Jigsaw puzzles were my favorite indoor activity during my summers growing up. My older cousins would give me the puzzles they had finished–often 5,000-piece monsters that would take what felt like forever to assemble. Each tiny piece seemed so randomly shaped and completely unrecognizable…until I found the right place for it in the puzzle. I think this is a great metaphor for how we can think about the differences that we (and those around us) bring into our working teams. Here are a few thoughts that help me stay true to my natural style in every situation.
You are different for a reason
You were never meant to be judged outside of the context for which you are uniquely shaped. When you feel like work is a struggle, it’s easy to begin to think of yourself as inadequate. It’s much more likely that you’re the right piece in the wrong puzzle–or just in the wrong part of the right one (I can’t tell you how many times I mistook sky for water!). Every piece doesn’t fit in everywhere. That doesn’t make it flawed.
Your strengths exist not to align with similar strengths, but to fill a gap for others
And your gaps exist to be filled by someone else’s strengths. We were designed to work together. Everyone has a specific place that they fit best, but that doesn’t make them flawed, imperfect, or incomplete. It makes them useful and mutually dependent like the rest of us.
You are a complete, whole piece of a bigger picture just looking for where you fit best
In your best fit, you have something to offer, you need something, and the way you show up complements those around you. Changing yourself to match your surroundings could destroy the unique value you were meant to add.
Don’t look at yourself as an island, separate from others and without context. Because in that light you will always appear to be flawed, rough, and incomplete. Instead, seek out situations where your skills are complementary to and valued by those around you. Your contribution doesn’t have to be similar to theirs to be valuable.