the “professional” body looks like. 

It took a long time to become more comfortable with my body. I use “more” because I always think about how my body looks. This is my story, and I’ve come to accept that my body will always be on an unpredictable roller coaster ride. But since I can acknowledge this is my journey, I am giving myself the power to confront it better when I feel triggered about my body.

It also helps to have supportive friends and different communities who show up for me. But I recently started a new job at a competitive technology company. Mind you, this is a company I’ve dreamed of working for since childhood. It always felt unattainable, but I was able to land a job there early in my career despite how I felt about myself.

I moved for this opportunity, so being in a new environment resurfaced those feelings. I didn’t even want to go to the office because I was unhappy with my body. No one is responsible for making me feel this way. It was something I was going to naturally feel.

I felt depressed, but it was a reminder to look at the bigger picture. Everything I accomplished has led me here; my body has never been a deterrent. I won’t let anyone or my fears prevent me from becoming the best version of myself. My body is part of my story and why I’ve achieved what I have. I am proud of myself and happy to be a bear in the working world. I am no different than anyone else, and I will continue to always show up in the way that is empowering to who I am.

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Zane Landin

Zane Landin is a Queer Bear of Color who is passionate about mental health, creative storytelling, writing, and creating more inclusive and welcoming spaces. He currently works at Google as an Associate Product Marketing Manager and has previously worked at National Geographic and interned for General Motors and NASA. In his free time, he enjoys horror movies, working out, gaming, and learning new flow art moves. His work has appeared in Forbes, Business Insider, Entrepreneur, Power of Positivity, The Good Men Project, Brainz Magazine, Under the Hood Media, US Reporter, CEO Blog Nation, New York Weekly, Born This Way Foundation, Jed Foundation, Scripps News, Sinclair Broadcasting Group, Jubilee, and The Conversationalist.