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.
Cute outfit, Grace! I love your coat so much! The cutting is so unique! 🙂
Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
Thanks Charmaine! xo
I love this post, Grace. I’ve been finding that my ability to be myself consistently increases as I get older, and this post is a great source of inspiration & hope that I will finally get there someday!
It is definitely something that’s happened for me with age too!!
What a gorgeous dress!
x Lisa | lisaautumn.com
What an inspiring and important post. I too, have felt like I have had to adjust at every position and adapt to the company culture by sacrificing some of the things that come naturally to me. Working for myself has allowed me to let some of these anxieties go and let myself be me more. Thank you for this really important story and message.
I’m so happy you agree!!!
Grace, You are one of the coolest bloggers ever! This is one of the great lessons of life–to be yourself. Love what and who you love. Do what you love to do. Surround yourself with the things that reflect and celebrate who you are. We are so inundated with phoniness, celebrity for celebrity sake and crass “coolness” that we sometimes question if we are in the out-group. Never question that. Your personal compass, your posts, your comments, your style of dressing, your young life in New York is very you and that’s what we love reading and seeing. I am so glad you found a career and job that allows you and supports you to be your complete self. We believe in you!
Oh my gosh Meredith, that is all so nice of you to say. THANK YOU. So appreciated!!!
Have a great weekend. xx
This is such a wonderful and heartfelt post Grace. Thank you for sharing and yes, faking it in just about anything is downright exhausting. The advice, fake it till you make it has its place but doing that day in and day out is not sustainable either.
Thank you so much Leah. Totally agree. Sometimes you do need to fake it a bit but if you’re consistently doing it, you’ll just wind up wiped out!!!
While I think there are times in our professional lives where we need to consider our audience and perhaps make minor adjustments accordingly, I also truly believe that people recognize and respond to authenticity. I think that’s clearly one reason people respond to you and your blog, Grace, because it’s clear that while you may not show us your entire life (nor should you), what you do show us is real. So much of what we see online these days (and in person sometimes) is (literally) filtered, it’s refreshing to see people and lives that are real and honest and authentic. I also think it’s so important, especially as women, to accept and be ok with the fact that not everyone will like us or respond favorably to us. As long as we’re being true to ourselves, the right people will respond. The danger of not being true to ourselves and authentic is that we might get a good response from some people, but we’ll miss out on those great relationships with the RIGHT people.
Thank you so much Marcia! I completely agree. The part about being okay with people not liking us is especially relevant. (I got a pretty brutal podcast comment this morning and had to just brush it off!) It takes time but is something I am actively working on. All I can be is me, and if people don’t like that, that’s okay!!!
Always appreciate your thoughtful comments here – have a great weekend!
Just wanted to pop in and say how much I love this post and agree with the sentiment!
Your comment about never being the “cool” blogger reminded me of this old interview/ spilling coffee study I just heard about on a podcast. (This one: https://www.thecut.com/2015/12/win-affection-and-trust-by-spilling-coffee.html) I think so many of us–bloggers and non-bloggers alike–try hard to come across as cooler or more together than we really are, because that’s what we think other people want from us. But in reality, the vast majority of people don’t feel cool or put together all or even most of the time–so we’re actually more likely to win affection or make connections when we are vulnerable and real, even if it exposes our inner hot mess/nerd/awkwardness. It’s something that comforted me and has been on my mind since I heard about it. I’m a fairly new reader but have stuck around not only because your writing comes across as so authentic, but also because I personally (as a book-loving, Williamsburg-dwelling introvert whose style falls firmly on the classic side of trendy, lol) relate to so much of what you share.
So, all that to say, thanks for being yourself–and for building a community that makes the rest of us feel like we can be ourselves, too!
Oh my gosh, I LOVE that article – thank you for sharing.
And thank you for the encouragement!!! Have a great weekend! xx
Great post! I’ve found this at work too but more when I worked in different countries for the same company. When I moved from the US to Nigeria I had to adapt to a different way of interacting with the team at work. Then we moved to Indonesia, again completely different work environment and dynamic. Now that I’ve been back in the US for 2 years I find I’m finally “me again”. There are things I said and did, like your smiley face example, that I look back on and think “oof why oh why” but it helped me get to this place. The place where I tell people “I’m just me and I don’t know how to be anyone else”. I find people at work are receptive to that. I’m always reading, learning, working on my leadership style, and growing into myself now versus changing for others or my environment. If that makes sense? 🙂 p.s. looking back at our fashion choices in general can be a bit eye opening but with social media now, oh goodness ahahaha Have a good weekend!!
I couldn’t agree more!!!
(And yes, so eye opening – sometimes it’s a little scary having a visual diary of my fashion choices for the past 9+ years!) you have a great weekend as well!!!!
I totally understand what you mean. In the jobs I’ve had there’s always something I need to change about myself in order to get somewhere good and it’s honestly exhausting. I think you have a great community here and it’s something I can only dream of one day with my own blog and sometimes I definitely feel the pressure to be more like the other bloggers but then reality really hits and I realize I don’t have to be like them to be successful. I’m happy for what I have and I’m gonna continue to grow.
P.S. – That’s a gorgeous dress, I can’t wait for spring to bust out all of the bright colours in my closet.
Thank you so much Marta!
It really can be so exhausting.
Hope you have a great weekend!
Such a thoughtful and honest post, Grace! It took me years to realize that if someone couldn’t accept me for who I was and had to tell me who I should be, then chances were they’d never truly accept and respect me either way. Stay true to yourself and the right people will embrace you.
I couldn’t agree more – it’s so true with people, jobs, relationships, everything!
Have a great weekend!
I have only been following you for a couple years so I loved seeing the old pictures of you. You look so different, but also the same. It’s hard to explain. You and Brooklyn Blonde are the only bloggers I’ll read. I love that you do you.
It’s definitely fun to go through old photos!!! A rabbithole!
And I LOVE HELENA – one of my good friends and favorite bloggers. Thanks Heather, have a great weekend!
LOVE this. You should definitely read the Myth of Being a Nice Girl – it talks about all you’ve discussed in this post and more. 100% recommend to any career woman!
Ooooh thank you!!! Adding to my list!
I’m really learning in therapy lately just how much of a mask I’ve put up—more than I ever realized—and it’s so freeing to let that go and be me, with all the weirdness that entails. This is such a good post.
I’m so glad it resonated. I couldn’t agree more; it’s so freeing!
You look beautiful, I love your dress!
Thanks Inna! xx
I keep becoming a bigger and bigger fan with every post Grace!!
Keep being you. You’re a true Stargirl–and I know you know who I’m talking about!
Ann from Kremb de la Kremb
aw thank you Ann! You are too kind!
This is such a great post, Grace! Love hearing about your prior jobs- I think most of us can relate to these moments!
So so glad you can relate! haha!
Hmmm, I enjoyed this post and your dress is gorgeous! But it’s kind of funny to me that the post has “Being Yourself” in the title and yet – don’t include emojis in your email. But it’s okay if the President of the company does it. Kind of a double standard, I think. Life’s short, if you wanna include an emoji in your email (and that is your personality), by all means – DO IT! I mean don’t be excessive, but an emoji here and there is not the end of the world. Oddly, that just really struck a chord in me… Anyhow! Great post otherwise 😉
I mean, it really depends where you are working. If you are working for a major Fortune 500 company like P&G, don’t send an email with an emoji to the president of the company!!!! I am going to stand behind that advice. The takeaway of the post was that I struggled with being myself in a corporate environment and was a lot happier working for a small company.