Last night I wrote a sort of sappy instagram post, talking about how grateful I feel to have been able to be fully and 100% myself here and on my social media channels – and be successful at it/make a career of it. It’s a rare thing, it’s such a gift, and it’s something I never take for granted. I feel so extremely lucky, every single day. It sounds trite, but I hope you know how much it means to me.
Today though, I thought we’d have a little story time. Because it wasn’t always this way. And as hard as some earlier moments in my life + career have been, I’m also so grateful for those moments because I appreciate everything I have SO MUCH MORE than I ever would if I’d always able to just be me and never get criticized.
By Malene Birger Coat (several years old but love this or this or this) // Rixo Camellia Dress (also here, here, // Express Tights // Manolo Blahnik Heels // Chanel Purse // Celine Sunglasses // Tuckernuck Birdcage Earrings
At my first job, I was the assistant buyer of women’s fragrances for a big department store.
As a part of that I had relationships with all of the different sales representatives. Nearly every single fragrance house had a brand rep so it was a lot of relationships and a lot of older women. Maybe 20, 30 brand reps who came into the office every week. I was twenty-two and it was mostly older women in their fifties and early sixties that I dealt with.
I remember feeling really frustrated, as a lot of these women (not all of them but a lot) just did not like me. It felt as though I couldn’t do anything right. The other assistant buyer was a guy (maybe 3 years older than me) and we could deliver the same exact news but I was always the “bad one.” I was direct and unafraid of delivering bad news (as was the other assistant buyer). I remember my boss at the time (who I adore) taking me aside and saying, “I know this isn’t right. But it’s just the way it is. Adam (the other assistant) can say whatever he wants to these women, and they will dote on his every word. But as a woman you need to soften your approach or they’ll feel attacked.”
I was pissed as hell because it was a weird form of sexism (sometimes women can just be the worst to each other), but I listened to him. I started letting Adam deliver the bad news and chatted these ladies up about whatever they were wearing and their families. It worked, all too well.
At that same job…
I was scolded for sending an email with a smiley face to the president of the company.
OKAY now that’s just bad, please never do that!!!! (In fairness he used emojis on the reg and had thanked me for something and I replied “no problem,” with a smiley face.) OOF. Bad, Grace.
At my next job…
I was told (after getting literally the reverse advice!) that I needed to be less chatty and make an effort to come across as serious and formal. I was advised to dress more conservatively and leave my bubbly personality at home.
And so I changed my approach again, this time adapting a more no-nonsense approach and look. I made that change, bought a bunch of black suits at Ann Taylor, and immediately saw success.
I knew how to get what I wanted and be successful, I got promotions and raises and didd pretty well but I always felt a little bit like I was walking on eggshells and changing parts of myself to be either taken more seriously or to be more likeable. It was exhausting. Can’t be too serious or you’ll isolate people and be “unlikeable.” Can’t be too jovial or you’ll be perceived as unserious and not smart.
I talked about it in this post, but it wasn’t until I got to BaubleBar (eight years into my career at nearly 29 years old) that I felt like I could be myself. I remember a huge weight lifting, even after the first day. Also, I didn’t even realize how exhausting all that faking it felt until I didn’t have to anymore. I could goof around and have fun at work, but also work really, really hard. I could deliver bad news without being perceived as “mean,” but I could also joke around. We worked insanely long hours but it never felt like work because we were also having fun.
And I felt respected by my peers – having a sillier, softer side didn’t discount me or make others discount my views… rather, they respected them more!
I think about that a lot for the blog.
I remember trying to wear a lot of trendier things here that just didn’t suit me. Trying to wear all the things. Buying things because everyone else had them (this bag, remember when every. single. blogger had it??). My blogging sins have never been criminal but there have definitely been a lot of yikes moments along the way. And for every one of those moments, the answer is usually the same. I wasn’t being myself! I was either doing what I thought was formulaic for success, or trying to be like other bloggers. Also, I wasn’t being me and that didn’t feel good.
I’ve been told, and sometimes worry that I am too honest. I always speak my mind and tell you exactly what I think, which can be alienating to brands. That’s where the gratitude comes in again. I feel so lucky to work with brands that embrace and appreciate that.
This is all just a roundabout way of telling you that we should all be ourselves.
Or find a way to. There are so many jobs out there. So many career paths, and while it definitely can take time and energy to find the right one, it’s a bit like dating. You shouldn’t settle until you find the one that makes you happy. I mean please don’t email smiley faces to the president of your company (WHATEVER I WAS TWENTY THREE!) but be you. You’ll be happier, you’ll be more successful. It may take a little while. It took me eight years to realize I prefer working at a smaller company or a startup to a big corporation but once you get there, it will feel really great.
And to echo what I wrote last night, thank you for letting me be me here. I’ve realized this so much this year, especially with the Facebook group and the podcast. I will never be the “cool” blogger but I love having this amazing community of women to talk about face masks, gravity blankets, books, and all of the other nerdy introverty things I (we) love so much.
photography by Carter Fish.