The Authentic (Notorious) RBG

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This month at Beyond the Ceiling, we’re focusing on the importance of being authentic – in the workplace, in our relationships, and with ourselves. It’s a theme that really hit home for me after watching the new documentary on Supreme Court Justice and feminist hero Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Filmmakers Betsy West and Julie Cohen’s new and excellent picture gives us an intimate look at the women behind the lace collar and internet memes. It’s funny, emotional, completely empowering and a definite must watch.

I could talk at length about how much I enjoyed their film and how it only added to the tremendous amount of respect I hold for the Notorious RBG, but in lieu of a film review, I wanted to take a deep dive into what it taught me about being authentic and why it matters.

So often we’re told that the only way to advance in our careers is to be bold, be loud and be outspoken. We have to speak up in meetings, offer to take on more at work and be a leader. Those skills are absolutely important and worth developing, but for some of us -- particularly those of us who are introverts --  it simply doesn’t come naturally, and pretending doesn’t allow us to showcase all the amazing things we are good at in the workplace. And that doesn’t mean we should be destined to fail. In fact, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is proof that our strength on the job comes from knowing who we are.  

The film shows us that RBG was reserved and introverted -- that’s not to say that she didn’t speak her mind -- but she was thoughtful with her words and only used them when she knew exactly what she wanted to say. West and Cohen show us that during the feminist revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, when women were marching in the streets demanding equal rights, RBG knew that she wasn’t the type to hold a bullhorn and lead a chant at a rally. She was a lawyer -- that was her strength and so she contributed to the revolution at hand the best way she knew how. She brought unprecedented cases before the Supreme Court that helped usher in gender equality and women’s rights for future generations. She knew what she was good at and if it wasn’t for her, we may not be where are today.

That’s exactly what it takes to get ahead and excel at work. You have to be authentic, know who you are and figure out what you excel at, because that’s what makes you most valuable and it’s what will make you indispensable. It’s of course also important to push ourselves out of comfort zones, but it’s more important to do that in a way that works for you.

Have you seen this new documentary? Let us know what themes and ideas resonated with you the most and how you prioritize authenticity in your life. And be sure to check out this month’s interview with political strategist Nika Milbrun, who provides some sage advice on being brave and stepping into the unknown.

Written by Ianthe Metzger

Beyond the Ceiling