Kharissa Parker is a news producer, writer, certified health coach, and columnist for Startland News. For more of her self-care tips on how to keep your cup full, visit kparker.co.
Editor’s note: This commentary on bio-individuality — the idea that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to health and nutrition (even regard to a person’s health in the workplace) — continues Parker-Forte’s series on the 7 Pillars of Self-Care..
Bio-individuality is a concept created by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, which is where I earned my health coaching certification under the leadership of brilliant wellness leaders such as Gabby Bernstein, Andrew Weil, Mark Hyman, and Deepak Chopra.
In a nutshell, the idea is that while nutritional theories such as keto, paleo, veganism, and other mainstream diets may be backed by science, they only serve you if they sync with your unique DNA makeup. Genetics, blood type, and health history are only a few factors to take into consideration when figuring out what way of eating works best for you.
In the workplace, bio-individuality is just as relevant as when you’re preparing meals — but it’s much deeper than the food on your plate. As an employee, bio-individuality is more about knowing what you need from your place of employment and understanding those needs will help you thrive at work. In addition, recognizing that not everyone’s needs are the same can help you see situations from a perspective outside of your own and respect the needs of your co-workers or higher-ups.
For employers, knowing the needs of your team is essential for creating an environment where your people feel valued and appreciated on both an individual (though it has its limitations) and collective level (for example, deciding whether working from home, returning to the office, or a hybrid plan is best).
Confusing bio-individuality with deep-rooted dysfunctions
What I find most interesting about bio-individuality is that, like all the other pillars of self-care, this one is predicated upon the ones that come before it. Being spiritually aligned, developing emotional intelligence, and having mental clarity are prerequisites for truly knowing what you need. If these pillars are avoided or ignored, you run the risk of confusing bio-individuality with enabling dysfunctions.
I experienced this firsthand when it came to my love language. If you’re not familiar with The 5 Love Languages, it’s a great tool for fostering healthy relationships. Developed by Dr. Gary Chapman, the belief is that there are five different love languages and people typically tend to lean more heavily toward one or two: quality time, acts of services, physical touch, gifts, and words of affirmation.
For the longest time, I thought my love language was words of affirmation. If I wasn’t praised by my boss for every little thing I did right, I felt like I wasn’t measuring up. I also had a really hard time accepting constructive criticism. This resulted in a bad habit of bouncing from job to job and performing to fit in until I no longer felt good enough to continue working there. It was only after bouts of individual counseling that I learned my hunger for words of affirmation stemmed from not being praised by my parents as a child and always being challenged to do better. Once I did the work and healed from that dysfunction, I discovered my true love language is a toss-up between gifts and physical touch.
Find out what your love language is here. If you question whether your love language is tied to bio-individuality or a dysfunction, ask yourself if it’s connected to any pain points, traumatizing experiences, or unresolved issues. If so, it’s likely that what you think is your love language may actually stem from a place that needs healing. With that in mind, it’s totally possible to do the work and discover that your love language is the same and that’s okay. As long as your needs aren’t coming from a place of brokenness, that’s the key.
The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace
Between power dynamics and professional boundaries, how love languages translate in personal relationships are different from how those needs are met at work — which couldn’t be more true with mine! For that reason, I highly recommend The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace which was also developed by Dr. Chapman, as well as Wichita-based Dr. Paul White.
White says physical touch is the least needed language of appreciation, “but spontaneous, celebratory displays… are quite common between coworkers and are an important part of positive work-based relationships.” He recommends safe touches like fist bumps, a pat on the back, and high fives.
If you feel valued at work through quality time, then you need focused attention. This can be especially true in one-on-one interactions where you require the undivided attention of the person you’re speaking with to feel seen and heard. White says this language of appreciation can also be met by team outings or bonding experiences and collaborative projects.
Acts of service
“How can I help you?” is music to your ears if your bio-individuality calls for acts of service. With this language of appreciation, White highlights specific ways to meet this need in a manner that preserves your confidence and sense of autonomy. “Asking if the other person wants assistance, doing the service in the way the recipient wants it done, not repeatedly rescuing a colleague who is underperforming, and defining how much time you have to help all are conditions that need to be met for the service offered to be viewed positively,” he said.
Words of affirmation
Being verbally praised is one of the more common languages of appreciation in the workplace. According to White, sending notes of praise via email or being recognized in a group context such as meetings, ceremonies, or in front of customers can really fill you up if you need words of affirmation.
In both personal and professional contexts, the language of gifts is more about the thought behind it than about the actual item. If this resonates with you, then you understand that gifts must speak to how well someone really knows you — no matter how big or small. As balancing work and life outside of the office proves to be a consistent battle, White says gifts that invite people to experiences like movie tickets or dinner gift cards can be good if they connect to your personal interest. He also says gifts that nurture the whole team can be beneficial and bringing in food to share is one of the easiest ways to accomplish that goal.
Fueled by her expertise as a news producer, writer, and certified health coach, Kharissa Parker is passionate about helping entrepreneurs in Kansas City achieve their goals without sacrificing self-care. Check out her brand, The KP Method, and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.